rage against the machine

Do not be gentle in this, the great fight.
Rage, rage against those with little sight.
Rage against the machine.

In 2015, the Gun Violence Archive states that there were 53,711 gun incidents in the United States. 13,507 of those incidents resulted in death. In 2016, the number of incidents rose to 58,700, with 15,084 resulting in death. Thus far in 2017, at the time of this writing, the number of gun-related incidents and deaths is 54,610 and 13,775, respectively.

That’s a lot of (unnecessary, avoidable) deaths.

To get away from numbers, though, let’s look at headlines. “Missing Illinois bartender found shot dead.” “Toddler finds gun, accidentally kills playmate.” “White cop shoots black man during regular traffic stop.” I am disturbed every time I look at the news. People die from gun wounds EVERY DAY in the United States.

And yet we are silent.

We are silent until a mass shooting in Las Vegas takes place, and then suddenly the whole nation is up in arms. DO SOMETHING!! we cry — for a little while. We are angry with our government for allowing madmen to obtain guns. We are angry that these killings keep happening. But, really, we are tired. We are tired of the headlines. We are tired of bad news. We are tired of our own troubles, and, truthfully, we don’t want to give up our guns. We don’t want to do what it would take personally to eradicate the gun problem in our nation.

By now most everyone has heard about the steps Australia and Japan and the United Kingdom took to curb gun violence on their home fronts. Australia did a huge gun buy-back program; Japan requires intensive training and testing to own a gun. The U.K. banned private handgun ownership and bought back tens of thousands of guns from its citizens. In Hong Kong, where I lived for a year, citizens were never allowed to own guns in the first place. I felt safe in Hong Kong. I don’t feel safe in the United States.

Since the Las Vegas shooting, though, what have people been talking about? Sure, there’s been talk about stricter gun laws, but we Americans have this tendency to focus on effects rather than causes. Just like we still take our shoes off at airports because of one incident years ago, I’ve heard more discussion about screening hotel guests’ luggage than I have about making it more difficult to buy guns since the massacre at the Mandalay Bay.

Notice that I said “making it more difficult to buy guns.” I didn’t say, “Do away with all guns,” or “Only law enforcement officers should have guns,” or “All guns are bad.” Having lived in the South for a few years and having made many wonderful friends here, I can easily see how guns and hunting, etc. are a big part of the culture here. What worked in other countries will not necessarily work in the United States. You can’t come in with sweeping measures that many oppose and expect to find success. But surely there is a middle ground we can all agree on? Surely the reasonable gun owners in the nation would be willing to make some concessions on the kinds of guns they need to own — and the process they’re willing to go through to get them — if it meant keeping a larger majority of our nation safe? If it meant keeping machine guns out of the hands of maniacs?

Because, if we’re not, well . . .

We have no one but ourselves to blame.

(And, also, I’m becoming an expat.)


Below are a couple of videos I’ve posted previously on my blog talking about gun violence and the need for change in our nation. They’re worth the watch.


*Note: This post was originally written for my friend Sreejit, an amazing blogger who’s currently featuring other writers in his “Rage Against the Machine Month” on his blog, found here. He’s asked me to write a post for him many times, and I’ve never followed through — until now! Stay tuned for a tie-in to my last post next time. 

everything is connected

The trouble with life is it’s too dang complicated. Very little is clear cut. I mean, sure, there is good and bad, black and white. But issues are rarely isolated — everything is connected.

Take my last post, for example. I took a swing at an excuse-laden lazy society. I encouraged people to move. But what if you have selfless obligations that keep you from moving? Or what if you’re injured? Or what if the weather is bad? Or what if you’re too poor to afford a gym membership (like me)?

People come at topics from all different angles.

Another example is education. I’ve seen a number of articles recently that address the decline of the American education system. “The American education system is failing miserably,” the authors say. To prove it, they compare old and current middle school reading lists. “A hundred years ago students were reading the classics; today, they’re skimming Twilight.” “It’s no wonder the United States is falling behind other nations in Math, Reading, and Science,” they moan. “Look at what they’re reading!” A quote by the late Joseph Sabron is often then shared. “In a hundred years, we’ve gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial English in college,” Sabron said. “So sad and so true!” the authors lament.

So sad and so true; so sad and so true. Yes sad, and yes true. But, but . . . My question is: Is anyone asking what’s responsible for this decline?

The trouble with statistics is that they can’t possibly examine all of the probable contributing factors to a problem. Isolating factors doesn’t do us any good, either. Take the above education crisis, for example. Based on the authors’ comments above, one might easily assume American students are to blame. “Kids are lazy these days!” “Twilight? Bah!” After all, it’s our children who are taking these tests. If we look a little harder, though, we realize perhaps it isn’t our students’ fault at all. And maybe not our teachers’. And maybe not even our government’s. Perhaps the issue is much larger than that.

On any given day American students are likely to hear stories about, witness, and/or be subjected to racism, illegal immigration, gangs, gun wars, drug wars, government corruption, cultural clashes, school shootings, natural disasters, violence, murder, and more — much more. Education starts at home, and unfortunately not all children have a home to come home to. I witnessed this firsthand while working at an elementary school last year. Acknowledging this, I believe it’s safe to say: Certain places in the States (and everywhere) might be more sheltered than others, but no child, school, system, or government is immune to the various connected issues of man.

For a few related articles, look here: