Seeing America in Uvalde


Marco Bello/Reuters

On Tuesday night, the poet Jana Prikryl shared the “Alas, poor country” passage from “Macbeth,” in which Ross laments that Scotland has become not a place to live but merely a place to die…A modern ecstasy.” A modern ecstasy—and a habit, or a ritual, with its attendant ceremonies and scripts and rites. These always include cut-and-paste expressions of sympathy and concern from various bridesmaids of the National Rifle Association…

…Politicians like these are routinely criticized for their hypocrisy and empty gestures—their “thoughts and prayers.” But, if only for the sake of rhetorical hygiene, we should go a step further. Republicans, as we know, get what they want. It is their best feature. They have vacuumed up the state legislatures, gerrymandered much of the country, stacked the Supreme Court and the federal judgeships, turned back the clock on L.G.B.T.Q. rights, paralyzed entire school districts with engineered panics over critical race theory and “grooming,” ended (or so it seems) reproductive rights as a constitutionally guaranteed freedom, and blocked all attempts at gun-control legislation. If the leaders of this political movement, which in Texas managed to ban most abortions and criminalize health care for trans kids in the space of a school year, took real offense to murdered children, they would never simply accept their deaths as the unfortunate cost of honoring the Founding Fathers’ right to take up muskets against hypothetical government tyranny. They would act. If America were not afraid to know itself, we could more readily accept that gun-rights advocates are enthralled with violent sorrow. This is the America they envisaged. It is what they worked so hard for. Their thoughts and prayers have been answered.”

Conservative True Believers…for whatever demented reasoning corrupts their minds…seem to believe they carry a mandate to protect gun rights as they presently stand in these United States – forever!

Hogwash.

How to Prevent Gun Massacres?


David Gray/Reuters

On April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant, a disturbed twenty-eight-year-old Australian who had been bullied at school, walked into a café in the city of Port Arthur, a former convict settlement in the state of Tasmania that is now a unesco World Heritage Site. He pulled a Colt AR-15 rifle from his duffelbag and started shooting. After killing more than twenty people in the café and in an adjacent gift shop, he reloaded his weapon and roamed around the site shooting at random. A carjacking and a hostage negotiation followed. By the time he was arrested, he had killed thirty-five people and wounded another twenty-three.

Australia, like the United States, is a federalized former British colony that has long styled itself as a rugged, individualistic nation. Hunting and shooting are popular there. Unlike the U.S., though, Australia has a political system that is responsive to popular opinion. Its legislatures do not have filibuster-like rules that allow a minority of lawmakers to block legislation. Within two weeks of the Port Arthur massacre, the worst in modern Australian history, governments at the federal and state levels had agreed to ban semi-automatic and pump-action firearms. The federal government also introduced several other measures, including a buyback scheme to compensate owners of the newly banned firearms, a centralized registry of gun owners, and a public-education campaign about the new laws…

It should be noted that Australia, like the U.S., has a strong gun lobby, which, until 1996, had successfully frustrated efforts to tighten gun laws there. When the conservative Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, pushed through the ban on certain firearms, gun owners were so angry that he wore a bullet-proof vest when he addressed a group of them. But the vast majority of Aussies backed Howard.

As would the vast majority of Americans…if we had politicians and a political party with enough integrity, honesty and backbone to put their deeds where their mouths are.