Sick at heart reading the morning news reports of the shootings at Newtown elementary school. Horror, grief, fear, anger, despair–we run the gamut of emotions. Again. Worse this time, because they were such young children. My daughter is a preschool teacher with one child in elementary school and another about to start. Last week, pipe bombs were found at an elementary school near the one her son attends. Two teenaged boys were arrested. When I talked to her last night, she said she’d been crying off-and-on all day.
In a Gallup Poll last fall, 45% of Americans said they had a gun in their house. 53% oppose a ban on semi-automatic weapons. As op-ed columnist Gail Collins writes, “Every country has a sizable contingent of mentally ill citizens. We’re the one that gives them the technological power to play god.” Well…as we’ve seen in other places, you don’t need semi-automatic weapons to slaughter children, but they certainly make the process more efficient.
The op-eds and letters are filled with attacks on the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbyist against gun control, but the fighters for freedom to own lethal weapons and pack them everywhere are holding strong. The executive director of Gun Owners of America said of the Newtown tragedy, “Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.” More and bigger guns in more places, that’s what’ll end this violence?
We do have some institutional models for these screwball ideas. There’s the government and its armies across the world, its weapons stockpile. There’s the police and the military-grade weapons they now possess, the tanks and M-4 carbine assault rifles. (“How the War on Terror Has Militarized the Police,” Atlantic, Nov. 7, 2011)
These mass shootings do not come out of nowhere. Fear, paranoia, and aggression permeate our culture from top to bottom, and when someone like the kid in Newtown tips over into insanity, the means for wide-spread destruction are readily at hand. Gun control would help, wider availability of treatment for mental health problems would help. But the increasing massacres of innocents are only one of so many indicators of things gone awry–homicide rates, suicide rates, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, poverty, school drop-outs, homelessness, joblessness, depression, anxiety, PTSD, child abuse, and on and on–that I wake up in the night afraid. Something is rotten at the core.
Lucinda Marshall of the Feminist Peace Network says it well in an article on Common Dreams:
A Culture That Condones The Killing Of Children
And Teaches Children To Kill
The Sandy Hook massacre isn’t just about the need for gun control laws, it is about a culture that condones the killing of children and teaches children that killing is okay.
It is about a country addicted to violence on television and movie screens.
It is about cuts in education spending.
It is about giving the military free access to our schools where they regale our children with romanticized delusions of military righteousness.
It is about environmental and health policies that expose our children to all manner of toxins in the air, land and water.
It is about thinking we have the right to kill children with drones or by dropping toxic munitions on their countries that cause birth defects and miscarriages.
It is about saddling our children with crippling education debt and no prospect for jobs.
It is about telling boys (and men) they have to be tough and to fight and kill for what they want or think is right.
It is about a national policy that denies children basic rights and systemically teaches them that violence is okay.
And it is about a media so insensitive that it thinks it is okay to shove a microphone in the face of young victims in the name of sensationalized 24/7 cable “news” while under-reporting the root causes of this tragedy.
Sandy Hook did not happen because of a lone, disturbed young man and it is not an isolated incident. It is an epidemic and we are all to blame. And today (and tomorrow and every day after that) is the time to confront this self-inflicted tragedy.
Lucinda Marshall is the Founder and Director of the Feminist Peace Network, http://www.feministpeacenetwork.org. She is the author of the FPN blog as well as Reclaiming Medusa, http://www.lucindamarshall.com.