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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Every Wasted Day Means 38 Wasted Lives

We can't wait.

On Friday we lost twenty children all at once.  In twenty five minutes a collective 1,500 years of future life was lost.  These children left their clothes on the floor Friday morning and their parents will have to pick up knowing that it is the last time that they'll do so.  They left dvds in the DVD player that will shuttle out and surprise their parents weeks from now.  Their breakfast dishes were still in the sink on Friday night and a mother or a father washed them for the last time.   The grief in Newtown is powerful and overwhelming, but we do not have the luxury of time that allows us to  wait until we've properly mourned these deaths before talking about gun control.

The mourning periods between gun assisted mass murders are stacking up on top of each other. They will suffocate us if we wait.

We need to do this now. We need to have already done this because today another 38 children will be shot. 8 of them will die. 30 of them will be scarred for life. They won't get shot all at the same place or all by the same person, but they will be shot. 7 have been shot since I started writing this.

Tomorrow, another 38 children will be shot. Each child's death, each murder, suicide, or accident doesn't just kill the child, it kills the whole family.

We cannot wait any longer.

But the discussion needs to go beyond simple gun control. The discussion needs to be one of societal change, of cultural revolution. We need a Kuhnian shift in thinking in the United States of America.

But gun control is where we have to start because gun control works.

There is a strong correlative argument for the efficacy of stricter gun control laws and articles like this one are useful to point to as we engage with those who will inevitably argue that gun-control is pointless or ineffective.

The article also points out that most gun violence in our country happens to darker, poorer children than those gunned down on Friday.

I teach in Watts where gun violence has taken on all the trappings of the banal. We all see it, hear it, talk about it, sense it, and have codified our ready reactions to imminent threat into the workaday elements of our daily routines. This is true for teachers and for students.

Guns are as much a part of life as cancer.

Gun control will make a real difference with our kind of violence. If guns are harder to get, fewer people would have them. If guns aren't available easily across the line in Nevada and at gun shows, Californians will be safer. Our violence could be greatly reduced by a shift in national gun policy, but our violence is not the violence that worries people.

Our violence in Watts just kills poor people, so hasn't inspired national discussions about stopping it. Instead we have national discussions about making sure that the rest of us are armed so we can shoot poor people, too.

We need gun control. Gun control laws are necessary for the protection of all people. Trigger locks, waiting periods, bans for assault weapons and armor-piercing rounds, the end of open carry, the restricting of concealed carry, are all necessary steps that must be taken if we wish to protect Trayvon Martin, the innocent kid who finds his father's gun, the victim of mistaken identity, the victim of domestic violence, and curtail the impact of street crime. Gun control laws can also mitigate the amount of damage done by future Adam Lanzas, but they won't stop rampage killings.

Gun control will save children, but it will more likely be children like Ulysses Gongora, a former student of mine gunned down while walking his brother to school. Gun control might have kept David, Derek, Darryl, Donald, Isaac, and Justin -- all of whom are students of mine that have been shot in the last five years -- from becoming the walking wounded.

But what happened in Sandy Hook, in Wisconsin, in Aurora, in Portland, in Tuscon, and in every mass shooting in history is different and I think we make a mistake when we collapse the metric and treat them as simple gun violence. They are a type of violence that is made worse by the easy access to guns, but just as with our banal violence in Watts, there is a root cause for this exotic violence, too.

Some of the perpetrators are insane and a return to the pre-Reagan laws regarding mental health commitments would be a step back towards national sanity and public safety.

But many of these killers know right from wrong. They know what they're doing -- Dylan Kleibold and Eric Harris knew. The Wisonsin shooter knew. I bet this guy knew, too. Otherwise he wouldn't have killed himself in the end.

Rampage killings are different from our stupidly personal Watts violence because they are not committed in response to an immediate threat, an error, a possibility of personal gain, or in pursuit of the prevention of a loss of prestige or power. These mass shootings are instances of de-indiviudualization where the targets are not targeted for who they are but for what they represent.

They are the product of a deadly combination of fear and entitlement which makes them closely akin to hate crimes except that their targeted minority is humanity.

And just as we understand that the root of hate is fear, we must begin to acknowledge that fear is a root cause here, too.

No, they aren't afraid of their victims. They aren't acting in a perverse self-defense. It's just that people can only be afraid for so long before fear spoils, ferments, and becomes the acid rage that fuels hate.

This isn't news. This was the point of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. We all talked about it a decade ago, but we haven't changed. We were shocked then that Canada had just as many guns as we did, but even with that, the worldwide map of mass-murder still looks like this:

Image Taken from The Rachel Maddow Show


Gun control laws can and will make a difference -- especially in neighborhoods where gun violence doesn't make national news, but until our nation stops treating fear as a virtue, we will continue to support the mindset that leads both to our national arms fetish and our willingness to use those armaments against innocents in order to make a point.

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