Oldspeak:” ‘We’re losing eight children and teenagers a day to gun violence… For whatever reasons, neither the public nor the politicians seem to really care how many Americans are murdered — unless it’s in a terror attack by foreigners. The two most common responses to violence in the U.S. are to ignore it or be entertained by it. The horror prompted by the attack in Tucson on Saturday will pass. The outrage will fade. The murders will continue….’ -Bob Herbert ”
From Bob Herbert @ The New York Times:
By all means, condemn the hateful rhetoric that has poured so much poison into our political discourse. The crazies don’t kill in a vacuum, and the vilest of our political leaders and commentators deserve to be called to account for their demagoguery and the danger that comes with it. But that’s the easy part.
If we want to reverse the flood tide of killing in this country, we’ll have to do a hell of a lot more than bad-mouth a few sorry politicians and lame-brained talking heads. We need to face up to the fact that this is an insanely violent society. The vitriol that has become an integral part of our political rhetoric, most egregiously from the right, is just one of the myriad contributing factors in a society saturated in blood.
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, more than a million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968, when Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were killed. That figure includes suicides and accidental deaths. But homicides, deliberate killings, are a perennial scourge, and not just with guns.
Excluding the people killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 150,000 Americans have been murdered since the beginning of the 21st century. This endlessly proliferating parade of death, which does not spare women or children, ought to make our knees go weak. But we never even notice most of the killings. Homicide is white noise in this society.
The overwhelming majority of the people who claim to be so outraged by last weekend’s shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others — six of them fatally — will take absolutely no steps, none whatsoever, to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. And similar tragedies are coming as surely as the sun makes its daily appearance over the eastern horizon because this is an American ritual: the mowing down of the innocents.
On Saturday, the victims happened to be a respected congresswoman, a 9-year-old girl, a federal judge and a number of others gathered at the kind of civic event that is supposed to define a successful democracy. But there are endless horror stories. In April 2007, 32 students and faculty members at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute were shot to death and 17 others were wounded by a student armed with a pair of semiautomatic weapons.
On a cold, rainy afternoon in Pittsburgh in 2009, I came upon a gray-haired woman shivering on a stone step in a residential neighborhood. “I’m the grandmother of the kid that killed those cops,” she whispered. Three police officers had been shot and killed by her 22-year-old grandson, who was armed with a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle.
I remember having lunch with Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children’s Defense Fund, a few days after the Virginia Tech tragedy. She shook her head at the senseless loss of so many students and teachers, then told me: “We’re losing eight children and teenagers a day to gun violence. As far as young people are concerned, we lose the equivalent of the massacre at Virginia Tech about every four days.”
If we were serious, if we really wanted to cut down on the killings, we’d have to do two things. We’d have to radically restrict the availability of guns while at the same time beginning the very hard work of trying to change a culture that glorifies and embraces violence as entertainment, and views violence as an appropriate and effective response to the things that bother us.
Ordinary citizens interested in a more sane and civilized society would have to insist that their elected representatives take meaningful steps to stem the violence. And they would have to demand, as well, that the government bring an end to the wars overseas, with their terrible human toll, because the wars are part of the same crippling pathology.
Without those very tough steps, the murder of the innocents by the tens of thousands will most assuredly continue.
I wouldn’t hold my breath. The Gabrielle Giffords story is big for the time being, but so were Columbine and Oklahoma City. And so was the anti-white killing spree of John Muhammad and Lee Malvo that took 10 lives in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., in October 2002. But no amount of killing has prompted any real remedial action.
For whatever reasons, neither the public nor the politicians seem to really care how many Americans are murdered — unless it’s in a terror attack by foreigners. The two most common responses to violence in the U.S. are to ignore it or be entertained by it. The horror prompted by the attack in Tucson on Saturday will pass. The outrage will fade. The murders will continue.