A DISCUSSION ABOUT GUN VIOLENCE IV: “FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS”

For Whom The Bell Tolls (No Man Is An Island),

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod(*) be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory(*) were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

A poem by, John Donne(1)

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America, here is a list of the “Deadliest U.S. Shootings”(3):

Sept. 6, 1949: Camden, N.J.; 13 dead

Aug. 1, 1966: University of Texas at Austin; 16 dead + shooter

July 18, 1984: McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif.; 21 dead + shooter

Aug. 20, 1986: Post office in Edmond, Okla.; 14 dead + shooter

Oct. 16, 1991: Luby’s Cafeteria, in Killeen, Tex.; 23 dead + shooter

April 20, 1999: Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.; 13 dead + 2 shooters

April 16, 2007: Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg; 32 dead + shooter

April 3, 2009: Immigration services center in Binghamton, N.Y.; 13 dead + shooter

Nov. 5, 2009: Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas; 13 dead

July 20, 2012: Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo.; 12 dead

Dec. 14, 2012:  Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Ct.; 26 dead + shooter

“The Bell” has tolled for all of them.  Did you hear it?

America, just this year we’ve had(4):

February 22: Su Jung Health Sauna in Norcross, GA; 4 dead + shooter

February 27: Chardon High School in Chardon, OH; 3 dead, 3 wounded

March 6: Tulsa Courthouse in Tulsa, OK; 3 wounded, shooter wounded

March 8: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh, PA; 1 dead + shooter, 7 wounded

April 2: Oikos University in Oakland, CA; 7 dead, 3 injured

May 30: Cafe Racer in Seattle,WA; 4 dead + shooter, 1 wounded

June 9: Auburn University pool party in Auburn, AL; 3 dead, 3 injured

July 17: Copper Top bar in Tuscaloosa, AL; 18 injured or wounded

August 5: Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, WI; 6 dead + shooter

October 21: Azana Day Spa in Brookfield, WI; 3 dead + shooter, 4 injured

December 11: Clackamas Town Center in  Clackamas, OR; 2 dead + shooter 

Did you hear “The Bell” then?  Can you hear it now?

Then there is this, America:

(6/11/12)  Chicago Shootings: 8 Killed, At Least 46 Wounded By Gun Violence Over Warm Weekend   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/chicago-shootings-8-dead-_n_1586322.html

(6/24/12)  4 Dead, 31 Wounded In Shootings This Weekend  http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/06/24/3-dead-24-wounded-in-shootings-this-weekend/

(12/3/12)  Chicago Shootings: 8 Killed, At Least 30 Wounded In Weekend Violence  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/03/chicago-shootings-8-kille_n_2232075.html

“The Bell” is tolling for them, also.  Are you listening?

How about the anguished cries of those left. A Dad.  A Mom.  Sisters and Brothers.  Family and Friends.  Do you hear them, America?

How do we stop this insanity?  When will it end?  Is all we have to offer the dead, our thoughts and prayers?  Is all we have to offer the survivors and their family and friends, our deepest sympathy’s and support?  America, I believe that we are so much better than this.  We can not, we must not, allow this to become the new standard, for living here.  It doesn’t matter where you stand on 2nd Amendment Rights, this cannot be acceptable.  There is no reason or rationale that makes this sane.

As for the perpetrators, how have they become so isolated?  So disconnected as to think that it is they alone that matter, nothing or nobody else?  It’s all about them, not the victims, not the survivors, not their families and friends?  The poem begins with “no man is an island, entirely of itself.”  They have to be made to understand, we have to understand, that they are we and we are they.  Not as an eye or an arm that, once ill, can be excised and discarded, but as a genetically joined part of the whole that must be made well or the whole will perish.  We must fix us to ultimately fix them.

There is no shame in admitting that this situation is evolving beyond our ability to manage.  The shame is vainly allowing it to continue in spite of what it is doing to our culture, to our society.  It is argued that guns are not the problem, but if that is so, then that only leaves us.  If we are the problem and we have easy access to guns then they [the guns] become the manifestation of our problems.  Guns become the easy way out.  But there is a finality about there use.  Guns are made to kill!  Those who manage to survive them are fortunate, lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it, but if you are shot by a gun, you are supposed to die.   Life is not a video game that you can reset or reboot.

