In the Wake of Violence

I am really fucking tired of having to read this kind of story...
Multiple people — including children — were killed on Friday morning when at least one gunman opened fire in an Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT.
I could go ahead and chart out the course of our national dialogue over the next few days. I mean, it's already begun. Although I think in this case the "now they're going to 'exploit' the tragedy to try to push gun control" refrain actually began before anyone on the left actually started calling for stricter firearm laws - indeed, after the president's press secretary specifically said that today isn't the day for that discussion.

For my own part? I'm tempted to ask when the hell is the day for that discussion. I could remind everyone of the utter bullshit that it is for the right wing to whine about 'exploiting' the tragedy, given their past behavior when the guns were aimed at them instead of someone else.

Mostly, though, I'm just tired of this. There are other nations that have actually banned guns outright, you realize. Last I checked, Japan wasn't filled with gun violence to anywhere near the same extent that the U.S. is. China bore witness to an attack on a school this very same day - one in which the perpetrator used a knife. Dozens of people were injured, not killed. And yet banning guns will only make us less safe, we're told.

There was a time in this country when guns were more strictly regulated - when assault weapons were banned, reducing the amount of destruction that someone could cause all by themselves. I haven't found a clear picture yet of what the perpetrators of this mass shooting were armed with yet, so perhaps reinstating that would have done nothing about this incident. And before I even finish writing this, we've got confirmation that an assault rifle was indeed involved. Because it's critical that we be allowed to 'defend' ourselves with weapons that are better suited for mass annihilation, right?

Above all, though, I'm tired of slamming into the same brick wall over and over again, for a discussion that isn't even the one we need to have.

The discussion we need to have isn't the one I laid out above, about the mechanics of gun rights and gun ownership. It has nothing to do with whether banning guns outright would be "effective". Or whether we even could manage to do so in a country with an active set of fringe movements that would no doubt rise up in revolt if the government tried to institute a policy of civilian disarmament. And yet that's always what the discussion becomes, despite the fact that no U.S. administration has ever proposed such a plan for the last century or more.

The discussion we need to have is about the definition of strength. About the society we've built: the society in which any person who refuses to deal out swift and violent death is 'weak', somehow, despite the fact that it takes far more strength to turn the other cheek and ignore provocation rather than react out of hand. Despite the fact that it would take far more strength to admit to ourselves that something is very seriously wrong when our first reaction to dozens of people dead is to say "don't talk about the problem!"

I do believe that there will be situations in this world to which the only practical response will be violence. Today, though, is a day to reflect on the inevitable consequences of resorting to violence - a cost that we have seen in every military action the United States has ever carried out. While I do believe that it is a cost sometimes worth paying, I can say with total certainty that this was not a situation in which it was necessary to use force.

Just I can say with effectively total certainty that every time we avoid this discussion - the one about what violence even is, when we should use it, and how we should react to it - we are repeating the same mistakes that brought us to this point in the first place.

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