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My daughter began telling me that she was never going to have children when she was around eight years old. As a teen she worked in the restaurant business, which only served to strengthen her resolve. When she was in her twenties, she asked if I’d be upset if she never produced a grandchild. I told her that I wanted her to be happy and have the life she wanted, and that she certainly didn’t need to reproduce to please me. That was the end of the discussion for a decade.

When my daughter turned 34, she decided to have just one. Into my life came Lucy, the unexpected grandchild. She’s been a source of constant delight. I was a teenaged mother (by choice; it was 1974) and I was scared all the time. This time around, with my granddaughter, I don’t have the fear of dropping her or doing the wrong thing. Still, I do have a new set of fears. She’s growing up in a fairly rural place where she is beloved in her community. But she was born into an unsafe world, with climate change, environmental problems, pollution, war, and violence.

School shootings were not a common occurrence when I was a student in the 60’s and 70’s. There are those who insist that school shootings occur because we eliminated forced prayer from our schools. That elimination came in the 1960’s. It certainly took God an awfully long time to get ticked off about it. As a society, we haven’t really progressed much beyond cave men grunting at eclipses and inventing reasons for them.

The recent massacre in Connecticut brings all of the excuse makers out into the world of public commentary. A recent writer to the Conway Daily Sun insisted that though she was saddened by this tragedy, the answer to gun violence in schools is more guns. This kind of logic could supply us with many answers to societal woes. Clearly the answer to teenaged pregnancies is more sex! The answer to drunk driving is more booze!

These pronouncements seem come from the same people that think we pay our incompetent union thug teachers far too much money – but now, suddenly we want them to be armed.  There’s a reason that Joe Average has never stopped a spree killing. Joe isn’t trained in combat, or how to handle himself in a firefight. Should a firefight spring up around Joe, he’d be quietly messing his pants in the corner with everyone else – as he should be. Who will pay for teachers to go to combat training on an ongoing basis? There’s a discussion that will liven up town meeting considerably. It’s also a deeply stupid idea, and one that only serves to make the gun fanatics look like …gun fanatics.

Sadly, we are a bunch of immature jerks who are incapable of having the kind of multilayered conversations required to even look rationally at the problem of spree shootings, which do happen in other countries, but not in the kind of numbers in which they occur in the US. Instead, we want to quickly blame video games, movie and TV violence, and of course the lack of  “family values.”

Detroit had 358 homicides this year. Sister city Windsor, Ontario had 1. Same basic area, same TV, same video games. The difference? We are a country shaped by violence from our inception. We came from Europe and set about killing the natives. We brought slaves from Africa to build the wealth of the nation, while beating, raping, and killing them. We selectively worship the Wild West, while giving little attention to some of the greatest atrocities like Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, and Mountain Meadows. Violence is in our national DNA, and we’re in denial.

When a big spree killing happens, the fanatics come out. It should be a deep source of national shame that one special interest group has so much money and power that they control a number of our elected officials. The fearful bleat MORE GUNS because they are so afraid that the NRA will not give them money, and/or fund an opponent. We have lousy gun laws. We need to accept that, and do something about it. My car is a transportation machine. To use it, I had to get a driver’s license. This meant that I had to take a written test, and demonstrate a level of proficiency behind the wheel, and pass a vision test. Periodically I must update my driver’s license. To own a car, I must register it in my state, and it must pass a motor vehicle inspection. A gun is a killing machine. There is no license required, no demonstration of proficiency, written test, no registration, and no inspection. Just about any idiot can own one. I’ve applied for food stamps, and I’ve applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Getting the permit was a breeze. Applying for food stamps is an incredibly onerous process, despite the complete lack of any food stamp massacre in our history. Guns should be regulated.

We have little concern for the treatment of mental health problems in this country. Spending on mental health treatment is always on the chopping block. In NH, we’ve chosen (to a large extent) to use our jails and prisons as de facto treatment centers for the mentally ill. We can do better.

Our media feeds us a constant diet of anger and fear. We are a nation at constant war, spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined. While we don’t balk at spending trillions to kill people (including children) in foreign countries, we are outraged at the thought of providing health insurance for all. The anti-abortion crowd loves to bleat about the sanctity of life – but that doesn’t extend to the born. They aren’t out in front of the White House protesting the use of drones. The increasing number of homeless children in the US doesn’t outrage them. The alleged pro-lifers are completely silent on the subject of school shootings. The US needs to get out of the global military imperialism business.

I don’t think we’re even close to being able to have the kind of conversations that need to be had. Instead we’ll do what we’ve always done. We’ll shed a few crocodile tears, and say there’s nothing we can do about this, because: OUR FREEDOMS.

Please prove me wrong. For Lucy’s sake.

I wish us all peace on earth and good will toward one another.


"One failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take off our shoes at the airport.
Thirty one school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulations of guns"
~ John Oliver

This was published as my bi-weekly column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper (in NH) and also cross posted at my blog: susanthebruce  

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