Country superstar Jason Aldean was performing onstage at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas when the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history occurred. You’d think this might have willed him into reconsidering his position in the gun control debate. But more than one month after the attack, he remains disinterested in engaging with the issues, let alone naming them.
Today, Aldean appeared on The Today Show for his first interview since the shooting. He explained what was going through his mind when the first shots rang out (via Billboard):
“So when it first happened, I thought a speaker had blown is what I thought. It just sounded like a crackling something,” he said. “And so, you know, I’m kind of looking around like, ‘What is that?’ Trying to figure out what it is. Well then it stopped. So I was like, alright well they must have got it fixed. And so I kept doing my thing, and then it happened again and it lasted longer the second time.”
Aldean admitted that he was “kind of getting aggravated” by what he assumed were technical difficulties, but eventually figured out what was happening as his security guys told him to run and the scene devolved into “pandemonium.” But when interviewer Sheinelle Jones mentions his vaguely unifying Instagram post from the day after the attack, he dismisses the petty issues, like politics and race, in favor of togetherness:
“I feel like at the end of the day there’s so much focus on you know, politics and race and all these other things that just, you know at the end of the day we’re all in this together,” he said. “We spend so much time arguing with each other and not enough time working on the issue that’s really the problem.”
You usually see proponents of gun ownership avoid naming the issue at hand (read: the breathtaking ease with which citizens can purchase deadly assault rifles) after every mass shooting, instead pointing a finger at mental health concerns, or “evil.” Aldean doesn’t even do that. Instead, he argues, stop arguing; work; heal.
No one is in any position to tell Aldean how best to process what happened at this show. It’s frankly impossible to imagine the trauma of witnessing an event like the Vegas shooting. But when the next mass shooting to take over national news, which will probably be conducted with some variation of “America’s Rifle,” is always just around the corner, the windowing period for healing without debate gets smaller and smaller. There’s never enough time.