It seems that we, as Americans, have developed a template to follow each time we hear about acts of gun violence, manic individual attacks, as well as an increase in domestic terrorism, white supremacy and hate crimes.
It has become our metanarrative – our overarching story to the world and our children. It’s our national brand and we have learned to live with the fact, and the denial, that we are a damaged society and culture.
We have normalized the language associated with gun violence and its consequences – needless deaths. We know the visible and invisible protagonists and actors. We know the lobbyists and politicians who get paid for maintaining the horror. We know the manufacturers and engineers of the killing machines. We know about the gun show loopholes, the fire sale discounts as the doors close and the online gun sales.
Guns, guns, guns and more guns . . . but they are never the problem . . . living in the denial and delusion that it’s all about hunting, 2nd amendment, target practice, and treading on individual rights. All of the same antiquated song and dance regardless of lives needlessly lost.
Let’s face it in raw terms – Guns matter – not Lives – regardless of undeniable statistics,
Firearms contributed to the deaths of more children ages 1-17 years in the U.S. than any other type of injury or illness. The child firearm mortality rate has doubled in the U.S. from a recent low of 1.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2013 to 3.7 in 2021. (Published by Kaiser Family Foundation – a non-profit independent Source for Health Policy Research – July, 18, 2023 with new data.)
The United States has by far the highest rate of child and teen firearm mortality among peer nations. In no other similarly large, wealthy country are firearms in the top four causes of death for children and teens, let alone the number one cause. But this is not bizarre or insane news to any of us. It should be, but it ain’t folks.
The research and data is irrefutable and readily available. Gun violence is a choice we make as citizens, voters and politicians. We know this and choose to live with it as the body count exponentially swells – body by body – life by life.
We can watch it on our social media devices with rose colored glasses. BREAKING NEWS! A few ghastly gasps and we move on.
Therefore, let’s not act surprised when it happens. Let’s be honest and admit that we wrote and continue to write the script – the narrative – hypocritically complicit with our negligent thoughts and sacrilegious prayers – specifically Republican politicians consistently voting against common sense gun safety, policies, and a national ban on assault rifles and gun violence research.
Some of those “patriot wannabes” happen to walk through the chamber of Statuary Hall in Washington wearing assault weapon pins as a badge of honor. They also live in the shadows, supporting domestic terrorists, white supremacists, militia groups and hate groups. These cowards repeatedly take the focus away from the guns and blame it on “mental health.” Ironic that compulsive pathological liars and born-again charlatans would even mention mental health.
So let’s put aside for a moment the argument that gun violence is caused by only the mentally ill – that it’s a mental health problem.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis, not a mental health situation,” said the keynote speaker Jaleel Abdul-Adil, Ph.D. at the Cultural Impact Conference at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, on May 17, 2019 – “We should be asking, ‘What happened to you?’ Not, ‘What’s wrong with you?’” – “What were the trauma based reasons in order to identify how the shooter got to violence?” That is what civil, mature, intelligent societies and cultures do – try to solve difficult problems rather than blame and find a scapegoat.
Nancy Zarse, Psy.D., a professor of Forensic Pscyhology emphasized that there are no quick, easy, fool-proof ways to identify a potential shooter and therefore to generalize and clump all shootings due to mental illness is misguiding and misinforming the American citizenry.
Those who are affected by mental illness are 10 times more likely to experience a violent crime than to cause one, but most Americans are under the impression that the majority of shooters suffer from some sort of mental illness. However, the narrative that exists in the media to explain gun violence does not adequately represent those who actually experience mental illness. Only three to five percent of violent acts can be attributed to those with serious mental illness.
What about individuals who are politicized and radicalized to hate others? A critical question for all Republican Trumpers to ponder, in and out of Washington, is – Are all racists, misogynists, homophobes, islamophobes, white supremacists, domestic terrorists, and anti-government extremists mentally ill – psychotic – psychopaths? Is there a psychotic connection? A most worthy question to ponder and investigate by the “Freedom Caucus.”
