NOTE: If you think America has perfectly acceptable gun laws which are working for all of us, you probably shouldn’t read this post. Seriously.
My blogging friend Van posted about the Charleston killings today. Her thought-provoking post is here. It got me thinking about Charleston again as I have been since the horrific killings happened. Let me begin with this: I love South Carolina. I think Charleston is one of the most picturesque cities in the world and I know people there who are loving and kind. So none of what I am about to write is an indictment of anything there specifically. I don’t think they’re more or less racist and hateful than anywhere else necessarily and I don’t even think hate is solely to blame for this killing spree. But it does start with hate and in South Carolina, hate is a unique part of the root of the problem.
I’ve been in the newspaper industry a long time. We produce and syndicate special sections for newspapers which are earmarked for use in schools. When newspapers were found mostly in print we sold our products to most of the papers in the country. One of the sections I am most proud of is titled, “Live Without Hate.” I wrote it years ago after the horrific homophobic hate-based killing of young Matthew Shepard. It began with the premise (yes, from a song), “You’ve got to be taught to hate.” So, we reasoned if hate is taught, because no one is born hating anyone, hate can be unlearned too. When you learn more you know better, you do better things in the world.
Makes sense, right? Lots of newspapers agreed and bought and ran the piece and delivered it to schools. Except any in South Carolina where we did have lots of clients. Why? The title, one client explained to me. The title could incite a riot. “Live Without Hate” could incite a riot? Who objects to living without hate I wondered. It was all about that flag controversy, the one still raging this week. At the time, the pro-flag side adopted a slogan, “It’s not hate, it’s heritage” to explain why they wanted to continue to fly that Confederate flag. So, the word hate was incendiary.
But I think the word hate is a smokescreen. I think the whole flag controversy is a smokescreen. It’s a distraction from the real problem. Now the governor can call for a removal of said flag and all’s right with the world? We’ve done something to stop the next killer? I don’t think so. I think these are smokescreens put up by people who want us to turn away from what actually could be done to reduce crimes of this nature. While the sight of that flag evokes a very unpleasant visceral response in me because I do think it represents hatred of a very high order, I don’t think the flag or the heritage it represents for some people killed those people in the church. I think people and in particular politicians want to blame the flag and the hate because you can’t stop hate. They want to blame crazy because you can’t stop crazy. The one thing very few in power want to blame is the one thing they can do something about. Guns.
I tend not to get political on this blog. It’s a place where I write about families and family issues with a goal of helping others to be closer with their family members and to heal rifts that exist. But, this issue is taking precedence for me today. It matters more than my occasional musings. I don’t want to offend gun sportspeople. I’m not coming for your guns. I may not be a hunter but if that’s your sport, have at it. But have at it with weaponry appropriate for the sport. The animals are unarmed, do you really need an AK-any number to shoot at them? The Charleston shooter used a semiautomatic handgun. Who needs that kind of gun and ammo? Self protection you say? How many guns and what type of gun do you need for that? Wouldn’t a gun shooting one bullet at a time protect you sufficiently? And, how many times have you actually used your self-protection gun? I have friends who have self-protection guns and fortunately not one has ever used one. Are you a shooting range sportsperson? I’m not coming for your guns either. But why live ammo? Can’t you just go to the range and get the same thrill from shooting the target with some sort of dummy bullet? The target will be no less alive or dead, right?
We need politicians to look at the Charleston church shooting for what it is. Yes, this shooter was a hater and yes he was also crazy but he if he hadn’t been armed, his insane hatred couldn’t kill anyone. If he had a knife, yes, he’d still be a crazy hater but maybe he could have killed one person before he was stopped. The gun in his hand and the ammo in that gun enabled a crazy, hating lunatic to kill way too many good people. As did the one in Sandy Hook, as did the one in every hate-based on crazy-based killing in recent history.
We need better and enforceable gun laws. We need ammo laws. (Chris Rock once joked we could let people have all the guns they want but bullets should each cost $50,000. Funny but not all that far off the mark.) We need to decide who we want to be in America. How many of these horrific sprees of hate-based killing are we willing to tolerate in the name of “freedom?” Those Constitution wavers who point at the 2nd Amendment to insist we follow the rule of the Founding Fathers can’t really believe Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison et al wanted this kind of society, can they? The Founding Fathers understood freedom comes with responsibility. Freedom should not be a free for all for society to run amok with nuts killing anyone anytime crazy or hate or anger strikes. Our highest priority in this country should be self protection, yes, of all of our selves. It’s not a partisan issue, or at least it shouldn’t be. These killings can be stopped. If you stop nothing else, at least stop saying these killings can’t be stopped. We can either do something or continue to let our own people be shot down because we were too weak to make laws strong enough to protect us. America, our national anthem says we are the land of the free and the home of the brave. Can we be brave enough to protect our freedom with strong enough laws to keep more of us alive? (If you ignored my note at the beginning and you read this anyway but you disagree with me, save yourself some time. I probably can’t convince you I’m right about this and you will definitely not convince me you are so don’t take the time to try. Let’s just agree we disagree.)
But, blogger friends who feel like I do, let’s continue what Van started — a conversation about Charleston. If you want something done about the gun problem in America, let’s get going. Let’s write and share our way to safety in our homes, our schools, our stores, our places of worship, our streets. Let’s begin the end of these horrors. Let’s stop saying these killings can’t be stopped and start writing our way to a better world. Who’s with me? Share. Post. Tweet. Share some more. Let’s get a “Bloggers For A Better World” movement going. Anyone with me?