Published in 2020, and a must read for anyone who cares about abused women, their rights, and how law enforcement often fails them, this book by Trethewey, 2007 Pulitzer Poetry Price winner for “Native Guard”, voices her struggle to deal with her mother’s untimely death. When Trethewey was nineteen and in college, her mother was shot and killed by her step-father after the police officer assigned to protect her mother left his post early. Additionally, the memoir details the effects of the racism she experienced as the child of a white father and black mother (married when it was illegal where they lived) in Mississippi and later in Atlanta in the 1970s and 80s before her mother’s murder in 1985. The book gets its title from the street on which her mother lived when she was murdered. Through this memoir Trethewey discusses how her parent’s divorce, her mother’s remarriage to an angry, abusive man, and her mother’s murder has informed her life and affected the enduring love she holds for her mother.
The Land in Love with Guns
In the United States firearms kill approximately 15,000 individuals per year. In Britain, Australia, and Canada, the average is 350 per year. Spain’s rate is even lower. In Germany, it is less than 800. A young person here dies about every 4 ½ hours, shot dead. The US murder rate is 19.5, nearly 20 times higher that the next 22 richest countries. In the 23 richest countries combined, 80 percent of all gun related deaths are in the US; 87 percent of children killed are shot by guns here. In the last 45 years, bullets killed more than one million people in the US.
Gun sales are big money. More than a dozen hand guns are sold per minute. One survey indicates that one out of every four US homes possess a gun; another survey says 39 percent. However, most guns are owned by only a small proportion of the population, gun “collectors” who own an average of seven weapons per person. Guns are cheap here and bullets even cheaper, about 50 cents each. The Mexican government contends that our cheap guns help fuel the dreadful violence there which then overflows to here.
In spite of all this, the US murder rate is the lowest in more than 45 years. The NRA claims more guns equal less violent crime. The NRA contends that the lower crime rate is the result of less strict gun laws and more people owning guns. Nevertheless, mass murder occurs on a regular basis. We mourn, we lament, but nothing changes.
Eventually, another mass murder occurs and the cycle repeats itself. Why? Who or what is responsible? What can be done? Will more restrictive gun laws help or hinder? Debates continue; opposing views and answers abound, but the cycle continues. Will it ever change?
I wrote the above after the last mass murder event. Nothing changed. Now the conversation appears more strident, more active. Apparently, the mass killing of children is more heinous, more scary than the mass murder of adults even if the adults are young. The NRA advocates armed guards at schools. How will that prevent mass killings at movie theaters, at malls, at churches, on the street, e.g. the three murders this week in Pennsylvania?
Australia was another country in love with guns, but after a mass killing there, they changed their collective mind. They enacted strict gun control laws for assault weapons and ammunition. Could that work here? I think not. This is a country in love with guns because the right to own a gun symbolizes what is perceived as individual rights. This is a country where personal liberty remains far more important than community safety and social justice. Until that changes, mass murders will continue.