In a recent opinion article, Jonathan Zimmerman suggests that in the wake of the most recent American massacre we declare a National Day of Mourning and Reflection on Violence in America. I include an excerpt:
It’s hard to know why a specific killer acted in the way he did. Rather than focusing narrowly upon this awful event, then, we should declare a National Day of Mourning and Reflection on Violence in America. Besides memorializing the dead, at Virginia Tech and elsewhere, this annual federal holiday would also seek to spark a national conversation about Americans as a people: who we are, and who we would like to become.
Why, we should ask, are the gunmen in school massacres almost always male? What does that tell us about the ways we socialize boys in America? About relations between the sexes? About the relationship between violence and manhood?
Second, why are most of these gunmen also white? (Yes, reports indicate the Virginia Tech gunman was Asian; but almost every other mass shooter has been white.) Black and Latino boys commit plenty of violence in school, of course, but they’re more likely to assault an individual whom they know. White shooters more often kill en masse and randomly: They’re aiming for high body counts, not for a particular target. Why?
Third, why do so many American men – and, increasingly, many American women – own guns? Between 40 percent and 50 percent of American households own a gun, one of the highest percentages in the Western world. We can and should debate the best ways to regulate guns, but we simply cannot deny their prevalence in our society. And even though Virginia Tech was nominally a “gun-free zone,” the shooter had no trouble bringing weapons there. Why do so many Americans own guns? Which Americans choose to purchase them? And how do guns influence the nature of violence in America?
Fourth, what messages do our various mass media transmit about men, women, and violence? In the recent imbroglio over racist comments by Don Imus, many commentators observed – correctly – that similarly bigoted language suffuses America’s mainstream media. But US airwaves are saturated with violence, too, ranging from shoot’em-up movies to rape and torture. And most of this on-screen violence is committed by men, as well. I’m not saying that the mass media cause violent behavior, because we can’t be sure of that. But these images do make violence more “normal” and acceptable in US society. And that can’t be a good thing.
Last, and most important, what can we do to change? How, as a nation, can we become less violent? Is it even possible?
I don’t know if he meant it facetiously or not, but regardless I support the idea of a National Day of Mourning and Reflection on Violence in America. Only by thinking and discussing these horrors can we create an effective plan to reduce them.
The problem goes beyond gun laws. No amount of increasing or reducing gun restrictions can save students from these horrific attacks.
What do you think?