Thursday, October 11, 2007

the chekhov rule

another school tragedy rocks our country. this time the event took place right here in my hometown. again a child with a troubled history got his hands on a gun. in this case two guns - a .38 and a .22. he walked into his school and opened fire on students and teachers and then turned the gun on himself.

according to news reports, this child had a very troubled and violent life, he had a history of remarking that he would kill himself, and just a few days ago, after being suspended from school, he told another student that "he'd shoot everybody dead." he did not shoot everybody dead. but he did kill himself - he opened up his mouth, put in a gun and fired. bam! he shot himself dead.

young asa's spray of bullets hit 4 people - two teachers and two students. one of the teachers is a friend of mine - david. david is one of the gentlest and most peaceful people one would ever hope to meet. he is a devoted teacher (in an urban, inner-city school none-the-less), committed to peace and community building, and is just an all around good guy. one would think he would be the most unlikely victim of violence.

but that's just it with guns - everyone is a potential victim. I don't say that because I want to instill fear - goodness knows I really despise fear mongering. I say that because I'd like to instill action against the ease in acquiring guns. the united states is a gun loving country and we have to stop this love affair. it's killing us. it is a well established fact that the u.s. has the highest homicide rate of any "post industrial country" and guns are the instrument of death in the vast majority of these killings.

my hatred of guns is lifelong and is rooted in a family story of a child with a gun. when my mother was a young girl she and a cousin were playing 'cops and robbers.' in the 1930s playing 'cops and robbers' apparently was just as popular an activity for some kids as it is today. the cousin had a gun, I don't know exactly what type of gun it was, but it was one of the adults in the family's gun. he grabbed it to use as a prop in their play. he was chasing my mother around with the gun. they were laughing. they were playing. he fired the gun. it was loaded. my mother was hit in the chest. fortunately, the type of ammunition in the gun was some type of birdshot that did not do serious damage. had it been a different type of gun or a different kind of ammunition the story would have had a very different ending. my mother most likely wouldn't have survived and of course I would not be here. as a child I remember sitting on her lap and feeling the little pellets of metal that were still there under her skin. I was fascinated and repulsed by these pellets.

in the world of fiction there is the often held maxim that if you introduce a gun into a story, the gun will be used. in real life this adage seems to hold up. we must as a society do something to stop the flow of guns, legal and illegal guns, into our story. the gun-lovers have a saying 'guns don't kill people, people kill people" - somehow this 'argument' is supposed to convince us that guns are okay. I don't think so.

Dollars and guns are no substitute for brains and will
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)

picture: statue in front of university of connecticut health center. june 2007


John Eaton said...

Our prayers go up, Kim.


Len said...

The central American myth is that of the shootout on the deserted western street. I certainly wish it weren't so, but there it is. We tend to see firearms as tools of justice, especially justice denied in the normal arenas. We also tend to see guns as instruments of power and as correctives to feelings of impotence. Maybe if we can somehow change these visceral notions, we might fix the problem. And we can all only try our best, right?

By the way, I think Chekov said that it was his ambition to someday write a play in which a gun did not go off in Act IV. (Although I think that Vanya's failed attempt on the life of the professor is a wonderful parody of this kind of scene. I've never seen it played funny, but it sure reads funny.)

gemellen said...

peace to your city.

jenclair said...

How terrible to see this happen in such a personal way, Kim. I can remember the horror and sickness that hit me after Columbine; yet how commonplace school shootings are now. I agree about gun control; they are too easy to get. There is another less identifiable problem at work, though, that is even scarier. Where does all of the anger come from? Where is the sacredness of life? How have we come to the point that we have at least one school shooting a year and usually more?

Anonymous said...

