After San Bernardino Massacre, We Feel Powerless – But Hollywood Isn’t

In Hollywood, we need to drive change by telling stories, dreaming a different reality that reflects who we are and who we want to be

A California Highway Patrol officer stands with his weapon
Getty Images

The San Bernardino shootings make us all feel powerless. We are forced once again to stand idly by and witness the needless murder of random innocents in our country as a gun lobby holds the entire country hostage.

The president of the United States stands yet again before the nation and pleads for a modicum of gun control, knowing full well it won’t happen on his watch since the mass murder of 5- and 6-year-olds failed to move policy an inch.

If he is powerless, then what are we?

This seems the very definition of insanity. Poll after poll confirms that a vast majority of the country wants to see limitations put on access to weapons, especially military-style armaments that belong in the theater of war, not civil society.

From that perspective, the motive of these shooters does not particularly matter. If it is terrorism, a personal vendetta or a workplace dispute taken beyond the pale, the access to weapons made the crime doable. It made it easy to inflict massive loss of life in a matter of seconds.

This killing of 14 people in cold blood at an office party happened in California, the state with the toughest gun control laws in the nation. This suggests that unless there is change at the federal level, state laws will not matter much.

We feel powerless, because we all want this to stop.

New York Daily News
New York Daily News

Part of what makes us Americans is our unwillingness to accept the status quo. Our belief that we can shape the world we live in based on our shared values and our ability to put those values into action.

This is what makes the ongoing gallery of mass shootings unbearable. It challenges who we are because it says that we are powerless to change a situation that is demonstrably changeable.

That is fundamentally un-American.

The storytellers in our society — this means Hollywood — are far from powerless. Hollywood has always helped shape our national narrative, creating the national myths that reflect our character, our values.

Through the decades, those stories have both mirrored and shaped real life, and they have evolved as our society has evolved. Every issue — from the role of women in society to the struggle for racial equality to the oh-so-recent acceptance of homosexuality — is linked to the stories that Hollywood reflected back to society.

So let it be. Let’s use the rage and frustration that comes from this feeling of powerlessness to drive change. Tell stories, dream a different reality, paint the images of the future that reflect who we are and who we want to be.

Because we need to get there.