My friend's little girl was sitting in her classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School that morning when the bad man came and killed twenty of her classmates. They were between the ages of six and seven. The school's principal and several teachers were also killed. According to the news accounts, they weren't killed by a car. Or a knife. Nor by strangulation or a stampede. The bad man used a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S rifle during the shooting spree. He also carried two handguns. An Izhmash Saiga-12, 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun was found in his car.
These days, whenever my friend writes a note about that day, he adds this line at the end: "We Are Sandy Hook and We Choose Love!" I honestly don't know how he does it. Love is sometimes hard to find.
“Stay out of our homes, stay out of our refrigerators, and stay the hell out of our gun cabinets because this freedom is not for sale." Chris Cox, Executive Director, National Rifle Association
Until last week's shooting and stabbings in the sleepy college town of Isla Vista California, it's been a relatively quiet year when it comes to killing kids in schools with guns. Just 10 shot dead since January. That's all, just 10. And since that day in Newtown back in December 2012, there have been only about 50 other school shootings. That's all. Only 50.
Wondering how our politicians and lawmakers have reacted? The U.S. Congress has failed to pass any meaningful legislation that would make it more difficult for school shootings to take place. The most common argument against gun control is that it would infringe upon the second amendment right to bear arms. Gun rights groups even say that this applies to owning assault weapons.
“Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face—not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival. It’s responsible behavior, and it’s time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that. We are the largest civil rights organization in the world.” Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President, National Rifle Association
This morning I drank a cup of coffee and watched the news. Yesterday there was a memorial tribute for those UCSB students who last week lost their lives. Richard Martinez, the father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, a college student who was murdered, said Tuesday that he wants politicians to stop calling him to offer their condolences over the loss of his only son.
"I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me. Get to work and do something. Where the hell is the leadership? My kid died because nobody responded to what occurred in Sandy Hook. Why wasn’t something done? It’s outrageous. We're all proud to be Americans. But what kind of message does it send to the world when we have such a rudderless bunch of idiots in government?"
Like many of you who might be reading this, I was born in the fifties, grew up in the sixties and came of age during a period of social unrest and great changes in society, politics and culture. We had a soundtrack. We had songs and music. We had Woody and we had Pete. We had Dylan and, although you may not have known or remember him, we had Country Joe. And the Fish. If you want to know how a generation of youth got this country out of the Viet Nam war, look no further than a song performed at Woodstock called "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag".
Watching Richard Martinez speaking at yesterday's memorial....well, it reminded me of Country Joe and the song that I think crystalized a movement. Taking an absolute tragedy and turning it into political satire that made people sit up and notice, it is my humble opinion that Country Joe's lyrics for the fourth verse changed history. In case you missed them:
Come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, and don't hesitate
To send your sons off before it's too late.
And you can be the first ones in your block
To have your boy come home in a box.
Pretty powerful stuff. It evoked anger and rage on both sides. And it got people talking. It helped move the dialog along, and eventually there was change. It was a song....possibly taken from an old Kid Ory tune (Joe survived a plagiarism lawsuit) and paired up with words...that made a difference. Where all those flowers have gone...I don't know. Because instead of music, it looks like it might one day be social media and a hashtag that could change gun control laws in America.
Speaking at the memorial service, Richard Martinez asked that everyone send postcards to politicians with the words "Not one more" on them. He then joked that the students may be too young to know what postcards were, and made fun of his own ignorance regarding the use of hashtags when others recommended he circulate #NotOneMore through social media.
“How many more people are going to have to die in this situation before the problem gets solved?” He said that people who grew up in the 1960s and ‘70s didn’t have to worry about dying in murder sprees, asking, “Why should it be like this for you people who are young now?” He then got the crowd on their feet and led them in chants of “Not One More,” which continued across the stadium as he left the stage.
It's the hashtag that was heard around the world today, not the music.