We’ve said “Never again” so many times that the phrase has lost its meaning.
We said it after Columbine.
We said it after Gabby Giffords’ meet-and-greet was sprayed with bullets, and a nine year old girl was killed.
We said it after Sandy Hook, after 20 children were murdered.
Black and Latino parents say it after every drive by shooting, every murder on our streets.
But it always seems to happen again, and again.
Thirty-five thousand Americans have been killed by gun violence since Sandy Hook. “Never again” quickly turned into “business as usual”, as the NRA flexed its muscles, as Sandy Hook Truthers oozed up from the mud, as politicians scurried to assure their fealty to gun fetishists.
Now, we might have reached a tipping point.
And if it happens, if Isla Vista is what turns the trajectory, it will be, sad to say, because it happened in an affluent, influential neighborhood, filled with college students, a “white” area which wasn’t supposed to witness such horrific violence.
And if it happens, it might be due to the efforts of Richard Martinez, father of one of the slain.
From the Washington Post:
The father of a young man gunned down Friday during the rampage in Santa Barbara said he is asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Christopher Michaels-Martinez.
“I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s— that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down his face. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”
Let’s listen to that again: “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me.”
Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for.
A grieving parent telling the great and the good to shove their sympathies and condolences up their asses. Sentiments are useless to him. He’s lost a son, his community has been ravaged, and he doesn’t care that “hopes and prayers” are being offered.
He doesn’t care that people are trying to make sense of a “senseless tragedy”. Because for him it isn’t senseless.
Saying “we are all to blame” for the death of his 20-year-old son, Martinez urged the public join him in demanding “immediate action” from members of Congress and President Obama to curb gun violence by passing stricter gun-control laws.
“Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: Not one more,” he said Tuesday morning. “People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.”
In a country awash in guns, these “senseless tragedies” are not senseless. They are the logical conclusion of too many guns in the hands of too many people who shouldn’t have them. And who acquired those guns perfectly legally. The Isla Vista shooter could have been an NRA poster child: a legally acquired, registered gun, which he used, once his sense of resentment built up, to murder and wound.
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is the most asinine formulation in our political discourse. It’s much easier to kill with a gun than with any other weapon. Countries with strict gun laws suffer only a fraction of the murders committed in the US. We can run away from a guy with a knife; fleeing a bullet is much more difficult.
Richard Martinez’s rage and grief might be what catalyzes this country to finally face up to one of its groaning injustices: that a gun fetishist’s “right to bear arms” trumps the right of a mother to send her daughter to school in the expectation of safety, or that of a father like Mr. Martinez to talk to his son one more time, to be buried by his son, rather than him burying his son.
A politician expressing condolences and prayers is the easy way for him to say that nothing will change. That it’s safer to be a US soldier in Afghanistan than a US citizen in the homeland should bring shame on every head. And no, the answer isn’t to have everyone carry a gun. Ten or twenty people pulling out weapons in a confused melee will merely lead to more slaughter. Every argument will escalate into a deadly encounter. The thought might make a libertarian ejaculate in glee, but should make anyone who doesn’t want to see the US descend into a Somalian nightmare shudder with fear.
Thoughts and prayers are cheap and useless trifles. We have to make politicians more afraid of us than of the NRA and gun fetishist fringe. That is one of the many great works ahead of us.