It was around about an hour or two after the news of the Las Vegas Strip shooting broke that the confusion festered and stuck its grubby shriveled talons into the deepest recesses of my brain. It’s an unpredictable little imp, that confusion. You never know where you’re gonna go when you ride that high: it could take you down the path of existential self-discovery, or into the darkest pits of that nihilist abyss where only the most degenerate and grotesque thrive. And the deeper you go, the more cyclical the path comes, as you come face to face with the very thing that sent you into this dank old void in the first place. Thankfully the road confusion walked me down offered only a passing glimpse into that deep dark. Still, it’s unsettling to know that the same little djinn that I saw that day could come disguised as fear or loathing for another, and the paths those take you down are ones that you can never walk back from. The same paths that I’m certain that scum Paddock walked down on the first of October in that great ersatz city.
The lies of Las Vegas know no bounds – a supposed celebration of the American Dream, standing as the last beacon of a triumphant empire at the end of its Westward Expansion. Let’s not mince words here – it’s a little incubus squatting on stolen land built by bloodthirsty gangsters whose deceit ran as far as to claim their casinos were the representation of the City of so-called Meadows, despite their repeated actions to prevent said casinos from being included in the city’s administrative boundaries as part of a tax dodge. It’s an urban centre devoted to the illusion of glamour and splendor so that its residents can sit there thinking “We made it” and forget about the fact that they’re bankrupting themselves living in a slab of concrete in the middle of some desert. The only place on earth where you can walk from the Sphinx to the Eiffel Tower, briefly stopping off at the Statue of Liberty before spending a night in Caesar’s so-called Palace. Actually, that last bit is pretty fitting. Caesar, after all, was the man who led a Republic into ruin.
The hollow horror of Las Vegas’s postmodern identity can be enough to drive anybody into a wallow of existential despair and anger. But what makes the Las Vegas Strip shooting so terrifying, and the aftermath so tragic, is the lack of motive. Hatred can be rationalized, and often is; ‘the shooter hated this group’, ‘he was a racist’, ‘he was a sexist’ etc. But the absence of an incitement, a cause without effect, that’s where the real horror is. That’s why, in the immediate moments afterwards, conspiracy theories swirled as people, desperate people walking that same path I did, tried to come up with some sort of reason. Unfortunately, this is where the true evil of humanity came to the fore.
Conspiracy theories, in the absence of any motive, wrought havoc on the survivors of the attack. Of course, these theories often reaffirmed the political beliefs of those making them, told tall tales of a rabid Hillary Clinton-supporting, Trump-hating ANTIFA member who, having enough, devised a plan to attack the God-loving, good-natured normal folk that made this country great. What a load of bullshit.
Similar reactions could be seen in the media and Sheriff Department of Maricopa County’s naming of Paddock as a possible ‘lone wolf’. These fucking reptiles were quick to claim Paddock wasn’t a terrorist. Of course, how could he be? He was American. Americans aren’t ‘terrorists’, terrorists are the Great Other, that nebulous, horrific antithesis that encapsulates everything America hates and hates everything America encapsulates. Therefore, he had to be a ‘lone wolf’, a grizzled, rugged outcast, who strayed away from the flock, but was never beyond redemption. Hell, even the name makes him sound like those cool cowboys who settled Vegas long before while raping and murdering the local Maricopa Indians (who they later made amends with by naming a County and Sheriff Department after).
The reason why Paddock had to be slapped with that label of ‘lone wolf’ was because he demonstrated what every American has the potential of being. Often when locked in a dialectic struggle hurtling towards oblivion, One runs the risk of becoming the Other they so fear. The American, in fear of falling to the terrorists, becomes the terrorist. The wolf separates from the pack, and wander into the abyss. And those who stare into the abyss for too long run the risk of having it stare back.
Anyone who has been down that dark chasm knows that evil isn’t one size fits all. It’s amorphous, nebulous, a shapeshifter. Shifty little thing. Killing people is one evil, but spreading lies, deceit and disinformation about a tragedy that people are still adjusting to, that’s a whole other kind. Making the fragile, trauma-afflicted lives of human beings worse so that you can feel better about yourself is an act of a lizard.
Often when descending into that abyss, you can be faced with a choice. Change or deny. You’ll be faced with a fundamental problem, an issue inherent in your essence. You can either resolve to end it, to adapt, or to deny that’s even a problem. Resolution is usually the last step that gets you out of that Godforsaken hole, whereas denial will only get you deeper. And the deeper you go, the darker it gets, and the more alone you feel.
Looking at this, and by ‘this’ I mean this, it can be tempting to just give up, stop your path, and sit right where you are. After all, it’s so isolating going down that path. But there’s a ray of hope, some tickling light in that tunnel. The survivors, despite everything, are going on. They’ve walked the same road we have, and some have made it out. They’ve looked down the sights of the same terror, hatred and confusion and have walked on. However, they don’t trek the path alone. That’s where the hope lies; in the fact that wherever they go, they can turn to their side and see someone else who can stare into their soul and say “I’m here for you”. Those travelers should be us.