Paris, night interior. In the video, published at the end of March on TikTok, a girl goes wild on the dance floor to the notes of an old hit. At the sudden sound of a gunshot, the young woman - an American tourist - looks into the room stifling a terrified scream. Only she, among all, is seized by a moment of pure panic. The others immediately guess the detonation of the tube that explodes a shower of confetti. Among all it is only she who carries in the conditioned reflex generated by the horrible, tragic and completely incomprehensible American reality of almost two mass shootings (those with more than 4 victims) a day.
"0 days since last mass shooting", zero days from the last one, reads the homepage of one of the sites that track cases on the national territory. In 2023 so far there have been 255, and the days of the year only 131.
A couple of years ago the Urban Dictionary embraced the word "afearican" (= american + fear) among its neologisms with the definition: "Someone from the United States who enjoys freedom in a safe country, but who still experiences fears that are rational in the United States but irrational in the country in which he is."
Although it is easy to conceive of more effective names (Amerifear, USAfraid, bangxiety, yankee dread, red white and boom: thanks ChatGpt, even if bangxiety is only a semantic shift), the interest of the term obviously lies in its necessity, that is, in the very fact that the phenomenon it serves to indicate exists.
The increasingly tired shock of the news returns to less apathetic (and resigned) reactions only when intolerable details overcome the barrier of anesthetized acknowledgment that has become the norm: children, last desperate messages, gore descriptions of the destruction that an assault weapon (the favorite among shooters) inflicts on the bodies of the victims.
The word 'afearican' is recorded in 2021 not by chance: in that year mass shootings reached a record number of 690 in the US, more than double compared to just four years earlier, and tripled in less than a decade.
On social media, having seen the Republican political wall that prevents new life-saving legislation, American citizens begin to admit not only that they are afraid, but also that they have changed their habits, no longer feeling safe. Shootings take place mainly in public places (offices, schools, malls, but also places of worship, theaters, etc.), security is ineffective, and even the police (e.g. in Uvalde, Texas, May 2022, with 19 children between 9 and 11 years old killed along with two teachers) are afraid of attackers loaded with automatic weapons of war freely purchased at the supermarket (Mauricio Garcia, author of the recent massacre of Allen, also in Texas, 15 dead in less than 4 minutes, he had with him over 500 bullets: a soldier in battle has less than half of them).
Walter Lippmann - theorist of public opinion - wrote that in general human dynamics is not first seeing and then defining, but first defining and then seeing. The new name - born to remain or to be replaced with a more expendable analog - perhaps will serve to put freedom from fear back at the center of the debate, rather than the freedom to incite it.