So where does that bitter hate come from? There is hard data that “hate” is taught and learned via our social-cultural-political curriculum. That is, family, domestic abuse, home environment, modeling, language, region, schooling, friends, colleagues, place of work, political affiliations, isolation, dealing with personal grievances, attitudes of intolerance, being politicized-radicalized and our fickle and ever present mania with social media.
Even religion, as a cult, can teach and unleash hate. Religious cleansing is as real as ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Sorry to report – but gun violence is us! A national identity wrapped in guns. We are talking about a “home grown” ingrained politicized and radicalized gun loving society, a malignant cultural pandemic – without vaccinations – without warnings – just indiscriminately killing.
The gun mania does have a history. It evolved during our glorified frontier days when fear of unknowns ruled. Guns were at the center of protecting self, family, land, stock, as well as used to plunder. The rule of law was often settled by guns rather than by judge and jury.
But supposedly, America grew up – became civilized. Citizens were obliged to attend school for some 12 years and many went beyond. America was said to be a literate enlightened society.
Throughout American history, we made progress exponentially in medicine, life-expectancy, education, manufacturing, infrastructure and nutrition. But we regrettably have regressed in respect to overcoming our mania with guns, leaving us a damaged society.
There is even of the thinking that perpetual mass shootings and teenage homicides are just the necessary evil that’s required to live in a truly free society and a matter of self-defense. The thought being that guns, shooters and victims are all intertwined living and dealing with evilness, and the learned fear it creates. I would posit that such a theory requires some serious psychological analysis and therapy.
The justification and rationalization to purchase and use guns are as many as there are buyers and users. The rational is unconsciously and consciously deep-seated as an absolute core belief. It also has a political agenda.
In a convoluted manner, we tend to deal with the terror of ‘hate’ quite well. We know the calloused drill. It’s like inserting an old 8 track tape and watching it unfold.
First comes the breaking news across all cable networks and social media. Horrific details capture our attention – for at least several days. We grudgingly get past the funerals – some with closed caskets because of bullets denying facial recognition.
This is what a military AR-15 rifles and bullets were created to do – destroy human body tissue and bone – kill.
We know well the terminology of the weapon of choice by mass shooters. The AR-15 assault weapon that fires bullets at a high velocity — often in a barrage of 30 or even 100 in rapid succession. It can eviscerate multiple people in seconds – faster than we can wink.
You are history before you can even imaging pulling out your own Beretta Semiautomatic M9 out of that fine leathered elite Italian holster. Gun ranges don’t shoot back – do they? – “No Cap!”
A single bullet lands with a shock wave intense enough to blow apart a skull and demolish vital organs. The impact is even more acute on the compact body of a small child. It can literally pulverize body tissue and bone. It can shatter vital organs by way of its blast effect inside a human body. The high speed .233-caliber-sized rounds shred body tissue and leave massive exit wounds . . . engineered and design to destroy.
By the way, the insanity has no depths and limits. Armor-piercing bullets for rifle and handgun cartridges are designed to penetrate ballistic armor and protective shields intended to stop or deflect conventional bullets. Such are also available and 100% legal to buy, sell and make armor piercing ammunition. Imagine such a bullet impact on a child’s face. Too gruesome to imagine – how about a police office responding with body armor that will not protect him or her?
Police photos at crime scenes, images taken during autopsies and hospital x-rays of the carnage are rarely made public – too gruesome to publish. News accounts rely on antiseptic sanitized descriptions from law enforcement officials, doctors and medical examiners, who have said that the bodies were so unrecognizable that they could only be identified through DNA samples.
Unfortunately, parents are not spared the multigenerational trauma of having to identify their child’s mutilated body. This is what separates each traumatized parent from us . . . from the politicians . . . from the gun manufacturers . . . from the gun lobbyists.
And so the beat goes on. Politicians would rather pander providing conventional ironic and hypocritical “thoughts and prayers.” Trumpian “Freedom Caucus” members remain illusively unavailable, safely behind their political safe-room doors.