While researching this post I came across a study on Ernest Hemingway’s book “For Whom The Bell Tolls.”  The question was asked, “What does the novel’s title mean? For whom does the bell toll? What bell?”  Here is how it was answered:

“The phrase “for whom the bell tolls” comes from a short essay by the seventeenth-century British poet and religious writer John Donne. Hemingway excerpts a portion of the essay in the epigraph to his novel. In’Donne’s essay, “For whom does the bell toll?” is the imaginary question of a man who hears a funeral bell and asks about the person who has died. Donne’s answer to this question is that, because none of us stands alone in the world, each human death affects all of us. Every funeral bell, therefore, “tolls for thee.”(2)

The problem is that from perpetrators to victims, from survivors to spectators, when we look around what we see is “Them.”  That “Them,” though, is “Us.”  The “Thee” from the prose is “We,” as in “We the People of the United States.”  From our leaders to our everyday citizens we must stop the divisive rhetoric.  Dr. Drew Pinsky speaking to Wolf Blitzer on Friday stated, “It is time for our government and our culture to act like a healthy family.  Divisiveness is starting to have it’s effect among the most vulnerable amongst us, and it is time to stop.  We have to lead our way out of this, and we need our leaders to behave in a healthy manor.

I agree with Dr. Drew, and I would like to add that, we need leadership on all levels.  This is not just a problem for our President or our legislators.  We need leaders on all levels to step up and lead.  Governors, Mayors, School Administrators.  Fathers, Mothers, Aunts and Uncles, we all have a responsibility to take ownership of this problem and deal with it.  Gun control may help, but “self-control” is the ultimate answer.  In lieu of that control of self, action to reduce or eliminate the easy access to guns is our only remaining hope.

As for all of those defenders of 2nd Amendment Rights who blindly serve the interest of the NRA over their own and those of our nation, well, they should be forced to “toll the bell,” one peel each for each person that dies as a result of their commitment.  Perhaps if they can’t see what their intransigence brings about, then they can hear it up close and personal.

Hear it and know, that, “The Bell Tolls For Thee!”

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These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem – the passage is taken from the 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose. The words of the original passage are as follows(2):

John Donne
Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friendsor of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….” 

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Please visit and support “Mayors Against Illegal Guns,”  http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/home/home.shtml

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(*)DEFINITIONS  (Bing Dictionary):

Clod (n);  lump of earth: a large lump of soil

Promontory (n);  projecting point of land: a point of land that juts out into the sea

REFERENCES

(1) http://www.famousliteraryworks.com/donne_for_whom_the_bell_tolls.htm

(2) http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/belltolls/study.html#explanation1

(3) http://now.msn.com/newtown-school-shooting-ranks-among-the-worst-in-history?ocid=ansnowrel1

(4) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57559329-504083/mass-shootings-in-2012-crimesider-reports-on-this-years-public-shootings/

Let’s Ban Guns!!!

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Aurora, I was going to sit down and angrily write about the need for some form of ban on gun’s.  After a few days I thought, well, maybe we only need to ban automatic and assault type weapons.  Then on reflection I decided that perhaps we need to do away with hand guns (pistols), and concealed weapon permits, the “whole schmear.”

Now before I get the NRA and other 2nd Amendment right’s advocates upset, let me continue.  I thought about this over several days, considered the pro’s and con’s, and came to the conclusion [that]  banning guns is not practical.  I was going  to say “we’re not going to be able to do that!”

Guns.  Guns. Guns.   Sure, some are used for protection.  They’re also used for hunting.  Even for Sport.  But more and more they seem to be misused as a tool to express prejudice and bigotry, fear, hatred, racism, and crime.

I was going to say, let’s try a different track.  Instead of removing guns from our society, let’s remove some of the reasons for gun misuse.

Let’s ban prejudice and bigotry.  Now, from what I understand, prejudice and bigotry are among the reasons that people hate.  With America being this “melting pot,” with so many cultures and creeds living, working, playing, socializing together, this is not the place for bigotry.  But then look around, look and listen to the rants.  Our born in America President is somehow foreign.  Muslims can’t be trusted, they are trying to infiltrate us, trying to convert us all to Islam.  Trying to impose Sharia Law on America (right, like any law could get passed with this “do nothing” congress).  Mexicans and other Latin Americans are invading our borders, taking our jobs.  Using our safety nets.  These people will never “learn what it’s like to be a real American.”  Ok, ok, we’re not going to be able to do that.

