Content Note: this is a major departure from the normally media driven discussion here in Bloomeria Lumiere. It discusses recent violent events and current legislation.
Everyone I know is talking about what happened in Orlando, from everyone on facebook to everyone on the media to nearly every social encounter in real life in the last 48 hours or so. I haven’t said much about the shooting at Pulse, because so many other people are saying what I would say, and much more eloquently than I would say it, and, more importantly, I didn't want my straight, white voice to potentially drown out all of the LGBTQ and non-white voices that are already speaking so poignantly and urgently. However, while I don’t want to repeat or rephrase other people’s thoughts, this isn’t a time to stay silent about the underlying issues either.* And, in light of the filibuster in the Senate on gun control, it seems irresponsible not to speak up and get political. So if you will indulge me, I would like to shift focus a little and tell you a story about two musicians.
Mayu Tomita is a young, 20 year-old pop-star in Japan, who, according to The Hollywood Reporter, was first introduced to the public in 2011, by starring on a web series designed to launch a band. While I haven't watched it, it appears to be a scripted show about a group of high school girls leading double lives as rock stars. The stars of the show toured under the same band name as the band in the show – Secret Girls. On May 21st this year, she was looking forward to performing during an event for her fans.
Before her performance, a stalker managed to get access to Tomita and stab her more than 20 times.
Tomita called for help and police quickly apprehended the stalker (who the media are referring to as a “crazed fan”). The 27 year-old man said he attacked Tomita because she returned a gift he had sent and by doing so, she had slighted him. Essentially, he attacked her because she rejected him.
A couple of weeks later, on June 10th, up-and-coming American pop-star Christina Grimmie was in Orlando for a concert. The 21 year-old Grimmie had been introduced to the American public in 2014 on the television show The Voice, a competition show designed to launch new singers, and she appears to have been doing pretty well since then, releasing a few albums, and currently in the middle of a busy tour schedule. On Friday night, she performed at the concert in Orlando and started doing fan signings afterwards.
At the signing, a 27 year-old man came up and shot her, killing her.
The police don’t yet seem to know why he targeted her, only that he appears to have targeted her, driving from across the large state to attend the concert. And we probably won’t find out too much more anyway, since he shot and killed himself in the ensuing struggle (whether he committed suicide or it was an accidental shooting was not clear). Already, though, without any evidence to motive, I’ve seen the phrase “deranged fan” be thrown around by the media and news outlets reporting that police are working the “obsession angle.”
On that same day that Grimmie lost her life, the media reported that Tomita had woken up from the coma that resulted from the stabbing and that she was “stable.”
Half a world apart from each other, one artist lost her life in a violent act while another started on the first steps to (hopefully) regain her’s from a similarly violent act.
So what was different between the two situations?
Both were young women, in the public eye, both were artists, and both were targeted by men who, at the very least, believed they were entitled to try and take another life.
But the big difference I can see is that one happened here, in the United States, where guns are easily attainable and one happened in Japan, where guns are highly restricted, with most types outlawed, and those that are allowed require owners to undergo a rigorous and onerous licensing process.
I don’t want to detract from the seriousness of the crime perpetrated against Tomita or the miracle of her survival and recovery. What happened to her was heinous and horrifying. I sincerely hope that she is able to recover with as few scars, both physical and mental, as possible, and can move on to a happy life.
But if that stalker had been able to get his hands on a gun instead of a knife and shot her 20 times? I don’t believe that she would have been able to call for help. And I don’t think she would have had any chance of surviving.
So, one artist lives, and lives in a country that has almost completely removed guns from its citizenship. And in another country – a country with a strong pro-gun lobby – an artist dies in the very city that the very next night is witness to the largest mass shooting terrorism event the country has seen.
Look, I have friends who are pro guns; who own guns; who are, I presume, responsible with their guns. And I understand the historical reasons for the 2nd Amendment, that the people should have the means to overthrow a tyrannical government, should it become necessary. But frankly, that isn’t good enough anymore.
I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing story after story after story of shootings – mass or otherwise. I’m tired of worrying over the single person shootings we don’t hear about, because they happen too often to be news. I’m tired of the “Pray for Orlando,” “Pray for San Bernadino,” “Pray for Sandy Hook.” I’m tired of praying.
I’m tired of seeing family after family crying over their lost children. I’m so tired of seeing community after community after community ripped apart.
I’m sick of worrying about my friends and family who share some defining characteristic with the victims — whether it is race, or religion, or age, or location, or sexuality, or occupation, or gender — and worrying about copy-cat crimes. And I’m sick of worrying about my friends and family who share some defining characteristic with the perpetrator — whether it is race, or religion, or age, or location, or sexuality, or occupation, or gender — and worrying about them facing harassment and crimes of retribution.
And I’m tired of seeing family after family trying to come to terms with what their son, or brother, or father has done and trying to navigate a community that has turned against them because of the crime of that son, or brother, or father.
I’m so tired. And if I’m so tired — I, who am so peripherally affected that I almost can’t claim a say in this issue (although clearly I am), I who had never heard of these two women until after they were attacked — I can’t begin to imagine how all those who are directly experiencing it must feel.
How all those survivors keep moving forward.
And I don’t want to have to worry about any more families, any more communities, even the nation, going through this same ritual again and again.
So here’s the deal. We can talk about motive and we can keep de-legitimizing the shooters, deciding, whether they kill one person or many, that they are “madmen,” because that’s one way to heal, I guess. Better still, we could talk about motives and privilege and the sense of entitlement these men must have to believe that these actions are acceptable, and then work to change our culture for the better.
And we could keep talking about guns and who can have them and who can’t and how those people who can are allowed to carry them. But so far all these conversations aren’t stopping the shootings. Which means, it’s time to stop arguing about guns.
It is time to start banning them.
The reasons for keeping guns so freely available have disappeared. The 2nd Amendment has its purpose, but let’s face it: the government already has access to weapons far beyond what the ordinary citizen can access, so that assault rifle has lost much of its value as a way to overthrow a hypothetical tyrannical government. More importantly, that tyrant is hypothetical, while Christina Grimmie is not.
I can see some reasons for keeping some guns around (for hunting wildlife, perhaps, but really, most of us don't need to hunt to eat; or on very secure, regulated gun ranges, but even that makes me uncomfortable) and only under much more stringent regulations than what we’ve seen so far. And the NRA has proven that it is unable to self-police its claimed community, so we should stop letting them define policy.
Instead, let’s look at the countries that have reduced their shooting deaths to almost zero – and there are more than a few of them – and let’s figure out what they are doing right with their gun laws, and then let’s enact similar laws. Obviously, this isn’t the whole solution to reducing violence, or even a perfect solution, but it is a start and one that will have an immediate effect.
And we need to do it, because our humanity requires it.
* Note, while this piece is about violence in general, and gun violence in particular, I do not want to in any way minimize that what happened at Pulse is (at least based on all the available information we know now) a hate crime perpetrated against the primarily Latino/Latina LGBTQ community. The act of terrorism against those communities is unacceptable and reprehensible and, to echo the many other posts I've seen in the last few days, I stand firmly as an ally condemning any violence or harassment the LGBTQ community faces.