Eventually, we listen to the names of the victims, see their photos, learn perhaps about new geographical locations and demographics unknown to us – east, west, north, south – no small sleepy little town left unscathed . . . that once believed, “It will never happen to US!”
We learn that each victim, just like we do daily, innocently left their homes with plans, hopes and dreams, not knowing that it would be their last trip to that school, church, bowling alley, deli, bar, temple, grocery store, park, party, wedding, concert or mall.
We briefly meet family, friends, coworkers and witnesses describing the unimaginable horror and emptiness. We get a glimpse of what it meant for each victim to be alive – to be there as a mother, father, daughter, son, friend, partner, neighbor, caretaker, first responder, teacher, coach, colleague.
It’s that presence no more that tends to gnaw at us – the emptiness – the powerlessness against the terror.
At times we even hear about the meaning and purpose of the lives of each victim – of their obliterated future. Do we dare to personalize – to reflect deep inside as if they were of our blood?
“No, no, no!
It’s all too inconceivable – too horrific – the needlessness – the inhumanity – the raw living nightmare. This can’t be us! No, no, no! . . . Flip the channel, go to TikTok or Facebook – some posting about the marvelous world of cats, dogs and horses.
Please . . . it’s just too inhumane . . . too insane! Please . . . please . . . this can’t be us‼️”
The focus then shifts to the murderer(s), the guns used, calibration and amount of ammunition, body armor, how it was all too simple and easy to purchase. We hear sketchy details about the murderer’s background. Maybe they left a manifesto of hate, bitterness, dysfunction or grievances. Maybe a few emails and tweets about their political heroes, the rallies attended fueling bitterness, anger and hate.
Quickly gun advocates come to the rescue of gun manufacturers. “It was not the gun but the mental dysfunction of the gun owner!” . . . never the artifact and the ammunition.
We continue to deny the fact that guns are part of the connected problem and equation – as if all those guns did not need a human finger to pull the trigger. All those guns pointed at victims on their own, and they went off all by themselves – right?
It’s never the guns. It must surely be mental illness – even though mental health is often ignored, rarely noticed, never financially supported, nor is the therapy readily available and affordable – seldom addressed by schools at the youngest of ages when pathological tendencies begin to show.
Eventually, we witness the wall and curbside memorials laden with flowers, photos, and at times, teddy bears when the youngest and most innocent among us were not spared.
The number of victims don’t seem to matter anymore – 24, 17, 18 . . . neither do their ages . . . numbers turned into a collective noun.
Silent night marches and vigils follow – another numbed community holding lit candles – flickering – soon the lights die out.
Maybe some flags are lowered for a few days. For some haters, to lower the flag is a sign of weakness. It was just about innocent citizens at the wrong place and time.
So we continue to deny that our violent gun culture, domestic terrorism, white supremacy and hate groups are deeply ingrained in our history and that “the violence” is connected to guns.
There are over 400 million guns in civilian hands in America. So how many guns will we need to declare America safe from gun violence? Does any of this make sense? Does the very language reflect social-cultural insanity?
After each mass shooting, we tend to eventually look the other way, avoiding the same crucial critical questions that always remain unanswered. But have been answered and addressed by countries across the globe – America being the exception:
- Why would automatic assault rifles, meant to be used by police and military be made available to the general public? Why not a ban on all automatic military assault weapons?
- Why don’t we have federal-national-common-sense background checks, Red Flag Laws, Permit Required to Carry Concealed Guns, Relinquishment for Convicted Domestic Abuse, Prohibiting Possession of Firearms and Ammunition by people Found by a Court of Law to be a danger to themselves of others due to mental illness, School Threat Assessment Teams, Required Training To Carry Concealed Guns?
- Why no legislation on No Guns in K-12 Schools, No Stand Your Ground Law, Secure Storage for all Guns at Home?
- Why are magazines, holding countless rounds of ammunition, made available to the general public?
- Are there national federal regulations on gun shows? What about internet gun sales?
