ANGER AND OUTRAGE
I never talk about my political convictions on my blog although heaven knows they are strong enough, an integral part of my being. My blog, for the moment (and I stress this point), is about food and my life in France. Although I often write about difficult moments and personal tragedy, although I sometimes wax eloquent on the tough decisions my husband and I are forced to make when at a particularly stressful crossroad, I still keep my politics out of it. Little do my readers know or understand the role my political beliefs played in my leaving the States to search for another country, another culture, to see how the rest of the world handles such topics that have an impact on my life, that mean a lot to me.
But once in a while, my anger and outrage get the better of me. At a moment such as this, after what happened in Newtown, I cannot reign in my emotions nor can I contain my words. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Portland, Newtown, the world watches the images roll across the television screen over and over and over again. And I stand and watch, stunned and enraged, and wonder when Americans will simply say Enough!
I have been reading articles and Facebook posts about this tragedy, another tragedy in a long line of tragedies, claiming forbearance, asking each of us to put aside our politics, not to allow the urge to blame this person or that entity get the better of us in this time of mourning. They say this is no time to start the debate or ask for legislation; this, they say, is a time to remember the dead, a time to pray, light candles, gather, hands held, united as a country and hug our loved ones close to us. Respect for the dead comes, for now, they say, in putting all of our thoughts and energy into thinking of a better, a Utopian world in which men and women and tiny children do not die at the hands of a gun-crazed lunatic on a shooting rampage, that shaking one’s fist and crying for something to be done is an injustice and tarnishes their memory. And groups of food bloggers are asking for each of us to observe a “Silent Monday” in memory of the dead, a social media Day of Observance. But I cannot do this. My way of showing respect for those babies and all those whom have died of gun violence is to stand up and make my voice heard, to get angry and scream my outrage at the top of my lungs. My way of showing respect for these innocent victims whose own voices have now been silenced forever is to try and make sure that something this unfathomable, this horrific never happens again.
I cannot stay silent. We have been silent for much too long.
And so I post this here today on my food blog. The following piece was written in the heat of the moment as the television behind me was blaring the news of the shooting. These are words that have come straight from the heart. I am sad, heartbroken for the victims and for my country. I am angry and outraged that this has been allowed to happen, nurtured by a long-standing gun culture and the fear of our politicians to stand up to political bullies and just say Enough! Feel free to remain silent or shout your pain and anger from the rooftops; we each deal with this in our own private way, and this is mine.
WHEN WILL IT CHANGE?
There has been a spate of gun violence in France this past year: political assassinations in Corsica; gang-related shootings in Marseilles; bungled jewelry shop burglaries in Paris. And the most shocking of all was a seemingly random hit-and-run style rampage over a period of more than a week in Toulouse and Montauban this past March in which seven people were killed, three of whom were children and three of whom were military men. In a country with such strict gun laws and regulations, this all seems rather unimaginable and leaves the public not so much outraged as stunned and dazed. How can this happen here in France? Yet the slow infiltration of illegal guns into France is as real as those innocents who are dead.
But nothing comes even close to what is happening in the United States. A war zone without the war. Innocents by the dozens being razed down at such banal and public places as shopping malls, movie theaters, high schools, post offices, universities and now an elementary school with no rhyme or reason. From simple handguns to military-style automatic weapons, strapped to bodies, arsenals found in bedrooms, we watch in horror as we realize how our fellow citizens are able to arm themselves to the teeth with ease, stockpile to their hearts’ content. Barely a week goes by, or so it now seems, that we aren’t crying our eyes out and wringing our hands as the news floods in about yet another shooting. But what are we doing about it?
Very little. And why? Isn’t it obvious by now? From the NRA to the Tea Party, too many Americans and their gun-clutching political lobbies are shouting about freedom and liberty. They shake the Constitution in front of our faces and recite the few words that make up the Second Amendment as if it is the only thing that holds are country together, the only thing, fragile and beautiful, that makes our country the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. Some tenuous interpretation of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, written and adopted in 1791 as the United States government was struggling to guarantee their citizens’ freedom in the shadow of imperial rule, has become, for many, the cornerstone of their politics; the guarantee of everyone’s right to walk into any gun shop and buy an arsenal equivalent to our collective and individual “pursuit of happiness”. They have succeeded in making us believe that real patriots love guns and refuse all gun restrictions.
And then there is the religious contingency. Former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee decries – and seems to put the blame on – the removal of God and religion from schools. Connecticut’s own governor Dan Malloy stated immediately in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that “Evil visited this community today…” as if speaking of some hooded and cloaked creature straight out of a Harry Potter novel that can only be held off with magic spells and pure hearts. We hold vigils, light candles, organize prayer meetings, flood into churches. And skirt around the issue of guns. We hide behind Bibles and flags and avoid an actual adult debate about firearms. We avoid the responsibility of making choices, refrain from bringing politics into our struggle to accept yet another tragic mass shooting, loathe discussing the hard facts while soothing the weeping families.
