Rachel still weeps...



As I said yesterday I've stayed broadly silent for the past fortnight on the events in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown Connecticut, first because I'm an outsider and second I don't believe that engaging in polemic in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy is helpful to anyone... But, as you may imagine, I am not devoid of opinions... So, let me put my cards on the table...

Whilst I am commenting from a distance, I do live in a land which has known more than its fair share of gun related deaths, but have also witnessed the work of police and street-workers seeking to address gun-crime in gang-ridden Providence, RI, the adjacent state to Newtown. As such I cannot, for the life of me, understand why intelligent politicians cannot find a way of respecting the historic aims of the second amendment to the US Constitution (because God forbid you would want to change such a holy document), whilst protecting society at large, including children, from people having easy access to assault rifles, sub-machine guns and high calibre handguns. Because of ease of access to guns, in a six week period of 2004 when I was visiting the USA, more people died in a six block area of Providence in "Little Rhody" than died in the whole of Northern Ireland that year... and I was the one who was constantly being asked about violence on our streets!?
But there are more issues at play here than simple access to guns. The gun lobby is right, it isn't guns that kill people, people kill people. But America seems to be wedded to a self-image of a society which maintains its freedom through the barrel of a gun... and that mindset shapes the people who then kill other people. Kim Fabricius, an American in exile, continues to suggest that the the primary problem is not the gun itself, but the myth of redemptive violence of which it is the idol... That cult of the gun and redemptive violence is promulgated to the rest of the world through the output of Hollywood, computer games and even the music industry... I find it interesting that the NRA points the finger at violent films and video games as a major contributory factor to societal problems, but fails to ask how many of its members watch those films and play those games?
I grew up watching John Wayne films, which were mild fare compared with the widely cited "Django Unchained", released on Christmas Day but I'm not quite so comfortable with the underpinning psychology of them now... a psychology that seems to underpin the whole mythos of America... “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” So every good guy out there had better get tooled up, because the bad guys already are. And actually that is what seems to be happening, as gun-sales spike following the Newtown massacre. All the more important that you get your guns in now before that pinko-liberal President passes any gun-regulation legislation. The wild west is alive and sick. 
Any society where someone would advocate that children be protected by teachers wielding firearms, or, maybe an armed guard at every primary school, (despite the fact that singularly failed at Columbine), perhaps someone like George Zimmermann, who is currently facing charges for shooting unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, needs to look at itself very, very seriously...
A national conversation needs to take place... not just about gun control but the place of the gun and the myth of redemptive violence in national consciousness... And perhaps, like the debate about slavery in the 19th century, and civil rights in the 20th, that debate needs to take place within the church as much as in society at large...
And one of the reasons why I, an outsider, am daring to suggest this, is that, like it or not, America, in its role as global policeman and source of entertainment for the western world, shapes the mindset of half the world, including young people on my doorstep... More on that tomorrow...
Meanwhile... the world over, Rachel still weeps...


Shalom



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