occasional blog posts & opinion pieces by desrowVISUALS photographer Chris Goodwin

Untitled photo
This VietNam veteran was among the protesters at the National March On the NRA in Denver.

Guns...and other issues. (8/14/19)

I’ve never experienced a mass shooting. The closest I’ve ever come was about 12 years ago in Pueblo, Co. It was the last day of a union organizing trip and I was taking a break in a park when I heard the loud crack of a gunshot and turned around to see a man about 15 yards away buckling at the knees and falling to the ground. He had shot himself in the head. I was stunned and nearly frozen for a few seconds, and this was from just a single gunshot that this tormented, desperate man had aimed at himself. I can’t imagine the abject fear and horror of witnessing as well as being a potential target of a random shooter.

But there was nothing random about the shootings at an El Paso Walmart a couple of week ago and last October at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The targets of these shootings were chosen carefully for who they are…people of color, Spanish speaking immigrants or anyone who looks or sounds like they might be an immigrant and in the case of Pittsburgh, because they were Jews. It’s not hard to imagine who the next white supremacist gunman, with a twisted view of what this country is “supposed to be”, might target next. Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community, anyone who speaks with an accent maybe? What about anyone involved in defending the rights of people some label as not really American? Or how about any person or group that becomes the object of a vitriolic rant delivered from behind a podium bearing the Presidential Seal or an equally hate filled 2am eruption from the White House living quarters sent out into the Twitterverse?

What is to be done? Is it a matter of mental health? Maybe…sometimes. Do you believe human beings are essentially good and nobody is born a racist, and it, as well as other forms of hatred, are taught, learned and absorbed from our culture? Is white supremacism a mental illness? How about hate based violence against Muslims or Jews? What about violence against the LGBTQ community, immigrants or women? Or does that let the perpetrators of this kind of violence off the hook too easily?

Even if you believe it’s about mental health, addressing the mental health issues of any individual hate motivated shooter doesn’t address the bigger, root problem of white supremacy that has been part of our country’s history beginning with the original settlers stealing land from and slaughtering the indigenous people, 200 years of enslavement of African people stolen from their original homes and the continuing segregation and institutionalized racism in all its forms whether cultural or economic.

But still, the problem of gun violence is bigger than that. Think of all the mass shootings of the last few years where an angry employee or former employee goes into a workplace to take “revenge” for some affront or abuse, real or imagined, that they suffered there. The list of mass shootings where some damaged and deranged individual goes into a school to kill children is too appalling and heartbreaking to think about. But we have to think about it anyway, and we have to act on it.

It’s not just about guns...but it’s definitely about guns. The El Paso shooter who was going after “invaders” from Latin America or anyone who might look like one, was armed with an “AK-47 style” weapon. The Dayton shooter used a rifle with a “100-round drum magazine”. These kinds of weapons have only one purpose, to kill lots of people in a short amount of time. Banning assault weapons should be a given…most of the world understands this but our corrupt system of campaign finance (and a bi-partisan one) allows groups like the NRA to buy politicians that will keep any meaningful gun controls from passing. So does this make it also about campaign finance reform? Reforming our political system in general? I think it does and drawing all the lines between gun violence, racism, ultra-nationalism, misogyny, mental health, campaign finance and all of the corrupt and undemocratic aspects of our deeply flawed political system is a sometimes complicated but not impossible task…and critically necessary if we want to win real lasting change.

Needless to say, different people will choose to work on different aspects of this problem, different issues. That’s a good thing. There is no way that wouldn’t happen. But we all need to remember how deep these problems run and how they/we are all connected in some way. And our tactics will be as varied as the issues themselves…marches & rallies, petitions, voting & party activism, civil disobedience etc. as well the critical work of giving material aid to those of us on the front lines of the assault on our democracy like aid to immigrants /refugees and their families, whether it’s legal aid or food, clothing and shelter including sanctuary.

We need to remember that all the things we have in common are greater than any differences between us. We are stronger when we stand together. Solidarity works!



The slide shows above (or below, depending on where you are seeing this post) features pictures from a variety of demonstrations on gun control, civil rights and some other issues.

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Postscript 8/14 in the AM:                                                                                                                                      As I was checking the news this morning I came across 3 stories and a list that I thought I would share:                                                                                                                                                                           1) A story about white supremacist murders since Charlottesville from Democracy Now  by way of Truthout.org: http://bit.ly/2YT6mc0

 2) A story on training for “Biblical Warfare” from The Guardian: http://bit.ly/2Z44SXA

3) From ABC News, the video at the top is from 1 year ago but the text has been updated. It’s about violent incidents related to remarks by President Trump: https://abcn.ws/2YOytZx

4) From Mother Jones Magazine a staggeringly long list of mass shootings in the US since 1982: http://bit.ly/303r7hB

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