“…The point of human life is to travel from ignorance to wisdom. In ignorance there is fear. In wisdom there [is] peace and tranquility.” — Devdutt Pattanaik
“If you do not understand the Golden Rule, which is the most important law in the universe, then you are in trouble. All other rules in your holy books combined — are not as valuable as the ONE Golden Rule. Take two minutes to learn the most crucial law in life. Killing another human comes with the highest penalty, regardless of how you justify it. All life is sacred.” – Suzy Kassem
BBC News reports that America has 300 million guns in private hands — apart from the police and the military — enough to arm every man, woman and child in America. About 10 out of 100,000 in population in America die from gun-inflicted wounds.
As of September 2015, there have been 33,636 firearm deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And a higher number of 41,149 deaths from suicides, making it 13 out of 100,000 in population; 21, 175 deaths of which were self-inflicted using firearms.
America’s exceptional problem in breeding violent mass shooters
The Guardian reported 1,052 shootings in 1,066 days (from December 2012 to Dec. 2, 2015) and called it, America’s gun crisis.
On Dec. 2, 2015, 14 perished at a holiday party, while 17 injured at the hands of a married Muslim couple in San Bernardino, California. This attack is considered the deadliest mass shooting since Dec. 2012, when 20 children and six adults were killed by a 20-year-old white gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
President Barack Obama called it an unparalleled pattern that exists nowhere else in the world. That statement is bolstered by the FBI, which reported an increasing pattern of mass shootings since 2000.
US Senator and democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders characterized it as one mass shooting per day in America, with the San Bernardino shooting being the 355th this year. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson tweeted his thoughts and prayers to the victims.
Each statistic of a person killed is after all, a mother, a sister, a child, a brother, a father and a family member. Will we, in America, take action to safeguard the sacred lives of our family members?
Does America’s popular culture spawn violence?
On Nov. 27, 2015, the day after Thanksgiving, a mass shooting occurred in Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, when Robert Lewis Dear, a 57-year-old Caucasian gunman killed three and injured nine. He allegedly murdered based on his opposition to legal and authorized abortion.
For months, social media and television broadcast news, primarily Fox News, had been circulating fabricated reports, relying on an altered videotape, grotesquely mischaracterizing Planned Parenthood clinics.
There are no baby parts being sold by these clinics. Instead, CNN’s Carina Storrs reported on Nov. 30, 2015, that “fetal tissue has been used since the 1930s for vaccine development, and more recently to help advance stem cell research and treatments for degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. Researchers typically take tissue samples from a fetus that has been aborted (under conditions permitted by law) and grow cells from the tissue in Petri dishes.”
On social media, netizens were calling on Republicans to be held accountable for inciting fears and unjustified anger towards Planned Parenthood. With defunding by both the House and Senate, it created perhaps an environment for reckless murders to come about, Dear mumbled “no more baby parts” after his arrest.
Can we legislate common-sense gun safety measures in America?
Holiday parties are festive social gatherings when folks get together over meals and shared stories. One San Bernardino party became the site for massive shootings resulting in 14 killed, some of whom were social workers.
Former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke of common-sense gun measures and said, “No one should have to worry about going to a holiday party after work or about sending their kids to school or going to a movie theater or even going to church. No one should have that basic sense of safety and security ripped away from them.”
America is not officially in a civil war, for these mass shootings to happen. What are the roots of these mass shootings?
Does America’s culture, nurtured by films, television programs, video games and toys, make violence so commonplace, that the culture sets up boys and girls to learn casually and become cavalier about guns and regard them as toys?
Guns, per se, do not cause mayhem. But when misused, without consequential lessons on gun safety or the recognition of the value of human life, they become irrevocable tools of reckless murders.
It becomes a rite of passage, like belonging to an organization. As shown in Tyler Perry’s “If Loving You is Wrong,” a television program depicting Eddie, a crook/criminal part of the police force, who steals money from drug dealers and unleashes an assassination attempt on a rookie policeman who discovered his systemic corruption. Eddie enlisted a fellow police officer, corrupting him to do it on his behalf, or incur his ire as his senior.
Though only on television, viewers are conditioned to regard the taking of life as normal and commonplace, not horrible.
Television and films make guns seem like effective in conflict resolution, and actually become persuasive in influencing elections.
Do you recall one year ago when CNN and other television stations ramped up their reporting of the Ebola virus, even though only two patients died from the virus on American soil?
Congressional Republicans got elected shortly and post-election feedback showed it was fear of Ebola and ISIL that mattered to conservative voters, who showed up at the polls with their fear volumes constantly kept high by FOX News and other cable stations. Yet, the majority of Democrats and independents did not show up to vote .
How then do we teach our children that there is value in human lives?
Guns are portrayed as accessories for manhood, much like women accessorize with jewelry. Television shows and films, previously echoing grim realities in the neighborhoods, become duplicated as our realities. To uncritical and hateful folks, these television shows become their templates, on what to d o .
Much like 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who joined a bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina, and after an hour of bible study, he announced he was there to kill blacks. “’No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country…I have to do what I have to do,” he reportedly said before shooting.
He unleashed his hatred and killed nine people, six of whom were women.
Should we consider banning toy guns and real guns from our homes?
For recreational hunters, gun safety lessons are a must. At the shooting range, the rangemaster is trained to spot folks’ dangerous habits, like unconsciously placing one’s finger on the trigger or unconsciously pointing the barrel at other than the paper target. One is only permitted to shoot, only when time is called and instructed to do so by the gun safety rangemaster.
Treating guns with respect and a conscious mindset of these practices conditions one to be conscientious and vigilant that guns are not to be used casually, arbitrarily, and only reloaded with bullets, consciously .
It is akin to how one would drive a motor vehicle — only after appropriate training and with a license to operate the vehicle, as both vehicles and guns can irrevocably take lives, misused or not.
Will we passively accept a pattern that America is exceptional in breeding violent and hateful gun-toting adults?
Or will Congress now be compelled to embrace this moment and shift our nation’s chapter of violence to pass common-sense gun laws now, ora mismo, as soon as possible?
Will violence be America’s forever and enduring legacy to the world’s next generations? There are 26 days more left in the year. Are we to expect 26 days of mass shootings?
What will Congress and the White House do? Will they take this moment as a turning point for bipartisanship? Or will we bear the unintended consequences of breeding violent adults, as a result of being at war with other nations? America has now been involved in 13 wars, since its birth as a nation, according to the Price of Freedom exhibit at the Smithsonian.
Or will these august chamber halls of power: the House, Senate and White House , lead with divided loyalties, much like the civil wars we are now witnessing in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world? Will gun manufacturers do their parts to make this nation safer?
Who will step up to be the light in this present darkness and who will bear the torch of peacemaking for America?
Will we outgrow our ignorance and fears and become wiser, as a nation?
* * *
Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for Asian Journal Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in the field of science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium and Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.