Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: ANOTHER DAY IN THE DEATH OF AMERICA

Another Day in the Death of America  tackles a very touchy subject in American society today--the toll that deaths by gunshot take from us, more specifically among our young people. The premise of the book is simple; the (British) author chose a date at random--November 22, 2013--and profiled each of the ten people aged 18 or younger that died as a result of gunshot wounds that day. There were ten of them, across the United States, aged nine to 18, The majority were black youth, and if there is a theme running through the book, it is the deterioration of not just our society as a whole, but of the black community, of how guns and violence have become frighteningly common, and how the main goal of parenting black youth in many places in this country has become simply keeping them alive. Perhaps the most poignant and telling statements in the book are the literally dozens of quotes from black parents and other family members that said that they would be relieved to see their youth in jail--because they would be assured of being alive. I don't live in the white bubble, but even I was shocked at the depiction of reality in many places around the country.
And there were representative deaths of two other all-too-common phenomena: the accidental discharge of a weapon in the home and the stalker/abuser losing his shit. In both cases, the follow-up was as telling as the narratives of the incident. The guy who left his guns where pre-teens could get at them was actually sent to jail, but the death of the 11YO that got killed polarized a small Michigan town (one that, unbelievably, I drove through--actually, was driven through, because I was 11 myself at the time--many years ago). The ex that killed a 9YO was looking for, and achieved, suicide by cop, and that story reinforced a message I have relayed, many times in vain, over the years: never allow one of these guys the slightest bit of leeway, because eventually it always adds to their resentments. They don't usually just go away; it takes a sustained, committed effort and resolution to keep them away from the victims at all costs to keep them at bay, and immediate and certainty of consequences when violations occur are necessary--necessary-- to ensure even a minimal level of safety.
The author is not only British, but a Brit whose family is originally from Barbados, which led to some interesting interactions with American authority figures and white people. The subject of racism is not danced around or minimized in this book, and as much as some of the ignorosi would prefer to pretend it isn't, it's still the major issue in American society today. And the availability of guns, and the determination of a minority of absolute zealots to keep them easily available in most of the country, means that substantial change for the better is simply not going to occur.
The best one can do on an individual basis is not succumb to the propaganda. It's been proven time and again that the "self-defense" rationale is bullshit, and that an armed society is a more dangerous one, but the gun nuts are not interested in reasoned debates and intellectual discourse. This has become an issue on a feral, more primal level; these people are alternately power tripping and scared out of their minds, and scared, impaired people do not think or respond to rational thought. Not for the first time, I am profoundly glad that I live in New York; despite myriad problems here, on the big questions and big issues, New York is on the right side of virtually every major one. It's not easy to get guns here, and it shouldn't be. And as a result, we don't have the per capita death rate that many other places have.

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