The stories we tell ourselves matter. They don’t need to be accurate, or rational, or true in order to inform us as to how to perceive the world and how to respond to it. One of the most popular stories told in this country is that “freedom” is merely one manifestation of the proliferation of the ownership of private weaponry, so when it’s claimed that George Washington said:
“…a free people should be an armed people. It ensures against the tyranny of the government.”
We don’t respond; “Well, isn’t it interesting what genocidal, slave owners thought about guns a quarter millennia ago,” we respond as though it made sense that the changes in overall disparity in weaponry between a citizenry and its military in the most militarily advanced nation of all time hasn’t made that concept obsolete whether he said it or not! (And this is a “pro gun rights” essay of a sort!)
You see, perception is reality, and any meaningful gun control plan in this country would have to involve confiscation and, due to the beliefs expressed above, that would start (exacerbate?) a second Civil War. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue trying to work at as much limitation as we can short of causing rebellion, it just means that the “scourge of gun violence”, intentional and accidental, is with us for the long haul.
That said, there was an accidental shooting in Springfield on Thursday, statistically speaking it was probably one of 5 times in the United States this week in which a child accidentally shot, and in this case, killed another child. News reports made clear from the beginning that the police were aware that the shooting was likely accidental. But not one of the local news outlets saw fit to place that information in their headline. Or in their sub-headline. A quick search of other stories involving other accidental shootings revealed this headline:
And this one:
But the Springfield event got this one:
Imagine a story about two kids in a farmhouse in Vermont “playing around” with a gun when the gun “accidentally discharged” and having the story headlined: “Vermont Crime”. Ridiculous. It wouldn’t happen. “Vermont Tragedy” maybe. And are you going to tell me that leaving the word “accidental” out of the headline was an accident on the part of the reporter and/or editor? Even more ridiculous. As a matter of fact, despite quotes from a police spokesperson which were available in other media accounts stating that the working assumption of the police was that the shooting was accidental, the MassLive reporter only mentioned the possibility of the shooting being accidental in the third paragraph of the story.
The obfuscation had its desired effect. In an exchange in the comments section one commenter, upon having the facts pointed out, responded that the specifics in this case didn’t matter anyway because Springfield is “a crime ridden cesspool and only getting worse and worse”. Exactly. For these people the facts don’t enter into it. Crime in Springfield is down by more than half since the early 90’s, murders are down nearly 80% just this year compared to last year…with that the trolls and media are getting desperate and this tragedy was just a bell for the media to ring in order to make sure that the learned response of spewing hatred for an entire community anytime violence occurs isn’t forgotten.
That’s what bullies do to their targets. Springfield is an easy place to pick on. Sure we provide most of the region’s high quality jobs and much of its best in the way of culture, but we also have a population which is disproportionately poor and significantly Black and Hispanic. Some bullies pick on their targets because, like the media, it makes them more popular. For the media that means a few more clicks, a few more shares, a few more viewers. Others, like trolls, do it because deep down inside they are missing something; empathy, humanity, who knows? But they justify targeting the weak because they tell themselves that their target is morally at fault for for something and therefore worthy of reproof; in attempting to humiliate their target they justify it by claiming it will alter the victim’s behavior or serve as a warning to others not to go down that path.
Together they criticize the residents of the city for living amongst the metaphorical lepers, and the literal criminals and prostitutes. I reject their criticism. I am proud to live where I live. How odd that in this country many of those who would most firmly (and erroneously) claim that this is a Christian Nation, would reject the idea of helping the neediest of their fellow men and, most of all, of living among them.