- Is it all about the 2nd amendment, gun collectors, hobbyists, just country folk hunting pheasant and deer? Is an AR-15, AR-10 and AK47 necessary to hunt rabbits? What’s left of the rabbit?
- Does it matter that as a society, living in the 21st century, there are 400 million privately owned firearms?
- Is it socially and culturally sane that there are 12.5 guns per 100 American citizens (as of 1997) – more than any country in the world?
- Shouldn’t gun manufacturers be responsible for leading the discourse on gun research, safety and legislation? Why do CEOs and Board of Trustees of gun companies remain silent?
- Why are gun manufacturers not held legally responsible for producing the instruments that maim and kill? Why was legislation passed to protect gun manufacturers from being sued?
- How predisposed were the shooters to being domestically recruited, politicized and radicalized?
- Why block research, findings and Open-Source Databases on gun violence, mass shootings and making it available nationally to all states? Who is afraid of such data and knowledge?
So what are the answers? Several past generations have failed to deal with the problem and are stuck on being stuck.
Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation had their chances and are exponentially dwindling demographically being replaced by Millennials and Gen Zers, who are unapologetically moving forward . . . and by the way . . . they vote! Oh do they VOTE!
Keep in mind the number of high school seniors that graduate yearly (roughly 3,326,280) and college graduates (roughly 2.038 million). Both numbers are growing, as are the affinity groups represented. They are not deniers of the future, but embrace it. Listen to a newly elected Gen Zer . . .
Gen Zers don’t fear issues and major problems or working collaboratively to solve them. They hear the ignorant Alt-Right spiels – the Big Lies – the deniers . . . but they ain’t buying it.
Gen Zers grew up together, had play dates together – and are part of the bi-racial-bi-lingual-bi-cultural-bi-ethnic-bi-pronouns 21st Century. Unlike other generations, they tend to have each other’s backs. They do not fear change and understand that there is power in numbers.
They understand that they must become their own advocates, run for local, state and national offices, organize, mobilize and focus on an agenda that will free America from its constructed -isms, phobias and obstructionism.
Zoomers view Alt-Right conspiracy dung, fear mongering, “confirmation bias” and “Big-Little-Lies” peddled by FOX TV
News Rumors hosts as illiterate dogma spewed by soulless mannequins.
The absolute, echo chambers of extreme conservatism, divisionism and the constant spouting of contrived grievance politics is unlettered noise to Gen Zers. They refuse to become another “low-information” – “poorly educated” – “self-oppressed” generation standing on quicksand.
Because of their growing numbers, and the power of their 21st century agenda, there are attempts to dismiss and delegitimize their narrative and causes as – altruistically unrealistic, unconventional, anti-conservative, unpatriotic and unAmerican.
They have been labeled too pragmatic, blatantly direct, over communicative, too technologically literate, too focused on authenticity and relevance, overly concerned with universal health care, and protecting the environment.
They have been characterized as young hip-hoppers always eclectically sub-referencing and asking disturbing critical questions regarding the rule of law applying to everyone, privileged authority, antiquated dogma and the lack of collaborative research.
My critical question being, are these negative characteristics or are they to be admired and modeled?
Are Gen Zers perfect? They would be the first to tell us NO! They know imperfection up close and personal, given the “sins mostly of their fathers”, “good old boy clubs” and “strong men.”
They grew up listening and watching Republican Trumpism in HD and Surround Sound. They know what dysfunctionality, chaos and inhumanity looks like and the ashes it leaves behind.
They can no longer wait for past generations to catch up. They can’t because global issues are now impacting their futures – literally. They can’t wait because past generations have lost credibility and trust and the disingenuousness continues to play out on a daily basis, regardless of shameless – heretical “thoughts and prayers.”
It’s now up to the Gen Zers to begin the challenge of changing, not only America, but the world . . . and I believe they will – unapologetically without fear and hate.
“Zoomers! Change your world!
Audaciously dare to become the first authentic Great Generation –
leaving the -est to those who follow.
Let this be your calling, destiny and legacy.”