Forgetting gets us through the day: that fact keeps guns on the streets and the NRA in control.
In “Funes the Memorious,” a short story by the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, the title character, Ireneo Funes, lacks the ability to forget.
I don’t mean he always remembers where he left his keys, or on what date his best friend’s wife’s birthday falls, or why he’s wandering through the automotive department at Target, I mean he remembers e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. If he had last seen you in 1996, he’d be able to tell you everything you said, whether or not you wore a coat or a tie or a scarf, and what you’d eaten for lunch...and where you’d eaten. Did you sneeze? That too.
It is not a quality to be envied. We all forget, and if we don’t actually forget, we at least have the good sense to push unpleasantness into the background and supplant it with something better. I’m not talking about drunken stupors: our brains do quite nicely without the befuddlement of alcohol.
The NRA is counting on that, and we oblige—every time.
It’s been three weeks since the slaughter in El Paso and the murders in Dayton. Experts tell us that three weeks is as much time as it takes us to recoil in shock, to swear that this time something will be done, and to gradually lose interest. It's Day 21, and we have flatlined. The Walmart has reopened. We have moved on.
Let it be said that those of us not directly affected by Trump's spitefulness use this as a survival technique—we know he’ll do something crueler and the next day, and the next. We have learned to roll with the punches because those punches have not landed.
But here’s where they have landed:
The migrants at the border who remain barbarously imprisoned;
People of color whose voting rights are being impeded;
Jews in America who live with rising anti-Semitism;
Muslims in America who face social ostracism from the top down;
Members of the LGBTQ community who face renewed ostracism;
Farmers whose crops will soon have no buyers;
Women whose reproductive rights are being abridged;
Citizens in Newark who have become the face of Trump’s failed infrastructure promise;
Americans who breathe and who now face an environment sullied by more emissions and more poisons;
And on and on…
Three weeks since El Paso and we’re joking over Greenland and shuddering over the president’s behavior in a foreign country. But the murdered victims of El Paso and Dayton and Pittsburgh and Las Vegas are not coming back, and while we wait for the next "unprecedented" incident, the NRA, Mitch McConnell, Trump, and the entire collusive Republican party can rest easy. They know: it’s just a matter of time before we misplace our keys. Again.