It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, my heart breaks for the innocent children and equally innocent, brave and selfless teachers who died in Friday’s unspeakably heinous massacre in Connecticut. My thoughts are with all of the victims and their families.
Forgive me for getting political; I don’t want to offend or upset anyone so please feel free to stop reading if so inclined. I am so shaken with grief and disbelief at what has happened in Connecticut – and what it feels like has happened on a weekly basis this year – and I feel like writing is one of the few things I can do at this moment to come to grips with the tragedy. I also can’t help but see this through the lens of an American abroad.
- This is what I wrote in an email to my mother, after she wrote to give me a virtual hug and tell me that she loves me:
I wish I could give you a hug right now. I can’t stop crying, thinking about those poor children, their teachers and their families. I am so enraged that this has happened over and over again, and yet absolutely NOTHING has been done to stop it from happening again, and a majority of the country seems to be ok with that. Each time this happens, I’m less inclined to move back to the U.S. It makes me so sad for our country.
- This is what I wrote in July, following the movie theater shooting in Colorado, in one of those countless unfinished posts that’s been idling in my drafts folder:
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the horror and the tragedy, not to mention the audacity of a seemingly-brilliant young man to forever tarnish the great American pastime of a summertime movie. Seriously, what’s better than going to the movies in the summer? (“Let’s go use someone else’s air conditioning!” is how my Dad used to put it.)
I HATE that an event like this has forced people to fear what should be the greatest mindless escape. What upsets me most of all, though, is the disgustingly ugly truth that nothing will really be done to prevent something like this happening again. Gun control in the US is laughably inconsistent. It’s an election year, and the last thing President Obama can afford to do is piss off pro-Gun voters in swing states (or God forbid, the almighty and powerful NRA). I understand the political calculation, but I hate that he must make it.–
When I first read about the shooting on Friday night, I hate that I wasn’t shocked. After more than three years of living abroad, the rest of the world’s impression of Americans as gun-toting crazies is starting to rub off on me.
At some point while living in Sydney, I once caught the movie “Welcome to Woop Woop” on TV. Besides its awfulness, I remember being so offended by the opening scene, which portrays New York as a place where everyone walking down the street is carrying a handgun, which they use to shoot at a rare bid that’s streaking across the sky.
Occasionally I’d read comments in the travel section of the Sydney Morning Herald where Aussies suggested that every American carries a handgun in their pickup truck; I know this is ridiculous and far from true, but that’s really how the rest of the world sees us. People in both Australia and Singapore have asked me if everyone in America owns a gun, if I’ve seen guns in the street, if it’s common to witness gunfire in New York.
- Just yesterday (YESTERDAY!) fellow blogger Crystal, who’s curating the @HellofrmSG Twitter handle this week, was conversing with another American blogger, @notabilia, about all the questions they get from Singaporeans about guns and the relative safety of the U.S. Since news of this tragedy broke, she’s posted a string of heartfelt and smart tweets on the subject. UPDATE: Through Crystal I’ve learned that in response to this tragedy the NRA has deleted its facebook page. They also haven’t tweeted in 16 hours. How. Fucking. Helpful.
- I’m not sure what else needs to happen before the U.S. does something – ANYTHING! – to address this horrific trend. I personally feel that no civilian needs or should have a gun, but I know that’s unrealistic (it’s something I love about Singapore, though). People on the pro-gun side are as entrenched in their beliefs and arguments as I am (“guns don’t kill people, people kill people”; “It’s my 2nd Amendment Right”; “If those [moviegoers/mall shoppers/college students/temple worshippers/teachers (Ed: WTF?!) had been armed themselves this wouldn't have escalated"; etc.).
I have an answer for every argument, but it seems no one wants to move an inch. And yet, here are undeniable stats mentioned by Gawker's Cord Jefferson in a thoughtful post that appeared among gossip and too-frequent speculative updates:
"Among the world's 23 wealthiest countries," reported ABC News earlier this year, "80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids."
Jefferson also helpfully links to a list of all [mostly Republican] politicians who received contributions from the NRA during the 2012 election cycle. I was happy to see that Mitt Romney was the only one from Massachusetts.
- In a press conference shortly after news broke of the shootings, President Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, came out and said that while there should be a national conversation about gun control, “Today is not that day.”
That is bullshit. I am SO sick of empty words like “conversation” and “we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this”. What the FUCK is “meaningful action,” President Obama?
Today is absolutely the day to talk about gun control. About banning automatic weapons and assault rifles. About electing pro-gun control politicians. About repealing the 2nd Amendment (I wish!), because the Founding Fathers had no concept of automatic weapons and a “well regulated Militia” is very different from mentally unstable individuals obtaining guns in a quasi-legal manner.
- Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire Mayor of New York City, is rich beyond reproach in a liberal state and can therefore say and do things that most politicians mindful of donors and swing voters cannot.
Following the shootings in Colorado last summer he called out politicians across the spectrum for their impotent inaction and empty words.
He also took the impressive step of establishing a SuperPAC (political action committee) to help support pro-gun control politicians, because legislation is the most effective way to change things. New York Magazine has a thoughtful follow-up on the success Bloomberg has engendered since then, and quotes the low-key statement he issued on Friday.
In the wake of each of these shootings I’ve felt sad, and angry, and helpless. I mean, clearly most Americans are against murdering children, right? And yet it seems like a majority feels nothing can (or should) be done to address it. How is that ok? Bloomberg is a loud, and sane, and forceful voice for gun control, and he’s given me hope that something can be done to prevent ever more of these senseless tragedies. I hope to lend my support and action to his cause in some way.
- Elsewhere on the web:
Mother Jones: “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America”
Horrifying, but filled with eye-opening statistics and graphics.
The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik: “Newtown and the Madness of Guns”
“So let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.“
New York: “Your Newtown Massacre Reading List”
The New Yorker’s John Cassidy: “America’s Shame: Words and Tears Aren’t Enough”
Cassidy is a British journalist based in the U.S., but files this dispatch after just returning to the UK for the holidays. I find his reverse-expat perspective fascinating, and tremendously sad.
The Washington Post: “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States”
“But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t ‘too soon.’ It’s much too late.”
From April, The New Yorker’s Jill Lepore on the unique history of guns and gun ownership in America
I suppose the above sources are all similarly left-leaning, some might call them single-minded. Some might call me an out-of-touch Northeastern elitist (despite the fact I live abroad). I know the country is as polarized as it’s ever been right now because people only seek out like-minded media. I read voraciously, and try to consider a wider variety of opinions and perspectives. These are the voices that make the most clear-minded, well-reasoned sense to me.