Like millions of Americans, I was devastated to learn of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.At once, I was appalled, outraged and most of all deeply saddened at the thought of the terror that must of filled the last few moments of the little victims , short lives. I was sad to think of the terror of parents waiting to be united with their children in that firehouse , only to be told by authorities at a certain point that if you have not been united with your child yet, its because your child was killed.
I don't know any of the families, but that same morning we were kindred souls as I dropped my son, off at school in Bed Stuy around the same time THAT DAY and never though for one moment that a crazed, evil gunman would shoot his way into the school and harm my child. I am sure that they had the same idea last Friday. Thus I cannot say that I know how they feel, for I have never lost a child but I can say like millions of American parents the thought of what they are going through is the most horrific thought that I can think of (it must be remembered that many thousands of urban parents, who have lost their children to gun violence do know what these parents feel like). Thus my fervent prayers are with, every mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, cousin, friend, etc. They will truly need a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Yet, the public policy implications are many. Gun control, a ban on assault rifles, background checks, mandatory training and more measures are being bandied about , and I am in favor of them all. I think our Mayor, who is so wrong on the schools and term limits, is right on this issues. We need gun reform, stricter laws, enforcement of the laws currently on the books, and we need to outlaw private citizens owning military grade weapons that can kill large numbers of people within seconds as was the case in Connecticut.
Yet it was a trip to Israel this summer that challenged me my previously held view that getting guns out of the hands of people in our cities was the lynch pin to success in stopping these killings. For in Israel, a nation with mandatory military service for all young people with few exceptions and the controversial settlements, some Israeli cities are inundated with young people in the public with weapons, serious, weapons slung over their shoulders in the most densely populated urban settings and as I understand it that in terms of civil violence within Israeli society, violence is rare( I fully the understand the tragic history and continued legacy of violence between Jews and Arabs in that land and that is clearly an exception in my analysis). Yet it did start me to thinking more about other factors that cause us in America to kill so frequently, so often involving gun violence.
My conclusion and my view is, that, issues around the guns that we have access to are only part of the equation. The other part of the solution is that we are going to have to look at the role that violence plays in our culture in particular.
I have always wondered how we in a enlightened society can be so surprised when young , people, feeble minded and evil people commit violent acts in our society in light of all of the violence that we are exposed to on a daily basis from, our music, film ,television and video games. Now we can even add our politics, to places where we learn violence, from the violent metaphors that we hear being uttered by politicians and especially from the " Republican" entertainment industrial complex. Not to mention the real brutality of two current wars, celebrated political assassinations and legal campaigns. The shrillness, the gore, the sheer violence of it all.
We can also never forget our history as a nation and our relationship with violence, the genocide, the brutality and terror that enforced slavery and Jim Crow, a Civil War, two world wars, an Atom bomb and list goes on.
The operative question that we must ask ourselves is what kind of society do we want to be? Are we a peaceful society, are we a safe society, do we value life, safety. If we are a peaceful society and we do value safety then we must end our love affair and fascination with gore! We must terminate our apparent need to see violence on television programs and in movies, to listen to it in our music, to play with it in our toys, etc. I'm not suggestion any government enforced end to the violence in our homes and communities, I'm rather apealing to our higher selves, our better angels, our humanity. This kind of change can take place over night in Bed-Stuy and communities across the country.
Blue state politicians will be asking , even demanding that Red states to "give up" their love of guns, which they will argue is akin to asking them to give up their heritage. What are we, the manufacturers of so much culture in America and in the world wlling to give up? We will need to give up some things too! We can not continue to celebrate, movie producers, actors and rappers and others at hip release parties celebrating a violent, violence encouraging and celebrating product and escape some culpability in these continued deaths. It's a lot to ask blue staters in Hollywood and New York. But what kind of society are we going to be?
Lastly, again the guns are only part of the equation, culture is the important side of this issue and our culture is simply too violent. Since the killings in Bed-Stuy, Chicago and Philadelphia, etc have not been able to get our larger societies attention( a fact that is also problematic) hopefully, the killings in Connecticut will cause us as a society to make significant changes need so that we can end the distinction of having the largest numbers of deaths anually by guns of any developed nation in then world.