“It’s all well and good to offer thoughts and prayers but sometimes you want shouts and swears,” Stephen Colbert says.
After two more mass shootings rocked the nation over the weekend, each late-night talk show host faced the monumental task of once again figuring out how to address the nation and their audiences in the wake of more senseless deaths and tragedy.
James Corden found a powerful and moving way to address his viewers, and it was through showing just how much these mass shootings have become a part of our national conversation.
"The Late Late Show" host opened his show with what essentially amounted to a clip montage. One by one, his viewers relived his response to seven of the nation’s worst mass shootings over the past four years. And to punctuate his point, he had a graphic in the bottom corner of each one with the date, location and number of people who died at each one as the Jame Corden from the past spoke messages as relevant today as they were then.
It was a sobering reminder that this keeps happening and nothing has been done to stop it or even try to slow it down. And that was a narrative many of the other late-night hosts would pick up throughout the evening. For them, it was about what should be done and what is consistently not done. For Corden it was about the hopelessness that many Americans feel knowing in their heart of hearts that yet again, nothing will be done.
"Until we really confront this issue and our politicians [gain] the moral courage to face the gun epidemic, the only thing that’s going to change is the location of the next mass shooting and the number of casualties," Corden said at the end of his latest statement. It’s a powerful statement and one he can surely append onto the end of his montage clip after the next mass shooting.
Unless, as Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah advocate, someone is finally ready to do something after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton just 13 hours apart killed 31 people and injured more than 50. In one of those instances, the killer was able to do all of that damage in less than a minute.
"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"
Like Corden, Jimmy Fallon didn’t really dig into the issues or make the mass shootings a segment of his show, or a dominant part of his monologue. Instead, he opened on a quiet note with the kinds of words of sadness and remorse that Corden was pointing out had been said time and again.
And yet, it is important to continue to say these words as well, because otherwise we run the risk of becoming numbness to these incidents and the violent loss of human live that is always their end result.
"To anyone whose background has made them the target of prejudice or hate or violence or anyone who feels that they may not be welcome in this country, know that you are welcome. We support you and we love you. And the cycle of hate needs to stop," Fallon said, following it up with a plea that people make their voices heard by getting involved in relief efforts, protesting and, perhaps most importantly, voting.
"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"
Stephen Colbert found a powerful analogy to share with his viewers about the inevitable political response we’re already seeing to these latest mass shootings. And it ties to another man-made problem that was ignored for too long for selfish, politically-motivated reasons while real human lives were lost and suffered in the meantime.
Who knew HBO’s "Chernobyl" mini-series would speak so loudly about the current mass shooting epidemic in the United States, and yet Colbert pieced it together brilliantly.
"Over and over again, a scientist or an engineer will tell a politician, ‘Hey, we got a real problem here. The nuclear core is going to melt down and kill everyone," he explained. "The politicians refuse to believe it because any acknowledgement of failure threatens their position of power and their power is more important than saving any lives."
He let the analogy sit there for a moment as his audience made the connections. "I think at this point it’s clear that America’s gun culture is melting down but the Republicans in Congress would rather maintain their power than save lives."
He then pointed out the two bipartisan bills that would enforce and strengthen background checks behind gun purchases that had already been passed by the House of Representatives only to be "blocked by Senate majority leader, and this month’s centerfold of Corruption Monthly, Mitch McConnell."
Passed by the House in February, McConnell did not allow either bill to reach the floor of the Senate, and now that body is in recess. Colbert is pretty sure he know why. "$1.26 million in NRA contributions he has received," he noted. "Now, look, you can’t put a price on human life, but it doesn’t stop Mitch from trying."
On the other end of the issue, he pointed to the rhetoric of Donald Trump, which he and many others argue has fostered and riled up a white supremacist and racist base. Both weekend mass shooters were white with one of them posting a manifesto to 8Chan that clearly stated he went to El Paso to target Hispanics, echoing Trump’s words of an "invasion" from the southern border.
He then showed a clip of Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke getting worked up when asked what the president could do to make it better. "What do you think?" O’Rourke shot back. "You know the s–t he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press, what the f–k?"
Colbert was all for O’Rourke’s anger. "It’s all well and good to offer thoughts and prayers but sometimes you want shouts and swears," he argued.
He then shared words from Donald Trump’s address on the shootings from earlier in the day on Monday where the president said, "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy."
"I try my best every night, but you’re still in office," Colbert countered.
"Jimmy Kimmel Live"
Kimmel came out swinging against the GOP, too, but he also said they should recognize and appreciate that this divided nation has actually come together and agreed on an important issue.
