#15 Where is the global outrage?
Americans have been living with the numbing trauma of gun violence for so long that we need the rest of the world to shake our government into action.
I just hugged my two school-age kids extra tight before they walked on to their school bus this morning. I lingered on my usually quick '“love you”. There were moments last night when I questioned why we would continue to send our kids to school in this country.
I remember vividly the day when the Sandy Hook shooting was unfolding in real time. I had just gotten out of a shower in our small UWS apartment. I stood there for what seemed like hours, and I watched the live coverage in horror. I wasn’t a mother yet; I wasn’t even married yet. But it felt like intimate trauma — even to witness it from afar.
What we are collectively feeling is trauma. It’s the feeling of our neighbors, our elders, our fellow citizens, our children living under the constant, man-made threat of gun violence. And feeling helpless. That helplessness is learned; it’s from watching every massacre leading to a public outcry over guns, but yielding no change. So we just continue living our lives, stuffing away our knowledge that we have more guns than people in this country — roughly 120 guns for every 100 people, totaling 400 million guns. (By contrast, Japan has 0.3 guns for every 100 people, and under 10 guns deaths a year.) It is stupefying.
As someone who didn’t grow up in this country, I have always struggled to understand Americans’ relationship with guns. I always thought, well, there must be something unique about guns in American history and culture that I simply do not understand. And every time there is a mass shooting that gives rise to political discussions about what we can do, I see politicians, parents, Moms demanding action, translating the most recent massacre into some marketing pitch for why we need fewer, better regulated guns. But I’m tired of the translating and marketing campaigns.
It shouldn’t take the mass killing of 19 elementary school students and 2 teachers to convince a rational human being that guns are a problem. It shouldn’t take the slaughter of innocent grocery shoppers to make someone react. We have more guns than people. The violence and stupidity of this is self-evident.
In the last three months, there has been swift global condemnation of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Countries have successfully taken historical sanctions that would have been difficult to imagine just six months ago. Multinational corporations have taken their business out of Russia, incurring significant financial losses. Images of injured pregnant women, babies, and children have enraged people around the world, and people took action.
As of May 23, 2022, there have been 3942 civilian deaths from the war in Ukraine, and of them there have been 258 deaths among children.1 As of May 25, 2022, there have been 17,198 deaths in the United States resulting from guns so far this year, and of them there have been 647 deaths among children.2
Where is the global outrage?
Where are the international sanctions?
How can corporations continue with business as usual in a country that allows such carnage?
We keep saying that we will never forget, and that we shouldn’t forget. But remembering all of these continuous tragedies numbs us all… we weren’t designed to hold so much pain and suffering in our conscience. And that numbing is what leads everyone, including our elected officials and global leaders, to just move forward, business as usual.
Let’s play goldfish for a minute and pretend we have a short memory — that we don’t know about the long history of gun violence in this country. Let’s pretend that we collectively found out, today, that 17,198 people have died in the United States in 2022 so far, including 647 children, because of firearms that exist in this country. Would things be business as usual today?
Like someone trapped in a abusive relationship, we need an intervention to help us see things for what they are. I think we need a wake-up call from the international community. Some of us are constantly living in the haze of trauma, and some of us appear to be brainwashed into believing that guns are an unquestionable part of what it means to be American.
We need an intervention.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), https://www.ohchr.org/en/news/2022/05/ukraine-civilian-casualty-update-23-may-2022
Gun Violence Archive, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/