On December 14th, around 11pm, I crafted the following message to my Facebook friends. After much thought, I decided to share it here with the Huffington Post community, and add some additional thoughts.
Dear Friends and Facebook Friends,
I am a radical. I am NOT a liberal, never have been.
The road I have chosen in life, as a radical, is not an easy one. The code I try to live by, and believe in, is not black and white, nor is it simple.
I know that many people find some things I have said in the past 24 hours hard to swallow. I support all living beings. And I mourn the loss of life in Connecticut, Palestine, Egypt, Pakistan, Mexico and everywhere else in the world. I just am not picking one atrocity over another. I believe that they are all interconnected.
The USA is a violent country. We learn this violence from an oppressive state. We have one of the highest percentages of incarcerated people in the World, we have the biggest military spending in the world, the US government has more weapons than anyone else...BY FAR. Violence begets violence.
As someone who uses Bobbie Haro's "Cycle of Socialization" to teach about oppression, I see the same here.
Our government uses violence, we see violence on TV, in the news, we see our schools invite military recruiters in to encourage us to work for the military. We use drones to kill Pakistanis and fund Israel's military and they kill hundreds of Palestinians. These actions are rarely questioned on US TV, news, etc. In fact, we often make movies celebrating such actions. Then... we expect citizens, people living here, to act differently? How? People are held together by fear and ignorance, they often just do as they see and have learned.
This is not an easy idea to swallow, it means that we are all responsible, not just one lone shooter.
I believe that if I don't stand up, than I am just as responsible as any of the shooters out there. We need to support all people. We need better health care in this country, better mental health care. Our schools should teach students to live, not take tests. I care about the people serving the USA in the military. I care so much I think we should bring them back to the US and make sure there are jobs for them when they return. I care so much; I think that we should reduce the number of active troops we have instead of sending them off to die in illegal wars.
Go meet your neighbours, talk to people on your block. Get involved in your community. Reach out to the "weird smart kid", and stand up for the innocent in your neighbourhood and in the neighbourhood thousands of miles away. All living beings are in this together.
I do not believe that we need more laws and regulations. We need to stop arming our police. We need to pull back our military spending. The state needs to set the example for the people.
According to Colorlines, a few days ago, an off duty Harris County Sheriff's deputy killed Shelly Frey, a 27-year-old mother of two as she allegedly sped off in a car. Frey was a passenger in the car. Walmart confirmed that the deputy was an off-duty officer they hired to patrol a Houston Walmart shot and killed a woman suspected of shoplifting. There were 2 young children in the car. Did you hear about this?
What was an off duty officer doing shooting a woman who lifted a few items from Walmart?
The guns themselves are not our problem. Rachel Maddow discussed in her show on Friday night how gun ownership and mass shootings are not directly correlated. In my opinion, it is our militarized culture, our culture of violence, that is at issue.
The discussion we need to have now is not what laws to enforce, but how to become a less violent nation. This does not mean just a less violent civilian population but a less violent nation. We need to stop killing living beings, at home and abroad.
We have legalized violence for some (police, military and paramilitary) and then expect the outcome to be a peaceful, yet free, civilian population. That is impossible. Additionally, we are not a free people. We are being kettled in when we protest, shot when we shoplift, tased when we don't respond appropriately, and pepper sprayed when we sit down. This is not freedom. This is a police state.
In 2011, Richard Flordia, from The Atlantic, reported that "It is commonly assumed that mental illness or stress levels trigger gun violence. But that's not borne out at the state level. We found no statistical association between gun deaths and mental illness or stress levels. We also found no association between gun violence and the proportion of neurotic personalities." One of the highest correlations though, "Poverty is one. The correlation between death by gun and poverty at the state level is .59." So one issue is poverty. Who interacts most with police? The poor. Of course we often don't pay attention to these "street corner deaths", as President Obama has been calling them.
One idea people have for gun control, which is even supported by NRA membership, is criminal background checks. About 0.7% of adults in the U.S. resident population is incarcerated (as of 2010). Telling the people who served time for poverty related crimes that they never can own a gun, is wrong. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world (743 per 100,000 population). According to CNN reporter Lisa Bloom, "Nonviolent offenders are 60% of our prison population." Many of those incarcerated come from impoverished backgrounds. Arming the rich is not the solution either. In fact, most of the mass murderer shooters would have still had access to guns.
Chauncey DeVega, has a great piece on Alternet today about the way we, as a society, discuss gun crimes. "A person of color who happens to be of Arab descent, and who is Muslim by chosen faith or birth, is not allowed to be a deranged individual who made a choice to kill dozens of people. His or her identity and personhood is one that is "politicized" by default in the West. As such, all actions, however random or outliers, are taken as representative of some type of collective identity, one where terrorism is an inexorable part of its character." What I am saying is that all of these murders are a problem for the collective, all of us as living beings, not just one specific community. We need to start discussing them as such.
Of course, I am not for adding almost any restrictions on citizens, I am an anarchist though so what do you expect. That said I live in a nation state with laws. I'm fine with trigger locks and storage regulations. But, if we are going to add more rules for the citizens, we need to add more regulations for the state.
As Benjamin Tucker said, "the best government is that which governs least, and that which governs least is no government at all." Many of our ills would be solved if we operated in a society without force. I dream of a society where we are all equals and live in peace; where we operate as communities. Being part of a community means supporting those with mental illness, it means looking out for each other. I'm tired of hearing, "oh he was a nerd", "they were anti-social", especially from people in small towns. Did you stop by and say hi? Reach out, treat the kid like a human being? Too soon you say? Think beyond Newtown, think about the kid on your block. Go say hi. Reach out to the person who just lost their job, got divorced, etc. It can mean all the difference.