We Need To Talk About Politics
I didn’t watch the news Friday. But I did watch the aftershocks of the horrific shooting in Newton, Connecticut in the reflections and reverberations in my circle of friends and other people I follow online.
There was an outpouring of grief – people were sick with grief – and then there came the anger and the fury. And it still comes in waves: the grief, the sickness, and the anger. And between the grief, the sickness, and the anger there is politics. In my twitter stream, the only person who I follow online who asked for “no politics right now” was the local journalist, above. But I know it was a more common refrain for others.
Politics doesn’t have a place in the media’s blueprint for covering mass shootings.
I have to agree with Roger Ebert: if we want look past the complicated issues of gun control and mental illness and instead turn a tragedy into an absurd Rorschach ink-blot test then I’m going to choose mainstream news programming for my scapegoat.
But I’m not really interested in scapegoats. I’m interested in making sure that this tragedy never happens again. That’s why I think the time to politicize the matter of lack of gun control is right now.
Politicizing events is the norm. It’s just not very well distributed across the political spectrum:
Norms change. Many Americans are now challenging the belief that gun ownership in the United States will be forever immune from the aftershocks of shooting rampages. But whether that this belief can be turned into better legislation will take more than a petition – it will take organization, effort and time.
But it is possible. Here’s a remarkable story that shows us how:
In 1971, over 400 children died in cycling accidents in the Netherlands. This was a time, as explained in this short video and blog post, before bike-friendly infrastructure was in place in Holland. And this continuing ‘child-murder’ drove the Dutch to the streets to protest the horrible situation and to ‘Stop de kindermoord.’ And it was these protests that helped the Dutch get organized and politicized and positioned to develop their coveted safe for children cycling infrastructure.
A child’s death is an tragedy. A preventable child’s death is an outrage. Preventing others from trying to save children’s lives in order to preserve an intangible historical construct is the worst kind of politics.
The time to tighten gun control and to extend mental health support to everyone is now.
Mita Williams is the User Experience Librarian at the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library, and a mother of two. She has been blogging since 1999.