Dear Barack Obama,
I watched your ten minute impassioned speech on youtube this evening in response to the recent tragic events — which has become all too common and all too cliche’d of an expression. You onerously uttered with the exasperation of a father who has lost hope, lost options and is beginning to lack the energy to continue the script that’s been set to repeat. I echo your sentiment that gun regulation — in light of our countries endemically violent culture — should be mere commonsense reasoning and we should look at our industrialized brethren as exemplar for methods to, quite literally, stop the bleeding. However, I am not writing this to merely fan the rhetoric of liberal politics, nor am I advocating that we acquiesce to the false-consciousness of the pro-gun minority that has somehow managed to entrap themselves in the reasoning of a distant century. I am writing this to implore you to expand upon the way we examine this problem, expand upon the way we perceive violence and, subsequently, expand in the action you take — which so far has been seemingly nil.
Let’s pretend for a minute that congress does pass a broad-sweeping gun regulation that meets all the criteria necessary to make a meaningful impact on decreasing mass murder in America. And let’s go further and say it worked. Then what? This would serve as a means of reducing violent acts, but how does it decrease the violent will? I do not want to live in a society where mass murder is trendy, but, beyond that, I also do not want to live in a society where the ethos of the body politic is deeply repressed sanguineous rage. Or, in other words, a child, or anybody for that matter, should not have to hear the phrase I am going to kill you, but nor should they hear I wish I could kill you. So what I implore upon you is beyond advocating for gun regulation, seek to understand why people are violent. What, in America specifically, is angering people? What’s igniting this will to kill?
In homage to the poetic eloquence of Ta-Nehisi Coates I will assert the following proposition: violence is the child of oppression, not the father.[i] We are oppressed by economic policy that conflates economic austerity with an equivocated notion of freedom. We are oppressed by a judicial system that does not see the poor as people in need of help, but, rather as capital producing cogs in the industrialized prison machine. We are oppressed by an education system that does not see children, that does not see hope, that does not see our future, but, rather it see’s impressionable minds that will passively and implicitly swallow the rote pill of the American doctrine that rampantly subscribes to the tacit fifth freedom of American public policy: the freedom to rob and exploit[ii] — supplying corporate America with an ongoing supply of obstinately willing oppressors. This problem is, however, not a cycle. Cyclical problems are ongoing, but they never waver in relation to their center. Oppression is a spiral that feeds upon itself and persists to press outward into areas so far removed from the center that we begin to forget our origins, our point of departure and the place where all the virtues of our society once took root. This oppressive state of being has become so omnipresent that it gets speciously mistaken for American heritage, and this, Mr. President sir, is the expanded view of violence I implore you to recognize. “All oppression creates a state of war. And this is no exception.”[iii]
Lastly, I implore you to act. We can limit access to guns, we can increase funding for mental health services and we can do many other things to negate the damage. This may help reduce some statistics and make things look good on paper, but reducing results to facts and figures on a spreadsheet is the same obtuse reasoning that perversely justifies all forms of oppressions. The rippling impact from all forms of violence are wholly incommensurable and the effect of this all encompassing state of war is felt by more than just the fallen and the families they left behind, but it is felt by all of us with varying degrees of weight. Mr. President, please awake from your dogmatic slumber and live up to your echoed mantra that we have all completely forgotten about. Three and seven years ago I did not fill in the box labeled benevolent purveyor of axiomatic youtube videos. As I recall, I checked the one labeled hope. Somewhere in the outer reaches of our spiral of oppression and war I can see glimmers of hope that shine brightest in our moments of darkness — this, Mr. President, is your calling to act.
Your brethren in hope.
[i] Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015. Print.
[ii] Chomsky, Noam. On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures. Boston: South End, 1987. Print.
[iii] Beauvoir, Simone De. The Second Sex. New York: Knopf, 1953. Print.