Dear President Obama,
I was touched by your speech introducing the executive measures you are putting in place to reduce gun violence. Your evident compassion for the victims of gun violence and for the grieving friends and family members of victims showed you to be a man of feeling as well as intellect. I felt proud to have such a man as my President.
You concluded your remarks by saying changing the gun culture in our country would be a long process. I agree. The use of deadly weapons is embedded in our society in many ways. The defenders of gun rights seem to fear that they are liable to be threatened at any moment and must have a weapon at the ready. There is the example of local police forces which have armed themselves with the weapons and paraphernalia of warfare under the guise of needing to protect against terrorists but have used them against peaceful protesters. There is the readiness of some police officers to shoot anyone they are afraid might be a “dangerous person.” The assessment of such police officers as to who is dangerous often appears to be highly subjective and, in many cases, suspiciously racist. What makes them and so many other people afraid of their fellow citizens and how can that be defused?
To my mind, we have to include in the discussion of gun violence the reliance of our country on military might to assure access to oil and other resources. The power of our guns is what many seem to see as proving that ours is the greatest country in the world, whatever that might mean to them. Military might is arrayed in pursuit a mirage called “security.” In recent years, military interventions have been at the forefront of foreign policy over diplomacy. In a way our federal government provides a model of how to deal with conflict for the rest of us, and that way is resolving disputes with the use of guns.
I think you might ask yourself, President Obama, about your own willingness to accept as collateral damage the deaths of innocent people as a result of drone attacks. Those victims have grieving friends and family members, too. Many believe the primary result of drone attacks is that they recruit anti-American jihadists.
I wish someone would revive former Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s proposal for a cabinet level Department of Peace. That plan included strategies for promoting non-violent approaches to resolving conflict at many levels, from the education of young people to top-level government decision-makers. Something that comprehensive is what is needed to address the gun addiction we see in our country.
By Peggy Ray