Monday, December 17, 2012

If We're Serious...


Nothing about the writing dream this week, it’s all about a necessary, post-Newtown conversation.
If we’re serious about preventing the next school shooting, here are some thoughts:
Let’s talk about reasonable gun control. We should be able to talk about this without hysterical N.R.A. reactions. I can’t think of a reason to make a handgun with fifteen-bullet clips except to go on a rampage like this one. If killers have to pause to reload, that can mean escape for a would-be victim. And I don’t see the need for hunters to have such a high ammo capacity. If you need fifteen bullets to kill one deer, maybe don’t hunt.
Also, can we have a rational discussion about bringing back the Brady Bill, which even conservative messiah Ronald Reagan supported? I don’t think that law violated the second amendment, which always gets paraphrased poorly. The “well-regulated militia” part is regularly and purposefully omitted. Plus, our Constitution was written in the age of muskets, when massacres like this were literally impossible. There was a reason our colonial ancestors didn’t shoot until they saw the whites in their target’s eyes. They weren’t trying to sound hardcore. Reloading involved two doses of gunpowder, an iron ball, and a packing rod. Reloading was a bitch.
Some may argue a high-capacity gun would come in handy during a home invasion, but most burglaries are committed while the homeowners are away, and most burglars don’t work in packs. It’s time to go back to more primitive weapons for hunting and home protection.
Let’s get serious about mental health care. Health care is a human right. Mental health is a part of that. (We don’t know the exact mental illness the shooter had yet, but it seems like a fair assumption.) Health care is not a product or a privilege. Medicare for all should be our long-term national goal, but that also means we can’t bitch when our taxes go up. Either these services are worth it, or they aren’t. We have to stop expecting F.E.M.A., Social Security, Medicare, AND low taxes. If we want these services, we need to pay for them. Better mental health care for every American could prevent school shootings.
Let’s fund Art, Drama, Music, and Gifted and Talented programs. I’ve seen some disturbing student art, but I look at each piece like an act of violence that didn’t happen. The lost boys who commit these crimes all had needs that weren’t met – the same needs as their peers. They need to feel like they’re a part of something. They need success in some endeavor. The Columbine shooters were un-athletic non-scholars. They needed to learn to make pottery or play bass drum or act. For young people who don’t have much success in a traditional classroom setting or in a gym, the arts are a way to see school as something other than torture. We need to fund our schools properly and, again, not bitch about the taxes. We invest in our youth, or we watch them grow desperate, and sometimes, violent.
Let’s lead by a non-violent example. Almost all of these shooters are young men. Young men have excellent radars for hypocrisy. They notice the contradiction when we as a society preach non-violence, and then treat state-sanctioned violence as a normal way of being. They notice the sixty-year trend of undeclared wars: Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq again. The baby boomers protested the first two of these “interventions”, demanding an end to the unnecessary violence. That generation responded like it should’ve. But then, over time, we grew numb. War became routine. War became Wednesday, just something that happens at a regular interval. These angry young men notice such trends and respond accordingly.
Let’s erase the killers from our history. I won’t even look at the name of this shooter. Why do we reward these people with so much posthumous attention? It sends a message to the next damaged soul looking to leave a mark in the easiest possible way – you will be remembered. It may be naïve in the digital age, but if there was a law stating that their names are not to be spoken or written, nor their pictures ever shown, it could be possible. It would take agreement from prominent websites to remove comments that mentioned the killers by name. If we had that, we could condemn these shooters to oblivion. This would send a clear message to the next potential killers: you will not die a media darling. You will be forgotten.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I hope this conversation is possible. There’s nothing wrong with discussing gun control. Health care is a human right, not a privilege or a product, and mental health is part of that right. War was never supposed to become the normal state of affairs. Remember the victims and erase the villains. If we’re serious about reacting to this tragedy, we can have these conversations, we can come to conclusions about what must be done, and we can pressure our representatives to act accordingly. Justice begins with dialogue. 
In that spirit, leave a comment.
-James Russell

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