My heart is crying. I am at a loss for words, as many of you are.
First and foremost, I would like to extend my condolences, thoughts and prayers to the families of those that were senselessly murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as those who must now live with the horror of the events that transpired last Friday morning. For 20 families (27, actually), it likely feels like the Mayan End of Days was real after all…it just came one week sooner than expected.
I do not like to get up on a soapbox.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this year that I have felt this anguish, this befuddlement, this frustration.
31 times since Columbine, we as a society have been left scratching our heads, searching our souls, uttering words of disbelief, crying, screaming and demanding changes.
What happened in Newtown this past week was all the more tragic, having transpired on what we as a society view as sacred ground (an Elementary School) and because the fatalities were primarily children…very young and innocent children. And because it was the second such tragedy befalling our society in one week’s time. But mostly because of the children.
Things can’t go on this way.
Each time a mass-murder involving guns occurs on American soil, our country sinks further into the bowels of a horrific, frightening and polarizing debate regarding Gun Control. Even a tragic murder suicide involving an NFL player less than a month ago sparked this same debate.
And with every instance, much to my dismay, time passes, the passion for change seems to ebb, and society returns to business as usual, guns a-blazing, holsters full, ammo at the ready…as if nothing ever happened.
I can no longer sit quietly and watch these massacres continue without making an appeal to the sensibilities of anyone out there who feels guns are not part of the problem. I would even like to address those that are willing to concede that point, but are still compelled to believe their Second Amendment rights are more important, in the long run, than allowing our government to make more stringent gun laws that might make it incredibly difficult to buy a gun, and potentially even make it illegal to own a gun.
No matter what people think the Second Amendment says, or how literal they believe those words to be, even today, when we are not living in fear of an army sent by a far-away king attempting to exert control over us by any means necessary. Just like living in America as a full citizen, gun ownership is not a “right.” It never was. Gun ownership is a PRIVILEGE. And with any privilege comes great responsibility. Somewhere along the way, this was forgotten. Somewhere along the way, our nation’s leaders failed to reinforce this fact. Somewhere along the way, guns became something we as a society took for granted, that we viewed as an American rite of passage, a commodity as common as gasoline and as easy to buy and sell, too. Our machismo as a nation depended on the ubiquity of firearms. As we pushed westward, we feared attacks by Native Americans…and we massacred them with our fire sticks. And as we laid claim to vast pieces of land, valuable minerals and natural resources, we took up arms again to protect our homesteads, our livelihoods and our families. Potential robbers, vandals and no-goodniks came to fear guns wielded by upstanding citizens and the law. Or at the very least, respect them. Soon the gun became the de facto law.
Our neighborhoods were secure, replete with gun-carrying watchmen. Our banks and stores were robbery proof with a gun behind the counter. We taught our sons to hunt and to shoot a gun. Women, fearing rape and abuse, flocked to gun ranges to cling to some semblance of security.
I, for my part, am certainly willing to concede that guns are not solely to blame here. We can all point our fingers at a number of things that contribute to this unsettling trend of bloodshed our generation is currently witnessing. Mental Health issues are a big one, and this includes the resources dedicated to research, community outreach, treatment and the de-stigmatization of mental illness in general in our society. Our media is another perpetrator that deserves some of the blame. Godless and evil killers seem to be glorified by our media after each atrocity, and these soulless people are too often given far more attention than the victims and the heroes that try to stop them. Part of this is our own societal issues, as humans find the unknown, the evil, the bizarre and the misunderstood to be far more compelling than those who are normal, law-abiding, regular Joes and Josephines. Furthermore, other media outlets, such as the movie, television and video game industries create and release a never-ending pile of violence-centric content on the public. Other fingers point at Big-Pharma, and our propensity to over medicate our youth with chemicals and band-aids to mask real problems. And then there are those that blame current parenting techniques, our education system, our diets (which trend toward processed, genetically altered foodstuffs) and our technology (electronics and the internet create a world far less dependent on personal contact and intimacy).
Any and all of the above factors need to be addressed, and very well might be (read: ARE) contributing to a growing epidemic of mass-murder. But there is one factor that seems to be the giant elephant in the room after almost every catastrophic and heart-wrenching breaking news story: GUNS.
This latest tragedy in Newtown has restirred the pot, bringing the gun control debate, and its associated vitriol, to the forefront of national conversation. This time, we cannot let the passage of time once again mask, or at least assuage the passion of those in favor of more stringent gun control. There are too many innocent souls who have paid the ultimate price for us to continue to kowtow to the NRA, to the Second Amendment hardliners and to the general gun-toting populace that refuses to yield on this issue.
Please note that for nearly 250 years, we have endured the Second Amendment. But the frightening and deadly interpretation of that Amendment has only emerged over the past 35 years (please read this article for the gory details).
This coincided, unsurprisingly, with the rise of the NRA. Well, Charlton “Moses” Heston (RIP) and your terrifying army of stubborn gun wielders: we tried it your way…the NRA’s way. And we gave it a go for far too long. I saw that the NRA finally commented on the Newtown tragedy, saying “[We are] prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” That quote was totally fear-induced. There is no way for them to make such an insipid promise. But they know the tides are turning, and want to appeal to the “undecided” in this debate with a last gasp of strength and bravado. Here’s the thing…every argument made by pro-gun honks and NRA supporters hinges on hypothetical, unsound, unproven, flawed logic. There is no evidence, no sample size, not one fact to support their arguments. Just guesses and rhetoric and hubris. And why? Because we haven’t had a chance to see how things work in an American society highly regulated for firearms.
Since the Newtown massacre, I have been trying to rally the troops, to lead an intelligent dialogue for change. I have become, apparently, an accidental activist for gun control (I couldn’t make this up if I tried…there is actually a term for this phenomenon, and I am glad I am not alone in my efforts.)
So I am asking you all to consider acting as well. Even if you are on the fence, educate yourselves. Please don’t allow the children in Newtown to have died in vain. Please do whatever you can to help prevent further atrocities in the future. Our efforts may not completely eliminate senseless murders, but if even one or two lives can be spared, it will be worth it.
Please do something. Because doing nothing is just what the gun lobby and the NRA are hoping for. They sense weakness, and will use their vast resources and influence to counteract any measures from their opposition…unless said opposition can rise up, unified, in numbers pro-gunners have never seen or imagined before. We have them on the ropes. It’s like Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, and the NRA is King Hippo (rather apt, no?)…the fat slob’s mouth is now agape, fist in the air, cocked to punch us…and Newtown was the stunning uppercut to Hippo’s face. Now we must land a flurry of body blows and know the bully out. For good.
Oh, and shame on you Wal-Mart. Please read this article, and consider boycotting that big box empire too. And Alice Walton, you might consider decorating at least one bare wall of your Crystal Bridges Art Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas with the blood of every victim murdered by assault weapons purchased at your stores.
Thanks for reading. The second installment of this post will be forthcoming. I appreciate your patience and understanding of my verbosity, which admittedly is even more voluminous than usual. But this issue is extremely important and incredibly polarizing (apologies to Jonathan Safran Foer), and my passion for change is equally great.