Friday, February 15, 2008

Things that inspire me and things that make me sad

I guestblogged today at Young Adult Enchanting Reviews. It's all about the things that inspire me as writers so please check it out.

As for things that make me sad, I'm talking about the shooting at NIU. Every time I read about a school shooting, it breaks my heart, but this hit closer to home. 65 miles from home to be exact at a school where many of family members have attended through the years. And the towns that some of the victims are from, I had friends who grew up in one of those towns and my best friend currently lives in another. And then this comes just two weeks after the shooting at Lane Bryant in Tinley Park, the town where my mom grew up. All this unnecessary death and violence just makes me sick.

I'm not one to get political in my blog very often. That doesn't mean I'm not political. I was raised by activist parents who taught my brother and me to practice non-violence, I became an animal rights activist at the age of ten, and I went to an extremely radical college for a year. But my main passions are writing and music and those are the things I feel most comfortable talking about. I'll leave the talk of politics to those who really know their shit like my activist friend and my little brother who went to school for political science and is now about to become a labor law lawyer. But today I need to express a political view. If you disagree with me fine. If you want to skip over this blog today fine (as I mentioned above, I did write about writing today, so visit the guest blog instead perhaps). But I need to talk about guns because this is upsetting me severely.

The last time I was this upset was when Virgina Tech occurred and I wrote my feelings about guns in the most eloquent manner I was capable of so I will be reposting that below, but I have a thought to add. I read the blog of a writer I know (well, we've talked online at least) who attends NIU. Obviously, she is in deep pain about what happened at her school, her community. In her blog about it she mentioned that she wished she could design bullet proof clothing so everyone could safely go to school, that she fears that this will get so bad that one day her young children will be encouraged to go to school online and miss out on all that we gain by human interaction. This made me cry. The idea that we need bullet proof clothing for school. The idea that the way we are schooled may have to change due to violence. The idea that we can't protect our children or our friends from random disturbed individuals who have easy access to guns. And it made me angry because, please tell me, what is more important, my right to getting an education in a safe environment or your right to bear arms? What is more important, my right to feel safe when I leave my house to go to the store or your right to bear arms?

Anyway, like I mentioned, I know I can't express my opinion about guns and violence better than I did last April after the shootings at Virgina Tech. So here is my statement on Gun Culture:

I just have to get something off my chest. I'm sure many people will disagree with me, but I really don't care. Gun culture sucks. There is nothing good about guns.

I was raised to abhor guns. My parents didn't let us watch GI Joe or cartoons or movies that they felt glorified guns/violence/war. We never had realistic looking toy guns and we weren't allowed squirt guns until we were old enough to fully understand the difference between a water gun and an actual gun (don't worry, I had my share of water fights, instead of squirt guns, I had plastic shaped animals that spat water from their mouths or trunks). And people laugh and call it silly, but it shaped me. I have never touched a gun and have no desire. I still hate movies and shows and videogames that glorify violence for violence's sake. I live my life as non-violently as possible. I feel that as part of what is supposed to be the most intelligent species on the planet, I have a responsibility to try to make the world a safe and peaceful place for my fellow humans and all creatures. Unfortunately I don't think most people feel that responsibility.

The biggest mass shooting in US history occurred yesterday. 33 people died. 8 years ago, Columbine occurred. In the time in between, how many school shootings have taken place? Can we even count? Does anyone remember the one where a kindergartener brought a gun to school? And nothing at all has been done about it. In England and Australia when these sorts of events took place, the government responded by banning/restricting firearms. But is that going to happen here? No because we love cowboys, love 'em so much that (slightly less than) half our moronic country voted a warmongering one into office. And we love violent flicks (there's so much blood in this one, they had to make those sections black and white, yeah, that's fucking awesome dude! Desensitize away!) and war video games that look like Army of One commercials. And above all we cling to the second amendment like its not as antiquated as the one that said black people counted as 3/5ths of a person and slavery was cool.

Guns have no place in this world. None. They are instruments of death. They were made to kill people and animals. They were forged with the purpose to shred flesh from bone, to stop a beating heart. There is nothing beautiful or glorious in this. I realize some people like to shoot at targets or cans or clay things or whatever, but I honestly don't get it. How can you hold that thing in your hand knowing that it was created with the purpose to kill or maim? Why not throw or hit a ball as your form of release instead? Or if you absolutely have to shoot shit, simulate it with a video game instead (as long as you are old enough and have been responsibly educated about real vs. fake).

Guns are not some representation of freedom. You have a right to bear arms, against who? The British? The government? Haven't we evolved enough to use our words instead? To try to solve things without wars? And don't I have a right to live? To not worry about some gun-wielding psycho killing me? To not have to think, maybe I should never have kids because someone could just walk into their school and shoot them? And what about accidents? What about the day one of my friends could have killed my best friend because one of our friends' dads had a gun in the house and my one friend didn't know the gun was loaded and he pointed it at my best friend as a joke and he had his finger on the trigger and the people who knew wanted to shout, "No, don't!" but were afraid he'd get spooked and just fire. And she'd be gone. And he'd be crazy with guilt. This isn't freedom. How is this freedom? Unless death is freedom, which perhaps it is in some existentialist way, but I'd rather live without fear. Living without fear is freedom.

I know, the bad guys have guns. And they are gonna have guns. But we can make them have fewer guns. We can make them so hard to get and so expensive that some child is not dying in a drive-by every single day. First the regular people have to give up their guns. No selling of guns in Wal-Marts and gun shops and on ebay. I'm sorry if it was your granddad's gun, but what's more important, an antiquated piece of metal or keeping your children safe. I don't care if your gun is historical. Do we need "war relics?" List visit the graves of the dead instead. No war is glamorous. No weapon should be treated as some sacred holy object. We should remember the sorrow of our history so as not to repeat it, not glorify it so it sounds so cool, let's do it again. And as for your need for "protection," I know its hard to trust the police (that's a whole other issue), but you need to. And you also need to remember that a weapon you use to defend yourself is one that can be easily turned on you. Learn martial arts instead.

Once regular access to guns is gone, fewer bad guys will have them. Of course, it is never going to be perfect until we have world peace. Until we all realize that we can settle our differences with words and diplomacy instead of violence. I can't wait for humans to evolve to that point and finally realize that every weapon should be melted down. No armies. Wouldn't it be nice? I know that day is far away and may never come, but I like to hope. Until that point, we should work to reduce as many fatalities as possible.

Would you give up your gun if it meant one of those innocent Virginia Tech Students got to come back to life? Well, I'm not a fairy godmother so I can't make that happen, but if regular people are willing to give up their guns now, we can save future lives.

Can we please make some progress? Or are we just going to have media frenzies every time something violent happens. Let's play the shocking footage again. Let's ask stupid questions, like "do the survivors feel guilty for surviving? Was it scary in there?" How about instead we ask the tough questions like "What is the government going to do to ensure this doesn't happen again? Are they finally ready to stop sacrificing children to appease lobbyists?" and "How does the NRA plan to comfort those families that lost loved ones so they could have the right to go shoot at animals or clay shit or keep some relic from our violent history in their homes?" And perhaps the media can start questions themselves, "Instead of playing up the shock value, how can we educate the public about violence?"

We are all responsible for our gun culture, our culture of violence. We need to encourage legislation. We need to educate the children in our lives about the difference between TV violence and real violence (I don't believe in censorship, but education, however, I don't think violence for violence's sake is art and I hope that our culture will evolve to appreciate higher art and better storytelling someday). We need to think about what kind of right the "right to bear arms" really is. We need to practice peace and stop letting history repeat.

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