I have waited to write anything as I have watched the developments in the story of the horrific shooting in Oregon because I had to think.
I had to think, to wonder, what is going on in America, and what I came up with is that America is not safe anymore.
I had been thinking that for a while. I am no longer comfortable going into movie theaters or any public venues, really. When I drive I am really conscious of using my turn signal and watching my speed -- which I always did, but with more intentionality now. I think of Sandra Bland, now dead, after she was arrested for allegedly not using her turn signal. I think of saying things, writing things, to let people know that if I end up dead in someone's jail cell, that I did not kill myself. I take time to pay attention to the things I warned my son to take note of when he began driving, because I was afraid for him as a black man in America, a young, brilliant, handsome black man in America whose life is never safe here.
America is not safe -- not because of international terrorism or ISIS, although ISIS as a force exists. America is not safe -- not because of black on black crime. Yes, we in the black community need to be concerned with the destruction of black lives wherever and however it happens, including in our own communities. The one thing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said that I agree with is that all black lives matter. There is no doubting that the destruction of black lives occurs in black communities.
But that is not why America is not safe. Black people for the most part do not target and kill white people. Black people, most often go after other black people. Black on black crime is not the reason America is not safe. America is not safe because of white on white crime, because of this tendency of mostly young white men, angry with the world, or angry at their circumstances, and definitely angry at the government, think the way to handle their anger is to go into public spaces and just shoot, or kill masses of people in whatever way they can.
I remember thinking how unsafe America was when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I was angry at them for targeting a building with innocent people -- including babies -- inside. It's OK to be angry with the government; that is part of being a citizen in a country, but to just bomb a public space, or to just go into a public space and begin randomly shooting, is a punk way to handle the anger. It is a punk way and it is despicable and it is cowardly.
The coverage of the shooting in Oregon has rung hollow for me. Our politicians are more concerned with holding onto an illogical insistence that "common sense gun laws" will keep people from owning guns. Pro-gun advocates insist that more people having guns will reduce gun violence and deaths from gun violence. It is insane and illogical reasoning, borne out of a stubborn resistance to "big government.
The sheriff of Douglas County, John Hanlin, does not believe there should be any kind of gun control and even suggested that in the Sandy Hook situation, where 20 children were left dead, there might be a conspiracy. He posted a piece on YouTube after that incident, saying that "there has been a lot of deception surrounding the Sandy Hook shooting." He suggested that the grieving parents might be "crisis actors."
This, from a "law enforcement" officer.
There has been much talk about these young men, mostly white, who go into public spaces and gun people down. They are bad people, the experts say. They are mentally ill.
Perhaps. But the point has been made that people who are mentally ill are more likely to kill themselves than others for the most part. And, the case was made by President Obama, that in other modern countries there are just as many young men who are mentally ill, but we don't hear about them gunning people down like they do here. An estimated one in four adults have a diagnosable mental illness in this country, according to statistics, compared to about 20 percent of adults in Australia, yet that country has been able to curb mass violence by passing strict gun laws, mental illness notwithstanding. After a 1996 massacre in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian government took action and there has not been another massacre since.
Attempts to explain the behavior of the mass shooters have relied as well on profiles, saying they are angry. Lots of people are angry. They don't mow people down.
No, there's something else going on. America's culture is one of violence; the people from the Mayflower came into this new land mowing people down, specifically the Native Americans who were already here. We are a violent society. One of our core American beliefs is that the way to handle anger and to acquire and keep control of others is by and with violence. Cowboys were violent. Those who settled the West were violent. The debate over slavery was handled with a horror called the Civil War.
The answer, actually, to Dr. Martin Luther King's campaign of non-violence, was violence. White people actually said that his non-violent campaign was inspiring and forcing violence in return. His "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" was in large part inspired by the complaints from white clergy that non-violence, was causing violence.
America, with its core value of violence, is not safe. These young men, staunch supporters of the Second Amendment, are good, wholesome American citizens, with American values.
That's what's scary, and it's at least one reason why America is not safe.