And then, when we do get around to it, there is the debate itself. The idiots at Fox News try and reason – if reason is a word that can be used in this discussion – that with or without a gun, Jovan Belcher would have killed his girlfriend anyway. Someone that big and strong, they argued, would just have throttled her to death if that was what he really wanted to do. Maybe. But maybe not. How easy did having that loaded gun make it? How fast and impersonal? Do they realize how difficult it is to strangle someone to death? Do they realize how psychologically different it is having to physically touch someone, be body to body, feel them writhe under one’s touch, struggle and gasp, have to look into their terror-filled eyes? Taking a gun, pointing and shooting is impulsive; one does not even have to look at the other person or be near that person. It is over in a second. Take that gun out of a violent partner or spouse’s hand and how many women (or children or parents, for that matter) would still be living?
And the insensitivity, the outrageous arrogance and smugness of the NRA whose Executive Vice President said only this year that “anything less than 1,000 dead kids (in school shootings) would not be enough for the NRA to stop urging Congress to pass pro-gun legislation.” Really? I wonder if he feels the same after Friday's senseless massacre in Newtown.
And how many children are killed by gunfire every year? According to IANSA, International Action Network on Small Arms, just over 3,000 a year. How many of these were accidents in the home, just a couple of kids finding a parent’s firearm and seeing how it worked, or making it into a game? Yes, those same defenders of our supposed right to own guns claim, accidents do happen. But how many of those 3,000 innocent children would still be alive today if it was not for the availability of guns and ammunition?
Do not try and defend gun ownership to me as somehow safeguarding my every freedom. Do not throw the Second Amendment in my face as if A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. is somehow a good enough reason for anyone to walk into a gun show and purchase a semi-automatic or two.
What kind of militia were they forming, what kind of imperialism were they fighting those two boys who killed 12 fellow students and teachers at Columbine? What kind of freedom allowed for them to have an arsenal of weapons, allowed them to purchase thousands of rounds of ammunition at a Walmart? How does allowing a mentally unstable student or a man with “some form of autism” or, for that matter, my own father who was sold a rifle while he was suffering from dementia, how does allowing these people to legally buy guns preserve our own freedoms, defend someone’s own interpretation of the second amendment? Carry a gun to church, school, the supermarket… now we seem to be urging more Americans to carry more guns more places and for what? To protect themselves against somebody else who has a gun. Like some insane return to the Wild Wild West. What kind of freedom is this defending?
Isn't the freedom to go to school, go to a movie theater or a shopping mall or the office without the fear of being razed down by a lunatic wielding an arsenal of handguns and automatic weapons more important than the freedom to buy and stockpile guns? Isn’t the freedom for those teens killed in Columbine, those young adults at Virginia Tech or those children in Newtown to celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, to celebrate their next birthday, to grow up, graduate, marry and have children of their own, more important than any American’s freedom to buy an assault weapon? Where is their freedom? What protects their liberty?
Enough is enough. When do we as Americans put aside our own selfishness, our own flag-waving, heart-crossing ideology and look at the reality of what is happening in our country? It takes courage for politicians to stand up to the political bullies and engage in serious debate and make serious, effective decisions. Some people say that we shouldn’t be bringing this up now, just the day after Newtown. Some people say that this is the time for remembering, praying, drying tears and pulling together as a united country. I say now couldn’t be a better time to take action, now as the wound is fresh and bleeding, now as we are crying for yet more of our fellow Americans, now as we are watching 20 children being carried to their graves rather than decorating Christmas trees and opening gifts. We must do more than simply hold hands and light candles. We need to say no to the NRA, we need to take drastic measures to get guns off the streets, make more types of weapons illegal and the rest absolutely more difficult to purchase. And we need a strong program re-educating and re-sensitizing our young people as to the horrors of guns and gun deaths.
Sixteen years ago, a lone gunman armed with four handguns, walked into a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland and shot and killed sixteen children and one adult, shocking not only the nation but the world as well. Immediate public outcry and media-driven public petitions created a real debate on gun ownership and the demand for immediate government action. The lives of children became more important, overrode the public’s interest in any kind of freedom or liberty associated with firearm ownership, and within a year the British government enacted extremely tough gun laws, effectively making private ownership of handguns illegal in the United Kingdom. I remember two years later when a man (naked, but that’s besides the point) stormed into a church in the UK wielding a sword indiscriminately attacking churchgoers. Not a gun, a sword. He injured eleven people. Killed? None.