Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Our Unacknowledged Civil War

Yesterday I posted photos of a memorial at Virginia Tech. It is a remembrance area dedicated to the memory of 32 people who were murdered in a mass shooting on April 16, 2007.

It angers me that we have to have a memorial to something like that, something that should never have happened in the first place.

And we learned nothing from it. It happens again. Again. Again. Again. It will continue to happen while the public raises its eyebrows, shrugs, and moves on, because even though 1 in 3 Americans knows someone who has been shot, there is this insane need to own a gun.

This must be a modern thing. I can't imagine a 14th century populace clamoring to own a sword, or a dirk, or a knife. Were there young men in the 14th century holed up in places surrounded by 10,000 knives? I've never heard of that. But there are men in the U.S. (for some reason it is generally males who do this) who have filled their homes with thousands of weapons.

What are we so afraid of?

We have chosen madness and internal strife. We have created our own American version of terrorism and an interior unacknowledged civil war. Our "homeland" is a constant battle ground. Our media and our parents and whoever else influences us advocates for an "us versus them" mentality. Or maybe it's "me versus them." And "them" becomes anyone. Male, female, different skin color, different religion, different political views, someone who likes a different movie, someone who believes anything differently. Any difference is reason enough to shoot.

When did life become just another commodity? Is this the final stages of free market capitalism? Life is reduced to nothing? Everyone is expendable?

This vigilante madness, this wild-west mentality, has created a crisis of epic proportions, a crisis that mandates memorials to dead young people. Memorials that should never have been.

It happens again and again. And it will continue. We made no changes after a young man murdered a school full of youngsters; obviously as a society, we think possessing a gun is more important than life itself. Those of us who want to see some kind of sanity returned to the country are out of luck. If leaders were unable to make changes after Sandy Hook, then change will never occur.

All we do is turn our heads and look the other way. I am so ashamed of us as a people. We must be the craziest and most scared bunch of lunatics on the planet right now. We are unable to learn the basest of lessons, which is that life is precious and the right to keep and live your life matters more than any right to own anything, no matter what the object.

Semi-automatic guns were invented in the late 1880s. Columbine occurred in 1999. It took us 110 years to reach the point of mass murders in schools, malls, movie theaters and other gathering places. There were other mass shootings - mostly gang-related - but they were rare and the general public did not fear to leave their homes. No one barred the door and poked a shotgun barrel out the window. Now everyone wants to be armed. Big men need to carry assault weapons into the supermarket. Women want little handguns to fill their purse. Shoot first, ask questions later. What are we thinking?

We're not thinking - that's the problem. We're reacting.

I am in favor of more stringent gun control. I am not, as the crazy people think, advocating that the government come and take all guns, although frankly I think there are some people who need their guns taken. I should not be able to walk into a store and leave with a gun. There should be a waiting period. If you need a gun today, then you need a police officer or a mental health counselor, not a weapon. If you can't wait 72 hours to get your gun, then you have a huge problem, and it isn't the government. Something in your synapses is all screwed up.

In 2010 in Virginia, there were 875 gun deaths. There were 740 traffic fatalities. Guess which one is regulated? It isn't the first one. It isn't guns. I can only imagine that this statistic has remained the same - or increased. I do not think it has declined.

We are at war with ourselves. We are not one another's enemies, but we treat one another with disdain, with lack of courtesy, with innuendoes, snubs, and immorality. We are not nice people. The United States is not a nice place. We are not first in everything, and we are not the best. We are, in many instances, the worst place among first world nations. We don't provide adequate health care, we don't provide maternal leave, we don't provide a living wage, we incarcerate more people than any nation in the world, we have a higher infant mortality rate than many third-world countries, we still don't have equal rights for women. We're 7th in literacy and 49th in life expectancy. Frankly, we suck. We've been going downhill for the entirety of my life. No wonder we kill one another and ourselves.

Meanwhile, today's a new day. There's another shooting being talked about on my local TV station, and on your local TV station. On an average day in the United States, about 35 people are shot and another 160 or so are wounded by gunfire. Another 50 or so kill themselves with a firearm.

Every. Single. Day.

You tell me why this acceptable. You tell me why you think you have the right to kill me. You tell me what I have done to deserve such a death. You tell me what all of these young people, from Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook to whatever school or mall had the most recent shooting, you tell me what those people did so I know why they deserved to die. Tell me why their life did not matter.

And then tell me why you get to be judge and jury, and carry your weapon in the supermarket. Carrying your gun isn't going to save you; if that were the case, there wouldn't be a dead police officer in the land. Your Second Amendment rights? Bullshit. Do you believe your right to carry a gun outweighs my right to live? If so, when you're the one in the line of fire the next time the bullets fly, will your Second Amendment right be the last thing you think about just before you die?


3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. What a wonderfully moving and thought-provoking post, about one of the great mysteries of modern American society. Why this passionate, and self destructive, love affair with guns and violence? Actually everyone in the 14th century owned a "bladed instrument" (as they are called in English courtrooms), because it was a necessary tool for everyday life. There'd be a host of them in every public or private place, being used to prepare and eat food primarily. But you didn't get these horrific outrages - that seems to be a modern American speciality (not exclusively, but largely). I do wonder if part of the reason is embedded in the "culture wars" that the Right cooked up following the spectacular success of the Civil Rights movement. That was a huge win for liberals and people on the losing side have nurtured (I suspect) a grudge ever since, a grudge that could be used to divide the population and win votes for reactionary positions. The fight moved to other arenas dear to the Right's heart - capital punishment, abortion and gun control being three particularly sore points which have paid off spectacularly in advancing the careers of conservative politicians (though they have lost heavily on gay marriage too). I am not saying this is the only explanation, but still, when I see people behaving irrationally I seek answers (order in the midst of chaos, since I hate chaos) and that's one that suggested itself to me. Really, this is partly pay-back for being forced by the federal government to grant civil rights to black people.

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