I read this moving poem in social media and relived the pain of the lives lost in Uvalde, Texas. shooting in a primary school, less than a month ago that killed 18innocent children and two adultsand a 66 years grandmother shot on the face by an 18 years grandson says volumesabout not only lives lost but also social apathy and the insensitivity of the powers to be in that society, in therichest and the most advanced nation on the Earth. Only 10 days before that there was a racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York and, decade ago another school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children and six adults were shot dead. If past is any indicator, no major policy change can be expected on gun control and gun related mass murders will resurface elsewhere else in the USA is a reasonable forecast, sad to say. After a short while the tragic memory will fade away from most minds until another such time it happens randomly somewhere else. Again wounds will resurface, tears will roll, media circus will be re-played as heart wrenching tragedy will be re-lived due to the loss of human lives. For the loved ones, the family members and friends the pain and trauma willcontinue for rest of their lives. My quicksearch indicated over one hundred such shootings in schools all over America and I was not done counting. The scale of these tragedies impacts all the caring and compassionate people in the world as there is no rhyme, reason or justification for the losses of these. It is impossible to remain a casual observer when your family and children live there and I too lived there for forty long years and observed such shootings so many times while I was there. Texas (Houston) was my home for seven years in late 70’s and, where my professional career began as a semiconductor engineer some 44 years ago. Both of my children were born in Houston, Texas. Texas and the USA is deeply rooted in all our lives. With a heavy heart I have to admit what happened in Texas continues to happen and all over America unpredictably and randomly without any fore warning. Most Americans feel helpless knowing 75% of the lives will be saved if stricter measures taken by law as proven by the State of Connecticut after the last massacre a decade ago. So, why NOT stricter laws are there on gun sales is a valid question to ask and plead as President and many people are asking. Lets refresh memories, many public figures have been gunned down in America such as the Abe Lincoln, John F Kennedy, two presidents, Bobby Kennedy, (JFK’s brother, presidential candidate) famous activist Dr. Martin Luther King, these are only names I can remember, there are many more beyond my memory. Why can’t guns be controlled? Serious and a real question! And, what about the tears and pain of the victim’s families and the ongoing trauma they must endure forever? Will something be done before the tragedy strikes again? And, why NOT?
I have a real and lived painful story to share! Thirty years ago, in early 90’s I used to live in Westbrook, MA, USA and used to fly most Sunday evenings to Allentown, Pennsylvania. Short one hour flight for my consulting assignment in Philadelphia area after spending weekends with my family in Massachusetts. One fateful evening after my plane landed and before heading to my residence in Philadelphia I stopped at Wendy’s, a fast food place, for a bite of sandwich and drinks. Soon as I ordered my meal I saw two young boys about 18, 19 years old walk inside the restaurant and stand in line just after me. There was something very strange and peculiar about those tall six footers in black sweat shirts with tattoos all over their arms towering over me and ordering Hamburgers, French fries and Coke. The brief piercing eye contact, the cynical twisted half smiles, the expression on their faces was unsettling and disturbing to say the least. Somehow in my life experience in several countries where ever I have lived I have always relied on my intuition that if something looks uncomfortable one need to stay away from the potential trouble. We are hard wired with the animal instinct of FIGHT or FLIGHT. As with a small frame I am not much of a fighter I just try to stay away from any trouble and/or a trouble maker likewise. You have to realize and imagine I have had the real experience of standing within an eye contact away before a giant black live bear several hundred times bigger than me in middle of night in a famous California park while we were camping there. The beast’s presence was terrifying is simply an understatement. Instinctually in that restaurant I sat as far as I could from these two huge young men. That the look and expression was more than unusual and abnormal causing a notion of fear is only how I can put in words to describe the unsettling emotion. In my mind, that weird, cynical look had likely lasted for about 15 minutes or so. Sooner than planned I left to the safer harbor of my temporary residence in Philadelphia. Just after a few hours as I was relaxing and watching the local TV station there were same two faces on the screen I had run into just few hours back. The news said these brothers were on the run driving out of the State after killing an old and sick mother and younger sister in her early teens. Oh my! My heart waspumping faster and faster, the same piercing eyes, the cynical twisted smile and an aura that was scary as I recall. I had seen them within one hour of the family killings- those boys on the run from law. Coincidence? What is wrong with this richest country where the society gives gun interfused with hatred and anger towards their own family members and the society? At that time of family shooting I had already lived in America for more than two decades. There you go again- a son shoots old ailing grandmother on the face and then 19 young children and two adult teachers. Now 30 years later, history repeats itself. And, this history keep on repeating as far as I can remember!
The gun related violence and killing will be too exhaustive to recollect since I entered the USA in 1973 but suffice to say the shootings have never stopped. Mass shooting is defined as one with four or more people injured or killed, not including the perpetrator. The media reports more than 200 this year including 17 schools. There were more than 690 in 2021 and 600 shootings in 2020, compared with 417 in 2019. These are just the numbers if you don’t bother to dig deeper into the affected family member’s emotional trauma and larger picture of its impact on society. It simply continues for ever unless and until we do so something about this social malaise. The easy gun laws in the USA has resulted in massive gun shootings as the highest in the world and also “tough on crime” results in highest incarceration rate as about 20% of the whole world prison population( about 2 million ) with less than 4.5 % of the world’s population.
Here is another poem I read in media after the Texas shootings.
“Oh say can you see
On the blood-spattered floor
All the children gunned down
While the bullets were flying
Whose broad smiles and bright eyes
Will be closed ever more
All their dreams blown away
As the poor things lay dying
And the killing goes on
It’s the same old sad song.
The thoughts and the prayers
That will not fix what’s wrong
Oh say does that Star – Spangled Banner yet wave
While its shadow falls across one more freshly dug grave.” (Unknown)
Isn’t about time something is done about the gun control issue in the USA?
(Arun Sharma is an engineer and a writer with seven books published. )