As soon as I heard about the shooting at Washington Navy Yard on Monday, one question sprang to mind and refused to leave.
We are shocked, and rightly so, at the news of yet another mass shooting. And yet, for some reason, most of us aren’t particularly shocked about the location of the shootings. But I can’t help pondering the location of this act of violence, the Washington Navy Yard. I’d never heard of this place until Monday, so I took the time to read up a little on the site and its history.
The Yard started out more than two centuries ago as the largest shipbuilding facility in the US navy. By World War II, it was the largest naval ordnance plant in the world. The weapons designed and built there were used in every war in which the United States fought until the 1960s.
To put it another way, this facility has existed, for two centuries, to create guns, torpedoes, gunboats, frigates and shells. In short, all the machinery needed for people to kill other people with production-line efficiency. To be blunt, this site has been in the business of mass-producing death. This is not a value judgment, just a plain statement of fact. Many thousands of human beings have been shot, blown up, burnt or drowned by the output of this facility.
And yet for some reason this doesn’t elicit a strong emotional reaction, or indeed, any comment at all in the coverage of Monday’s tragedy.
Why is that, I wonder?