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Sometimes words mean exactly what we think they mean: "rage" is probably one of them.

With the current average cost of a funeral standing at between $7,000 and 10,000, Travis Scott is out close to $100,000 for the deaths last weekend in Houston, Texas, where concertgoers were killed when a crowd surged forward, trampling some and suffocating others. Scott, who had exhorted the audience to “rage,” has offered to pay for each funeral.

He seems chastened by the tragedy and has said all the right things in the aftermath. Besides, it is hard to blame the entertainer when the individual audience members, in command of their own actions, decide to risk everything for a moment of belonging, acceptance, and sacrifice. Most concerts, of course, do not end this way, yet Scott has compared his performances to WWF events, in which violence and mayhem rule the hour. Perhaps he has forgotten—or chosen to forget—that fan involvement at wrestling matches is generally limited to the screaming of obscenities. Spectators know better than to join in to be body-slammed or volunteer to be thrown from the ring to the floor.

Neither Travis Scott nor his crew is entirely to blame for the tragedy in Houston, but he was the motivating factor. He has a history of baiting crowds to defy authority and of daring audience members to take dangerous risks as part of the show. For the most part, he has been able to stop the chaos when there has been an overdose or a medical emergency, ensuring the care of the stricken fan before continuing his performance. But last weekend at Astrofest, it all got ahead of him. By the time he realized the extent of the harm, eight lives were lost (one more death yesterday increased the total to nine), hundreds incurred physical injuries, and countless others now face the emotional trauma of lost loved ones—family members, colleagues, and friends.

Nine victims during this second plague year may seem inconsequential. The pandemic has inured us to big numbers—750,000 dead Americans, six million deaths worldwide. Millions more, sick, suffering from aftereffects or grieving. Nine is a small number, but utterly preventable. Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine for poor judgment, and if we go by the current reaction to the Covid vaccine, the people with the poorest judgment will refuse it anyway.

I’m not sure when it happened that performers required unadulterated obeisance from their fans as a kind of blood oath to attest to brand loyalty. But we live in an era when concern for others is “kinda nice” but seldom expected...when people shun masks because they don’t fear the virus but don’t care about infecting others. Given that, we can no longer enable, condone, or allow rabid fans to mix with an ego-driven and irresponsible performer who appeals to their basest instincts.

There were nine murders at Astrofest that day, and not only will the culprits never be caught or punished, but like the person whose wanton recklessness provides him with cover as he spreads the virus, they will never even know they took a life. Anonymity is a gruesomely effective antidote for guilt and remorse.

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