With its connotation of repetition, and possibly boredom, the phrase “You know how this goes” does not seem the best expression to use in reference to a mass shooting.
Unless, of course, you are Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.
Asked Thursday morning on Fox News if President Trump had learned additional information about the previous night’s shooting in Thousand Oaks beyond what he had tweeted — 13 dead, including the shooter and the first law enforcement officer to enter the bar — along with his blessings for victims and praise for first responders, Conway answered that the president “has put it perfectly” by expressing his condolences and acknowledging the investigation.
“You know how this goes,” she continued in a quick flat tone, “you’ve got loved ones still searching for their children, you have first responders and emergency room personnel treating the wounded, and this investigation will continue. And I know the president will stand behind law enforcement federally, state and local … We won’t interfere; we will completely support their work. We certainly know that 12 or so families wake up to tremendous loss and we grieve with them.”
It took less than 40 seconds for the White House spokesperson to address the year’s 307th mass shooting, with its bloody aftermath of “12 or so” dead, 18 wounded, and many more traumatized and frightened. That’s less than half the time, and not even a tenth of the emotion, she used a few moments later when anchor Bill Hemmer asked about the president’s decision to strip CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s White House press credentials after he refused to surrender a microphone during Wednesday’s press conference. Conway became so visibly agitated — pointing out, among other things, that the microphone “belonged to the federal government” — that Hemmer felt obligated to insert himself into a pause and say, “I’m not here to pick a fight, especially with what’s been happening in California.”
Oh, right. Conway had the decency to not actually shrug but … you know how this goes, Bill.
This country has indeed experienced so many mass shootings that there is a recognizable sequence of events. But Conway’s unthinking reliance on shorthand was chilling, a tacit admission that this administration now, officially, considers mass shootings a normal part of the news cycle.
“You know how this goes” — the investigations will continue and the shooter will inevitably be revealed to be not an undocumented immigrant or a member of ISIS or an inner city gang member but a dangerously unbalanced white American male with easier access to guns than mental health resources.
“You know how this goes” — news outlets will begin to list the dead, many of them painfully young, all simply going about their lives when they were slaughtered for absolutely no reason beyond the fact that this is something that happens now, like car accidents and the appearance of new Netflix shows.
“You know how this goes” — there will be protests and calls for gun control, maybe a march, certainly speeches by certain politicians, and the president will blame the previous administration and suggest more people carry guns.
“You know how this goes” — we will continue to pretend that the threat of mass violence comes from other sorts of people living outside the U.S., the ones in caravans and customs lines, while legal citizens planning mass murders are ensured ready access to weapons of mass destruction.
“You know how this goes” — the NRA will continue to make huge contributions to political campaigns even as actual gun owners call for better control, and nothing will change except the body count. That number will continue to rise, with the names of our children and friends and partners and neighbors, with such regularity that a woman who speaks for the president of the United States feels comfortable answering a question about a mass murder with the phrase “You know how this goes.”
Yes, Kellyanne. We do. Unfortunately, shamefully, horrifyingly, we know exactly how this goes.