Memorial Day 2014 has come and gone and back we go to our bread-and-butter concerns and our daily jousts with infomania. So in an effort to extend the conversation beyond the inevitable spike, I am moved to express my utter despondency on the painful subject of gun violence in America.
Over the recent Memorial Day holiday, many Americans gathered to honor those who have lost their lives in service to our nation and to us as individuals, families and communities. I honored my father's service in the Korean War. I reflected with frustration on our veterans seeking to rejoin civilian society and finding themselves unjustly up against so many odds. I gave silent thanks to those who continue to serve as I write this post.
I also feel compelled to honor and memorialize those who have lost their lives in service to gun violence perpetrated by members of their own communities. Following the massacre of 20 innocent first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, I could not imagine we would fail to finally act to stop the madness once and for all.
But we have failed, and our citizens, often young people with everything to live for, have paid the price. As the tragedy in Santa Barbara last weekend illustrates, there is an overarching need to address mental health issues as they relate to gun violence, but I'll leave that analysis and discussion for the experts. There is also a critical need to address gun ownership in the hands of anybody and everybody and to set and, more importantly, enforce reasonable parameters.
The first time I felt personally impacted by gun violence in our country was as an MBA student living in France on a semester abroad. I remember being horrified and mortified by the Columbine massacre, that such a level of violence could occur in our country. I tried to view the atrocity through the eyes of the average French citizen, for whom such events were virtually inconceivable. As an American, I was ashamed.
But Columbine has turned out to beone of the first in a series of public displays of barbarism that we continue to tolerate in this country. According to Chris Matthews, there have been 200 mass killings since 2006 in our country (a mass killing is defined by 4 or more victims). The excuses are many, Second Amendment rights foremost among them. Polls have shown a majority of Americans want stricter controls, but time after time, federal legislation is rejected, and what little has passed is woefully inadequate.
We can no longer pretend to be surprised when future massacres occur. On some level, we have already resigned ourselves to expecting them. Commonplace. Some might say through our lack of action, that we have become enablers, or worse yet, abettors in these crimes because of our passiveness.
America is supposed to be the leader of the free, civilized world, a nation of peace-loving people: ergo, mass-killings have no place in our society. Except that they do.
As a citizen, I can no longer stand by waiting for legislation that will never pass. I cannot accept that my efforts -- the signing of a multitude of petitions and multiple if small, donations for life-saving public policies -- have not amounted to a hill of beans.
The Second Amendment rights were appropriate in a context where we were trying to establish the rule of law and protect ourselves from unknown enemies but that time is long past. We have the rule of law and we have law enforcement agencies in every nook and cranny of the land. We do not need to take the law into our own hands.
If we can muster the will, we are quite capable of modeling peace. The way to do that is NOT by 'protecting' ourselves with more and more guns and it is certainly NOT by making guns easily accessible to people who may use them for violent purposes.
If, in our great American tradition, discourse and debate were to begin in Congress and in town halls across the country, in communities everywhere, and if distinctions were drawn between the rationale for personal protection and the legitimate needs of recreational hunters and others, conceivably a more peaceful society could emerge.
One last thing. I live in Los Angeles, storytelling capital of the world. I implore the entertainment community -- television, film and gaming -- to ask themselves in all honesty, how there can be no connection between the fantasy that Elliot Rodger concocted in his tortured mind, and the culture of gratuitous violence omnipresent in the stories we tell in Hollywood and export to the rest of the world? We can and must find equally compelling ways to tell stories that do not take violence for granted.
So as you sit in your home today, if you are in possession of a gun for any reason, please consider asking yourself, "How is it really serving me? What is it for? Is it really making me safer?" And then perhaps you could ask yourself: "If I lay down my arms, and others do too, can the power of those individual gestures help us collectively get to a safer society?"
Please join me in making your voice heard by signing my friend Miranda's powerful petition, which will help us get closer to some signs of progress:
- Require universal background checks
- Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (and in in the meantime, don't buy them)
- Enact a national open carry laws
- Require data analysis and alert systems to monitor suspicious buying patterns correlated to suspicious behavior
Let's do what it really takes to eliminate the endless potential for gun violence: #laydownyourarmsamerica