On guns, children, music and #NotOneMore

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. 

Views: 578

Tags: #NotOneMore, Country Joe, Easy Ed, Isla Vista, Richard Martinez, Sandy Hook

Comment by Hal Bogerd on May 28, 2014 at 9:26am

Thank you.

Comment by Kim Ruehl on May 28, 2014 at 10:51am

I've thought a lot about the whole "social media is doing now what music did then" idea since I heard Billy Bragg make that point last fall. I think it's a really interesting notion, though I'm not sure I entirely agree with it. A song still has the power of thousands of tweets at once, if only a prominent songwriter would go there. Unfortunately, I continue to suspect our young, peace-minded musicians prefer to make music that makes people comfortable and reminds people of beauty rather than music that incites people to action. It's a tough thing to do what Country Joe did with that song. Whatever gets people talking, really, is fine by me. But, I sure do wish the music makers would start stepping up en masse. 

Comment by TenLayers on May 28, 2014 at 12:18pm

Sat here for ten minutes thinking of  something cogent to say.  This, as is life sometimes, is such a ten thousand headed beast that it makes it impossible to know which of the eyes you should be peering into to see it's soul.  The beast may be too big at this point to ever control no matter how many songs are sung or how many hashtags are sent or how many people die.

Not that I'm giving up though.

How many times must cannonballs fly…..

Comment by Amos Perrine on May 28, 2014 at 2:03pm

Right on.

Comment by Dennis Nyman on May 28, 2014 at 3:21pm

How many innocents have been murdered over the years due the the N.R.A.'s ghastly influence? Perhaps the N.R.A. should be declared a terrorist organization. As for the tired arguments about only outlaws will have guns if they are made illegal--I've never heard of a hardened criminals going into schools and killing people.

Comment by Harrisonaphotos on May 29, 2014 at 2:13am

Obviously I live in the UK where gun crime is just a dot on the landscape; but these horrible atrocities make our headlines too and open up debates about gun ownership here too. I'm not saying the UK is perfect; far from it, but I still like the idea that I am 'shocked' when I see a police officer with a handgun or; God forbid a sub-machine gun in our airports; and long may that feeling last.

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on May 29, 2014 at 1:22pm

Saw this on a friend's Facebook page:

Comment by Lucky Mud on May 30, 2014 at 7:31am

Thanks, Ed.

I'm not around much anymore, but always read what you post here.

I was born in 1947 and raised in a little dirt-road Southern town. In high school we all had guns in our cars but we never shot anyone. I don't remember a single conversation about shooting people. That's what fathers did in war.

We were a Bugs Bunny culture in America back then....smart assed and confident. Bugs never carried a gun, but Elmer Fudd always did. He was cowardly, afraid and armed.

America is scared of its own shadow now, and people are waiting in line to buy guns. Media has turned guns into something equaling bravery or patriotism. They're nothing of the sort. Fear is the difference between then and now and it's doubled-down with every Breaking News! banner.

  Mike

Comment by Mike Kash on May 30, 2014 at 11:37am

It should be mentioned that this last guy did also use a knife and a car, I believe.   Also, no mention here of mental illness or violent video games.    There are some common denominators for these killers.  Our society seems to be getting sicker and sicker.  And I think it may hurt for the media to give so much time and name recognition to the killer afterwards.

I understand feeling down about the whole situation.

Comment by Easy Ed on May 30, 2014 at 11:59am
@Mike: I mentioned the use of a knife and also chose not to use the name of the young man who committed these murders. This is a pretty complex issue and I don't expect that it'll be addressed any time soon. We have a do nothing government. But I do admit to personally feeling my stomach churn whenever a crime involving a gun is committed and many try to move the conversation to other types of instruments that could cause one harm or death. A car is for transportation that could cause a disaster if used improperly. A gun is a weapon designed to hurt or kill. Let's start with that and then we can talk about how to handle the Toyota problem.

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.