Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
“The public is not in danger,” announced Lt. J. Paul Vance, after the massacre in Newtown, CT, when the shooter’s body had been found, dead at the scene.
But the public is still in danger. There have now been seven mass-shootings* in the United States this year, not to mention thousands of murders, by civilians and law enforcement agents alike; and casualties in armed conflicts around the world. It is not a matter of “if” another mass-shooting, or individual death from gun violence, will occur, but “when.” Unless we make some radical changes, we will continue to be in danger of dying as a result of gun violence, in schools, in theaters, in malls, in parks, on our streets, in our homes.
We have to start now. We can’t wait until tomorrow, or until we’ve grieved, to start to take guns and weapons off our streets and out of our homes. Children in Newtown, Connecticut just suffered the loss of classmates and teachers and mentors.** They need to be supported in their experience of this trauma, so they can do their best to keep living their lives and growing into whole, healthy souls, and they need to be assured that they won’t bare witness to such violence again.
I’m not only talking about the gun violence that happens in Connecticut or Virginia or Colorado, either. The family and friends of José Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 17-year-old resident of Nogales, Sonora, are grieving his death by the bullets of US Border Patrol. When I visited the Border Patrol Station in Nogales, AZ for a tour with my Border Studies classmates, we were invited to hold the agents’ weapons to see what they were using to protect themselves. José Antonio’s death was not about protecting anyone. His death did not protect anyone, and now I can’t imagine that anyone walking along the Mexican side of the border wall, going about their daily lives, feels a greater sense of security.
Guns have no place in a peaceful society. Guns have no role in creating a peaceful society. Until we stop trying to pretend guns are important and necessary to the health of our society, we will not be safe from gun violence.
President Obama, gave a speech today about the tragedy in Connecticut. Mr. President, stay true to your tears, and do something real. Take real action to get guns out of our homes, and stop enacting foreign policy that results in continuously escalating violence. We can live in peace together. We need to come together, support each other, listen to each other, and do hard work to make it happen.
My heart is with the victims and survivors of violence around the world, from Connecticut, to Nogales, to Colorado to Virginia to Palestine to Syria to Iraq to Tibet.
**this piece was edited on Sunday, December 16, correcting details about the Sandy Hook shooting.
I walked the streets of DC yesterday, and I was horrified.
The last time I walked here, just over five years ago, I was awestruck, mesmerized by the grandeur of marble buildings housing my government and paying tribute to my country’s history. I swelled with pride in what it was supposed to represent: freedom, liberty, democracy, and a citizenship and government equally invested in each other. My government was big and powerful, and that’s because it was determined to do what was right.
This time, after two years of studying oppression and structural violence, organizing to smash patriarchy, and reading extensively about the impact of American and paternalism colonialism within and outside its borders, I saw something different. I saw mammoth buildings and a city plan designed to intimidate. I saw museums selectively documenting a history dotted with injustice and tyranny. And as I walked past the US Customs and Border Patrol building, tucked behind the EPA, just steps off the National Mall, I thought of the chapter of this nation’s history which is currently unfolding – one that happens out of sight of the Capitol, but that I am about to find myself in the middle of, when I spend my fall semester in Tucson, AZ studying the US/Mexico Border.
There is a missing piece of the American story that we don’t hear much of in the elementary school narrative that inspired me. It’s the story of unthinkably brutal oppression: oppression that destroyed Native populations and culture, oppression that keeps racial divides uncrossable chasms, and the oppression of Latin@ immigrants, who come to this country seeking a better life outside their home countries’ economies, decimated by US economic policy.
People are dying in the desert, seeking a route north to a livable life. People are starving in former agricultural communities in Central America, their corn worthless because of the flood of corn from American imports. Children are separated from parents, detained after applying for food stamps.
And until I sought it out and did my reading, I didn’t know. People crossing the border were just undocumented immigrants with undocumented stories, silent to me.
The girl in the upper-middle class classroom full of white kids has the privilege to not know that her government is not as awesome as they might have you believe, but Latin@ children in Arizona certainly don’t, and that is a problem – for everyone. When injustices are silenced, they continue, and they grow, and they affect us all. Fighting oppression is not about me going to Arizona to lift people up from the burdens placed upon them. To fight oppression is to uncover it, to see where it lives and how it works, so we can challenge it in all of our lives. We have obligations to each other to stand in solidarity. If we don’t think the oppression of others affects us, we’re wrong. Only together can we resist and seek solutions.
Break the silence, stop the violence.