Newtown still hasn’t left my thoughts. I don’t want it to leave any other Americans’ thoughts yet. So here’s a bit more of what I’ve been thinking and reading and hope everybody else will consider.
1. Change will be hard — but it’s possible, even if it’s inch by painful inch. Attitudes and culture can change for the positive. America is supposed to be about progress, leadership, and the can-do spirit. Don’t give up. (And along this line: the next time a pundit opens his mouth and says, “American exceptionalism,” he’d better not be talking about how very special guns are in the USA. He’d better be talking about how we refuse to shrug in the face of calamity; that we’re going to change the situation.) Think change is impossible? Take a look at the 13th Amendment, and the 19th.
2. As an author of novels that deal with crime, adventure, and violence, I’ll strive never to present gratuitous killing or to glorify the power of the gun. Violence isn’t glamorous or balletic. It’s ugly. I believe in the right to defend ourselves and others against deadly threats. But in my writing, I’ll try never to present violence as the first, best, and only possible solution to a problem.
3. I also believe that creators influence the culture. If you’re a writer, musician, artist, filmmaker, or game designer, you’re building stories and fictional worlds with the aim of giving the people who read/listen/watch/play an immersive emotional experience. You want them to relate to your creation and suspend their disbelief and submit themselves to your vision. You would be thrilled to hear them say your work inspires them. If you’re good, it will. So accept that your work also has the potential to disillusion, desensitize, coarsen and enrage. Creators arise out of the culture in which they live. But they have the ability to affect that culture. Put more bluntly: there’s an eager audience for violent crap. But we don’t have to serve it up to that audience with a shovel.
4. It’s legitimate to look at situations and decide whether armed protection is necessary. But arming the entire population is as unrealistic as telling the country simply to melt down all its guns. And merely arming school principals will not solve the problem of school shootings. Yesterday Rep. Louie Gohmert told Fox News that he wished the Sandy Hook principal had been armed with an M4 rifle, so when the gunman broke into the school she could pull it out “and take his head off.” That’s as simplistic and naive as thinking that video games are the same as battlefield combat. Anybody who keeps an automatic carbine in the school office for use in a gun battle needs to be trained to paramilitary standards alongside a SWAT team.
And again: Do we want to accept this as the ideal school environment? I say no.
5. My thoughts are still choppy and half-formed. For another view — one that’s clear, cogent, and well-argued — check out Barry Eisler’s posts: Thoughts on Guns and Thoughts on Guns Part 2. He wrote them after Virginia Tech, and, as he says, it’s sad that they’re still so timely.
It’s past time to change. Come on.