From Heather Cox Richardson today:
America today is caught in a plague of gun violence.
It wasn’t always this way. Americans used to own guns without engaging in daily massacres. Indeed, it always jumps out at me that the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, when members of one Chicago gang set up and killed seven members of a rival gang, was so shocking it led to legislation that prohibits automatic weapons in the U.S.
Eighty-nine years later, though, in 2018, another Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 children and wounded 17 others. In response, then-President Donald Trump called for arming teachers, and the Republican-dominated Florida legislature rejected a bill that would have limited some high-capacity guns.
Our acceptance of violence today stands in striking contrast to Americans’ horror at the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre.
My book group met last night to discuss In the Distance by Herman Diaz. Yes, it has violence but my understanding is it’s meant to present both a mythical and more “true” view of the Wild West. It’s a book about loneliness, not fitting in or knowing where one is, and yes, cruelty, injustice, and violence.
The question becomes whether the violence in the book was exaggerated. People felt it was unrelenting. It was certainly harsh but reading the news each day feels unrelenting too.
The time period in the book is 1849 and begins with the Gold Rush in CA and moves through peripherally to the Civil War and beyond. It is fantastical in one way, and it’s not always easy to read, and though the author struggled to write the scenes of violence, he’s making a point and looking at a piece of history in this country.
Growing up in the 1950’s, I was taught how amazing we were as a country, and when I went to Bastogne in Belgium, I cried as I stood in the memorial and saw and felt what the U.S. had contributed to World War II. I know that life is complex but we are having to face that this country was founded on violence. Can we change it now?
Heather concludes her column today with this:
In 1997, the NRA’s challenges to the Brady Bill had made their way to the United States Supreme Court. Printz v. United States brought together the idea of unfettered gun ownership and Republican government. The court held that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to require states to perform background checks. This both freed up gun purchases and endorsed states’ rights, the principle at the heart of the Republican policy of dismantling the active government that regulates business and protects civil rights.
We are in a bizarre moment, as Republican lawmakers defend largely unlimited gun ownership even as recent polls show that 84% of voters, including 77% of Republicans, support background checks. The link between guns, cowboys, race, and government in America during Reconstruction, and again after the Brown v. Board decision, helps to explain why.
F.M. Alexander, the founder of Alexander Method said to smile like you’re smelling a rose.
That’s my practice these days as I look out on a new day coming to light.
Smile like you’re smelling a rose or jasmine, pittosporum, limbs of a tree, or even your own hand. What draws you now into the wonderful workings of the organisms we are?