I was going to say, let’s ban hatred, then.  I don’t know, hatred has been around for an awful long time.  A lot of people have invested heavily in hate.  Some people have hated for so long, they are not even sure why they hate.  Hatred is fueled by fear.  Fear of the unknown and the known.  That something is unfamiliar or just plain different is no reason to fear, but we are kind of lazy and it’s easier to fear and denigrate than it is to learn and understand.   Hatred has two nature’s.  One is as a driver for racism.  What we saw back in 1957 at Little Rock Central High School was prejudice and bigotry fueling the hatred that drove some of the citizens of Little Rock to commit some racist acts.  As egregious as those acts were they paled when compared to the hate filled racist act of shooting and lynching Emmet Till,  the Birmingham church bombing, the shooting of Viola Liuzzo. and the assassinations of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King.  The other is personal.  It is driven by the fear of retribution the hater has of the hated.  It is real, to the hater, simply because they know how they would feel were the situation’s reversed.  Ok, ok, we’re not going to be able to do that.

So let’s say [that] we ban racism.  Racism is the “action arm” for prejudice and bigotry.  Racism driven by hatred (imagine racism riding in the back of the limo, with hatred driving, chauffeur’s cap and all) strives to contain and control.  Empowered by prejudice and bigotry, racism limit’s opportunity for growth.  It creates laws that limit access to power.  Racism is “Dred Scott v. Sandford.”  It’s “Plessy v. Ferguson.”  Racism is “Jim Crow laws.”  Racism is “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,”  said by, Gov. George Wallace at his 1963  Alabama inaugural.  Racism is vigilante lynching’s.  Racism is Rosewood, Florida and the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Racism is colored only signs, it’s being forced to ride in the back of the bus.  Racism is attack dogs and fire hoses.  Racism is standing in the doorway at the University of Alabama, racism is the gauntlet of epithets and intimidation at Central High School in Little Rock.  From past Supreme Court decisions to the current  hearts of men, racism is so ingrained in our society, that banning it, well, we’re not going to be able to do that, either.

So now, we have racism, driven by hatred, fueled by fear, empowered by prejudice and bigotry, then you add guns to that mix and therein lies the rub.  Guns become a means of expression for these things. ( Hmm, I wonder if guns can be designated as people, and bullets protected as free speech?  Make’s about as much sense as “Citizens United,” doesn’t it?)  Anyway, banning these things has proven to be virtually impossible throughout our history.  Battles over property or treasure can be resolved with negotiated borders.  Battles over ideology seem to know no such boundaries.

Let’s ban crime.  Let’s make all crime illegal. Lets’s make any crime committed, that involves a gun, a special circumstance crime, with a specific set of penalties.   Oops, we’ve already done that.

Consider this, a group of people (any people) who have been institutionally excluded from significant segments of a society (any society), a people who have been ostracized and demonized by that society, do you see how that people would have a problem with respecting the rules of that society?  These exclusions could be a result of color, creed, culture or class bias’, or any combination thereof.   There are a number of thesis’ that speak to the fact that prejudice and bigotry, hatred and racism are driver’s (some say primary driver’s), of crime.  Specifically, crimes against person’s.  Prejudice and bigotry are used as justification for oppression.  At some point, the oppressed seek relief.  When relief is not found within the system, it is sought elsewhere.  Racism, is the tool used to deny an oppressed people even an opportunity to grow and succeed.  At some point, the denied seek redress.  When redress is not given within the system, it is sought elsewhere.  The elsewhere in these cases is sometimes found outside of the law.  One can argue that crime justified by prejudice, bigotry, hatred and racism is not rational.  That is true.  But, prejudice, bigotry, hatred and racism are not rational, either.

The truth is, these days there is no way to discuss guns, or race relations, for that matter.  Guns, like the Bald Eagle, have become emblematic of who we are as a society.  Any attack on the “right’s” of gun owners is deemed to be an attack on America itself.  That, though, is not true.  Owning and using gun’s, when viewed within the context of our history, shows their value.  Their value, though, is as a tool, not as a god.  We are allowing guns to define us, as opposed to us defining  them, and their utility.  As for race relations, well as long as we have prejudice and bigotry creating the fear, that is fueling the hatred, that is driving the racism…..

I was going to say all of this, and then this happened:

“WISCONSIN SHOOTING:  SEVEN PEOPLE KILLED AFTER SHOTS FIRED AT SIKH TEMPLE”

So now, again, I’m saying “LET’S BAN GUNS!!!!!”

To the citizens of Oak Creek, Wisconsin:

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those killed, injured and victimized by this senseless act.  (I’m getting so tired, so very tired, of saying that sentence.)  May God bless you, keep you, and give you peace.

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