Here We Go Again


A few months back, a segment on the “Daily Show with Trevor Noah” presented a kind of generic report after a mass shooting. The point was that mass shootings happen so often in the United States that all we have to do is to fill in the specific details of the event. Everything else would be the same. Some loner mentally disturbed individual– fill in the blank– took an assault weapon into a public place – fill in the blank – and killed and injured a number of people. – fill in the blank.
The president will speak words of comfort. We will hear about the shooter. We will hear stories of the victims. There will be candle-light vigils. People will brings flowers and teddy bears in a pop-up memorial. Half the nation will speak of stronger gun laws. The other half will talk about mental health and our violent popular culture. A few days will pass, and we will be on to the next thing until the next mass shooting when it all starts all over again.
I have written over and over about gun violence in the United States. Last June, after the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina at the Mother Emanuel Church where African-American church goers were killed by a young white racist, I wrote a two-part essay inspired by the incident. Part one was about the Cost of Cowardice of this country on the issue of race. The second part was about the Cost of Cowardice of our law makers to pass gun regulations. We as a society pay a high price not only in medical and legal costs but also in lost wages and productivity when citizens have long -term physical disabilities caused by gun violence and cannot be as productive as they might have been before the shooting. (
More important, the loss of one’s loved one or friend is beyond calculation. The injury of a loved one whose life will never be the same is also beyond calculation.
We also ought to place these mass shooting within the context of every day gun violence in the United States where almost 90 people die daily from guns. Children find guns and become accidental killers. Women and children are more likely to become victims of gun violence when there is a gun in their house. This is not rocket science.
Now, in this latest event, a young homophobic man who happens to be a Muslim goes into a night club frequented by the LGBTQIA community, but not exclusively so, and perpetrates the most deadly mass killing in the history of the United States. He pledged allegiance to Daesh – a.k.a. ISIS – either before or during the crime. Now, we have not one but two distractions from seeing the main problem.
Rather than looking at the common denominator in most mass shootings – access to assault weapons and high volume magazines – we are thinking about Muslims and about terrorism inspired by Daesh.
Let us not be distracted. THE PROBLEM IS GUNS.
I have written about how in the United State we have a deadly idolatry of guns. ( We have deluded ourselves into thinking that they will keep us safe. The evidence shows otherwise. We have confused the second amendment right to keep and bear arms with freedom. I say and say again, that the second amendment too often reduces freedom rather than enhances it. Troubled young men with access to military style weapons, firepower that to which NO CITIZEN SHOULD HAVE ACCESS, have made ordinary Americans less free to go to the movies, church, school, an outdoor political meeting, or to a nightclub without thinking whether or not some lunatic loser will open fire.
We already hear the same old same old about not politicizing a tragedy. I say that these horrific events are political because our lawmakers have the power to make it, if not impossible, at least more difficult for disturbed people or anyone to get their hands on assault weapons. We are in a political season. Elected officials hold power in trust. Election Day is coming, and it is the day when We the People take our power back. We decide who will hold power until the next Election Day.
It is time that we hold the representatives who will not pass gun regulations accountable. It is time to send them home and replace them with representatives who do not worship at the altar of the gun and of the National Rifle Association.
Yes, it is the same old same old. I have said this before and will say it again and again and again and. . .
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”

5 thoughts on “Here We Go Again

  1. I’m all for stricter gun laws but should we not be looking at terrorism as well or is that a minor issue? Is ISIS just a “distraction?”
    BTW, How does you “Just Peace Theory” apply in the ISIS killing fields in Syria?

  2. Well, yes and no. For sure guns make it easy to kill. And a spree like this cannot happen without guns. However, we must also look at the culture, our culture, full of non-fulfilling distractions like cellphones and whats app and instagram, and without a sense of a real life, and especially since Reagan, with such a poor economy that almost no one lives without some financial stress, and, and, and. . . As the title of one of James Hillman’s books says it all: One hundred years of psychotherapy and the world’s getting worse. We try to medicate and treat individuals but it is the culture that is the problem. Guns are only one symptom of the vast illness in the modern Western culture. Mass shootings are also only one symptom. A horrid one, but a symptom of a culture that does not fulfill the spiritual needs of humans.

  3. Valerie is right on! I think we’ll have to make changes about guns in stages. I know some people like to hunt and some use guns in sport. But, for the life of me, I don’t know why anyone needs a military assault weapon. If we tried to put our focus and energies to just outlaw these weapons, it would go a long way to reduce such mass killings. I grew up during the 30’s, and sure the gangsters had machine guns but we knew who had them. They mainly aimed them at each other.
    It’s worth a try.

  4. Thanks everybody for your comments.
    To Fred who asked a specific question regarding Daesh (ISIS) and the killing fields in Syria. First, I would refer you to an essay I wrote for Tikkun last April ( I agree with President Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islam” to refer to Daesh. This is not only because Daesh does not represent Islam, but also because the DNA of Daesh has components of Sadaam Husein’s Baathist party. Daesh started as al-Queda in Iraq that attracted Sunnis who once held power and who now want their power back.
    One just peace principle and practice is: reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade. Daesh was able to take territory because it was able to take offensive arms from the Iraqi military. This means that the United States has armed both sides of the current conflict. Just as was the case in Afghanistan, we ended up fighting people who were carrying the weapons we supplied to the country. This is also why President Obama has been slow to arm the so called “moderates” in Syria. The opposition to Assad was and is fractured. It is difficult to vet these groups. One step to meet the challenge of the killing fields in Syria is not to increase the flow of offensive weapons, but to try to decrease the flow.
    Another just peace practice and principle is just and sustainable economic development. Daesh gets its fighters from young men in the Middle East who are looking for steady employment. It is very difficult to think about just and sustainable economic development in the midst of war, but this is what we ought to do in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Here, income inequality is a factor. We have to think about distributive justice in the area of economic development as well as climate change when we think about sustainability.
    It is easy to say that we will carpet bomb Daesh or that we will simply take them out quickly. However, none of this is true. It does not consider the day after. Extreme violence is a way of thinking about what it means to be a human being and how easy it is to demonize and to dehumanize the Other. This is the real source of the problem we have to combat, and we cannot shoot an idea. We have to make the idea nonsense by creating a more just and humane global community.

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