"Here’s something we can agree on. Too many people are being shot with high-powered weapons," he said. "I think we agree on that."
He went on to get even more specific, adding, "And we agree on this, too. They did a poll last year. 97 percent of gun owners — these are gun owners — support universal background checks. 97 percent. That’s unheard of. You can ask people is ice cream delicious and not get 97 percent."
He then called on Americans to call out McConnell for keeping those House bills from a vote in the Senate. "Call him and tell him, the good news is we agree on something for a change," Kimmel said. "We agree that he needs to drag his bony gray ass back into work to vote on these bills."
"Let’s start with that being something we all agree on,"Kimmel continued. "We’ll go from there."
"Late Night with Seth Meyers"
Seth Meyers had some statistics, too, pointing out that the United States of America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population and it also has almost half of its civilian-owned guns.
It’s a startling statistic, but one that doesn’t really mean anything in a climate where gun control measures and sensible gun legislation can’t even be talked about. Instead, many politicians dodge the issue or deflect or redirect.
"Let me just say as a general rule, when you’re spending all of your time dodging questions from journalists and reporters, that usually means you’re on the wrong side of history," Kimmel said.
And talking about it is the only way that the nation can come to any sort of solution or find a compromise that everyone can be happy about … no, scratch that because that’s not compromise, is it? The U.S. needs to find a solution everyone can be the least unhappy about. That’s the lost art of the compromise, being willing to not be completely happy for the good of everyone.
"You’re not going to get all of the answers if you refuse to ask any of the questions," Kimmel argued. "But these guys have to pretend this is some sort of unsolvable problem because they’re beholden to powerful lobbyists like gun manufacturers and the NRA."
He and several of the other late-night hosts instead focused on eveyrone’s favorite scapegoat for violence in America. "You’re blaming video games?" he marveled after Trump and lawmakers did just that on television. "You do know that other countries have video games, too, right? Japan has a huge gaming culture and very few gun deaths."
He then joked, "If video games were so influential they should make one about Congress called ‘F#@!ing Do Something.’"
"The Daily Show with Trevor Noah"
Trevor Noah was able to sum up the lack of response with one interesting point of view. The apparent defeatism among leaders when it comes to the gun issue is remarkable in a country, he notes, that is willing to try anything on any other issue to make things safer for people and possibly save lives.
In particular, he was pointing out a tweet posted by Neil deGrasse Tyson that offered up the number of deaths from other causes like "medical errors" and "car accidents."
But while Tyson may have missed the mark with his tweet, Noah was able to take his date to make a valid point about how the nation responds to deaths in these different categories. "It’s interesting to me that all these other things that people bring up still have a country that tries to stop them," he pointed out. "Trying is the thing."
He then went on to drive this point home with some specific examples. "Medical errors happen, but you know what they’ve done over time?" he asked. "They’ve tried to decrease medical errors by implementing new laws, new systems."
"People say, more people are dying in car accidents [and yet] we don’t ban cars," Noah continued, offering another paralle’. "Yes, but you know what we do? We ban dangerous cars. Over the years, what we’ve done as a society is say okay these cars aren’t working, you have to have a certain type of car."
And we didn’t stop there. "To get a car you need to … go through a process because we just want to minimize the chances of a person dying in a car. We’re going to have random stops to check if you are drunk driving to try and protect people from dying in drunk driving cars." He even pointed out speed bumps as a measure to simply try and stop people driving too fast down specific streets.
And that’s the bottom line. People dying because of cars? We’ll try all sorts of things to curb that.
Finally, Noah pointed to the argument that after 9/11 airplanes weren’t banned, which is the textbook definition of a terrible argument. "Yeah, but they locked that s–t up hard," he said about air travel post-9/11. "There’s a little thing called the TSA. Have you flown? Too much saliva they tell you too much liquid, go back … They try harder and harder to make flying safer and safer and as a flyer, I appreciate it."
So why isn’t America allowed to try when it comes to this gun issue? And why do those opposed to gun legislation always jump to the extreme and assume that everyone wants to ban their guns and take them away for good. As Noah pointed out, no one is trying to take all the guns away. But wouldn’t it be nice if as a nation we at least tried to reduce the number of people getting killed by them?
Finally, he had to point out the irony of gun advocates leaning on the Constitution. "The 2nd Amendment fundamentally was about protecting human beings," Noah said. "What is the good of writing a law that now protects the guns as opposed to the human beings that it is supposed to protect?"
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