A few months ago I wrote you a letter about the senseless killings in Aurora, Colorado called “On the Existence of Evil”. Sadly, it encompasses many of the themes and emotions I felt again yesterday as I read about the shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. By all means re-read it if you are moved to do so.
But today, as I hug you for dear life and tell you how much I love you, I’m feeling a bit differently about our individual and collective responsibility to put a stop these heinous acts. So buckle up, my sweet daughter. Your dad is about to go on a rant.
For the past twenty-four hours I've been reading the many comments on Facebook and Twitter about yesterday’s horrific violence which resulted in the deaths of twenty-eight people, twenty of them kids your age and even younger. No doubt the comments are all genuine and well intentioned. I too feel grief, loss, fear, nausea, regret, sympathy, vertigo, sadness, and many other emotions.
But far worse than any of those, I feel a sense of resignation that this is the new reality in America. I also feel a sense of unbridled anger that we as a people are unwilling to do anything about it even though we can.
Yes, us. And yes, unwilling.
No doubt we need better mental health care in this country. We need better parenting. Better guidance on movies and video games. Better everything, really. Check every box, as my friend Stu likes to say. I hope by the time you’re an adult, we’re doing all of that a lot better than we are today.
But the immediate problem is guns.
Guns. Guns. Guns. Access to guns. Fucking guns.
How is it that deranged, stupid, evil, insane people are able to legally access entire arsenals with which to kill our children? The answer is unfortunate and simple. It’s because we are unwilling to do what it takes to stop them.
A fascinating statistic is making the rounds in social media outlets today. Here it is: if you added together the number of handgun deaths this year in Japan, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada, Israel, Sweden and West Germany, and then multiplied that combined total by seventy (!!), that outrageously high total would still be smaller than the number of handgun deaths this year in the United States alone. Are you kidding me?
Here’s why, and we have to look in the mirror to see it.
First of all, forty percent of people who are eligible to vote in the United States simply don’t. What is that, fifty million people? Sixty million? More? Imagine if fifty million people went to the polls tomorrow and threw out every politician who refused to vote for real gun control reform. Real gun control reform would happen overnight. Literally. Why don’t people vote? They can’t be bothered? They think their vote doesn’t matter? They’re too cool? I don’t know.
I have little doubt that even the most ardent opponents of gun control are horrified by this latest slaughter of innocents. We’re all horrified. What sane person isn’t? But being horrified is not enough. Your very life is at stake, Mackenzie. I hate to say it, but people who don’t vote are part of this problem and I can’t forgive them for it.
Secondly, the gun lobby in this country is enormously well funded and effective. Politicians on both sides of the aisle take their money and become beholden to them. I find it hard to blame them. They know they will not be voted out of office on that basis. Why? Because even those of us who vote rarely take the time to know or care who is funding our politicians or why. Because we put other selfish interests first. Because we have different priorities that make us look the other way. And because we don’t really believe it can happen to us or to our kids.
You more interested in how your congressman feels about lowering your personal tax rate than about the safety of our children? RAT-AT-AT-AT-AT! RAT-AT-AT-AT-AT!
You more concerned with stopping gay marriage than about the safety of our children? POW! POW! POW! POW! POW!
You more excited about showing the length of your sexual organ about the “fiscal cliff” economic debate than about ensuring the safety of our children? BOOM! PING! PING! BOOM!
You don’t think it can happen to your own son or daughter? BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! RAT-AT-AT-AT-AT! POW! POW! POW! RAT-AT-AT-AT!
I know you can’t vote for another few years, my little one. But I hope the adults around you will speak with the powerful weapon of their votes, and I hope they’ll do it now. I pray the grief and horror we feel across this nation today will stir us to real action. If it doesn’t, more heartbreak and tragedy await us.
And then no amount of prayers and condolences on Facebook and Twitter, or tearful recitations of beautiful scripture, should make us feel one bit less guilty about our role in these terrible deaths.
All my everlasting love,