Complicity: The New American Way

Remaining silent or refuse to take action about school and mass shootings is an act of complicity. It’s Friday February 16th. Fourteen students and three adults were killed at school two days ago. My wife and I heard the news on the way home from work that afternoon. Our response wasn’t shock or horror as the events of the day were detailed. It was sadness and resignation. And then the rest of the night and the next day I simply avoided the news.

The next day in my 8:00 a.m. class, no-one mentioned Parkland, Florida. In fact, I never heard mention of the shooting the entire day. Remember, I work in the education department teaching prospective teachers, and we weren’t talking about it. I’m sure my students and colleagues were thinking about it. I certainly was when I began class at 8:00 Thursday morning. As I opened my mouth to begin class my desire and willingness to bring up the subject dissipated. I paused, revised my thinking and began the day’s lesson. The topic for the day, ironically, was safety in an elementary science classroom. I don’t know this for sure, but I would think that danger from gunshot might be statistically the highest cause for serious injury or death in an elementary science classroom.

Exhausted, and suffering from a migraine (stress induced?), I retreated to the quiet of my home after my last scheduled meeting at 2:30 to complete the rest of my work from there. And then I did what I do to process such emotions–I picked up my guitar and started writing. What I learned from the process of writing, which is why I do it, is that I am complicit. We are all complicit. When we don’t speak up, we are complicit. When we vote for politicians who ignore the 80% of their constituents who desire some sort of regulation reducing access to guns designed for one purpose–to kill people, we are complicit. When we don’t vote, we are complicit. When we offer and accept thoughts and prayers as our only recourse, we are complicit. When we accept that there is nothing we can do and turn off the news, we are complicit. When we let politicians say “now is not the time for action, it is a time for mourning.” and then do not force them to have the discussion and take action when the time is right, we are complicit. I am complicit.

Trying to engage in a conversation about gun violence the day after a school shooting is not offensive and insensitive to the families of the victims. I believe not doing so is indifference to the families of victims, which I think is worse. If your words of comfort and grief never lead to changes to reduce the need for words of comfort and grief, then they are meaningless sentiments. They are lies. So, in the interest of furthering dialogue within the halls of our governing chambers, both national and local, I propose this strategy for the political leaders concerned about gun violence. Accept the NRA and its pocketed politicians’ 48 hour gag order. And then organize yourselves so that every day except for the two days after a school or mass shooting, one of you takes to the floor of your chamber, parks yourself in front of a camera, is on the radio, or in print media to talk about what actions we could take to curb gun violence. We need to talk about this every fucking day until something is done. No, until all we can do is done, and we end this epidemic of gun violence.

This means nothing, and probably accomplishes nothing, but this is what I could do yesterday to process and try and understand.

The New American Way

Seventeen souls were lost today
Taken by another’s rage and pain
Here we stand with nothing to say
Seems like the new American way

Today I couldn’t shed any more tears
I can’t understand what’s going on here
As the sun sets on another blood-stained day
Seems like the new American way

And if I raise my voice up tonight
Will you tell me that the time still isn’t right?
And all we can do is bow our heads and pray
Seems like the new American way

Here we stand again playing the fool
Pretending there’s nothing more we can do
Except hide our kids behind locked doors and barricades
Seems like the new American way

We’re stuck in this story with no end
Another day, another seventeen shot dead
Over and over again we throw up our hands and say
Seems like the new American way.

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