Kim, thanks for your reflections. I just called my daughter to tell her that David K. have been shot - she is close friends with a young man who lives at David's and has stayed there. She had read about the tragedy in the New York Times and had the startling realization that she knew one of the wounded (thank goodness, not dead). What a small world. She did remark that this shooting in Cleveland wasn't a top top story in the Times - a measure of the number of shootings and the numbness that has followed. I am grateful that David K. and the other victims are alive and will heal. I cannot comprehend the reality that this 14 yr. old was the perpetrator and is dead. Where did childhood go? Why would a 14 yr old have two guns? What has our world come to? Wow. PTSD. For us all. God help us. Lord have mercy. Amen. Amen.
(maybe 70% people do pray).
take care, Susan

kimy said...

thanks mouse readers for your thoughts, prayers and insights. sad happenings here on the north coast.

len your argument regarding that other american myth is right on. (it competes I think with the other great american myth that everyone can be 'rich'). and oft times these two 'myths' collide or are joined and then eh gads! try, try, yes, yes. 'preciate the clarification on chekov.

jenclair, I'm with you on raising this very important question regarding anger and losing the sacred. we need one giant blessing way, that's for sure! little bear, can you get it going? ;)

susan, at least 70% - I expect many do and don't even know it as their 'prayers' don't fit their notions of what it's all about, does that make sense.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Living in a country where the illegal ownership of guns is rife, where you can "hire" a gun to do a "job" by the day, I echo your sentiments entirely, Kimy. Guns are dangerous and we don't need them. It's only because others have them that we think we must have them too and so the cycle continues. South Africa has been running a programme whereby gun owners have been encouraged to hand in their guns. It's working, sadly it's the sane and sensible people who're handing in guns, the lunatics and criminals just keep acquiring them.
Perhaps one way we could end the fascination with guns is to take guns and violence out of the stories we make. Perhaps if movie makers weren't so hot on violence in movies, the thought that results in prevalent gun ownership wouldn't arise.
My prayers and thoughts are with you and the people of your city. May peace and love hold and sustain you.

Mouse said...

The sad fact is that the news now reports "Another shooting at a school in America" and it's no longer shocking because we Europeans have come to expect it as 'the norm'

Do you remember Dunblane? A small Scottish town where a whole class of 5 year olds and their teacher were massacred by a man with a big grievance and a bigger gun?

All I can say in answer to 'guns don't kill people, people kill people" is "people with guns kill people"...

Ban them, full stop

kimy said...

av & mouse - yes you both add wonderful points to the discussion!

I do remember the tragedy in scotland.

Verilion said...

This is a really powerful post Kimy. I'm so sorry for your friend and hope that in the future that others will come to see as you do and finally ban these vicious things.

Colette Amelia said...

I am astonded! How terrible. I just checked in to Mouse Medicine and was so happy about the Nice award, how can things go so awry so quick?

Up here across the border we have tighter controls on gun but unfortunately it is the sane and law abiding that register.

Last week I went for a walk and found a pencil case, I shook it thinking it had money in it and no it was bullets, so clearly something is not working that well here either.

Since I am in the middle of my health policy class I also wondered who pays for the medical costs? And if the victims have a long recovery and can't work, what economic help do they get?

The Blue Elephant said...

Besides gun control, there needs to be control of violent video games as some of the high school assassins simply took one step from those games to thinking that reality was part of that game, they and everyone else dehumanized figures. I wondered too if this was one of the young men who kill themselves because they discover but cannot cope with the realization that they are gay (probably not, as I don't think they usually want to murder others. Being an adolescent is a dangerous state of mind and does not receive enough special attention, especially in helping males find some notion of "manhood" that does emulate some kind of Warrior. None of this musing will help your friend David deal with his trauma, and I hope he finds a way to recover. Bob Dylan summed up decades of American life before and after he sang,
"Yonder stands your orphan with his gun.
Crying like a fire in the sun,"
which sings in my mind every day that I read about one of these incidents -- and I live in Oakland so it happens here every day, or several times every day, our embittered, self-destructive and society-despising "orphans." They cry bullets.