In connection with the Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Florida, which left 17 people dead, dozens injured and scars on the remaining number of students, staff and parents, I found a good slam poem about the problem with America and its obession with guns. As we have seen with the 29 shootings recorded so far in 2018 (18 school-related), many of us have tried aggressively to deflect from the gun issue and focus on other issues that are non-related. The problem is we cannot defer responsibility to other issues. Nor can we just debate about it and take no action. Nor can we consider gun deaths the new norm in American society. As this poet suggests, the time to talk about guns and stricter regulations is right here, right now. I intend to talk about gun laws and ways to change it until we see change that we the people of the United States of America will like; the changes that will make the streets, schools, homes and society safe again.
…..And this even includes changing politicians who favor guns, gun deaths and the NRA.
As we’re still answering (or trying to answer) a lot of questions as to how a 64-year old retiree could lay carnage with automatic weapons shot from a hotel onto a crowd of people, while praying for and providing love and comfort to families and friends of the 58 people who lost their lives in the worst shooting in US history, I stumbled across this poem an aquaintance posted in one of the social network group pages I’m in a few days ago. While we try and find constructive ways to toughen gun laws in the face of our current administration and the National Rifle Association, this poem sums up the culture that America has when it comes to guns. Germans have bratwursts, soccer, handball, castles and the Baltic and North Seas, are obsessed with travelling and foreign languages and believe that peaceful negotiations are the key to success and harmony. Americans have one thing that makes them strong when in use but very feeble when trying to negotiate, and that is the gun. And while we make our feeble attempts to crack down on gun violence and ban certain weapons, in the eyes of the outside and those whose lives are gone and whose families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintences are mourning and trying to answer the most difficult questions, the United States of America and its natural inhabitants are characterized by one element: the gun.
This poem is dedicated in memory of the victims of Las Vegas in hopes we can look at this, ask ourselves if this is what we want ourselves to be and most importantly:
26 April 2002- the day that will be remembered as the day that Germany stood still and watched in shock as a 19-year old stormed a high school Gutenberg Gymnasium in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia, and gunned down 12 students, three teachers and a police officer before taking his own life a short time later. For many people, as peaceful a country as Germany was, one would not expect a massacre similar to the one at Columbine High School in Colorado three years earlier. But the incident has changed the way people think about Germany, its education system and its strict gun regulations. Ten years later, the massacre is still in our memory and despite attempts to try and stem the violence and reinforce the gun regulations, Germany has become another America but on a smaller scale. We have issues involving xenophobia and right-wing extremism, despite attempts to integrate new people into the German culture while at the same time encourage tolerance of other cultures. People put at a disadvantage socially are taking their vengeance out on others, as was the case in Winnenden (Baden-Wurttemberg) and Ansbach (Bavaria) in 1999. Despite attempts to crack down on violent video games and pornography, the loopholes are still open. And despite the preaching of civil courage- people stepping in to stop the crimes- many still stay behind the curtains and ignore the help of others, being insensitive.
So what is there to do? Absolutely nothing? If that is the case, then we are just as guilty as the perpetrators who committed the crimes and should deserve the same penalties for not helping the victim as the person who attacked him/her in the first place. Since the incident, we have learned to not walk past the people in need of help but to help them whenever possible, despite their background. We have taken a stand against hatred, xenophobia and anything that is morally wrong. We have found ways to make life favorable to people, no matter where they go (in school, on the streets and at home). We have found ways to avert potential crimes. But we have also found ways to cope with loss and learn from it, as this is the case on this day. We have become more interconnected with each other than ever before, while at the same time look for answers- Why did this happen? What have we done to deserve this? What can we do to help make sure that such a crime never happens again, neither here in Germany nor the US, nor elsewhere?
Up until now, these questions have yet to be answered and they cannot be answered alone.
The Flensburg Files would like to dedicate this column in memory of the people, whose lives were lost in the Guttenberg incident 10 years ago, with the hope that we can look at what is wrong with society and ask ourselves why is this wrong and what we can do to make society better for everyone and ensure that an incident like this (and other similar acts) do not happen ever again.
Link to the anniversary of the massacre (in German): http://www.mdr.de/mdr-info/amoklauf-erfurt114_zc-885afaa7_zs-5d851339.html