For current young adults, the terrorist attacks of September 11thoccurred in our formative teenage years when news of plane crashes that morning spread rapidly through our middle and high schools.
As fires burned and buildings fell, the safety and innocence of an American childhood in the 1990s disappeared instantly. Maturing in the social milieu of a nation gripped by fear and at war, this terrorist attack and its decade long aftermath came to define a generation.
To briefly summarize, this aftermath includes:
- Two US-led ongoing wars of questionable morality and efficacy, accompanied by expansive drone and special forces warfare of questionable legality. US invasions caused, at a lowest estimate, nearly a million deaths and millions more wounded and costs now running into the trillions;
- An overhaul of federal law enforcement agencies under a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, the expansion of the security state via surveillance and militarized policing, and an intelligence community in the US that is increasingly out of control;
- The shredding of the Constitution where free speech is suppressed, lack of warrants during investigations, indefinite detention and torture as accepted practices, and now US citizens killed without due process;
- Troubling shifts in the American popular mindset that view Islam and other non-Christian religions, as well as immigrants and minorities, with suspicion or hate and that fail to properly question the military or government when ‘national security’ is cited as reason for illegal and/or unconstitutional actions.
At tremendous political, social, moral, and financial costs – not to mention the death tolls – America responded to the deaths of three thousand innocent victims on September 11th with firm resolve and (troublingly) unquestioned commitment to the “War on Terror.” Though economic troubles and new social issues are changing this paradigm, US domestic and foreign policies continue to be greatly structured by our nation’s response to terrorism.
Gone unaddressed is the terrorism of gun violence that plagues our nation. Since the terrorist attacks in 2001, we can estimate330,000 deaths from gun violence and over a million wounded in the United States. Each day, 87 people die from gun violence – meaning another September 11th attack has been repeated every 34 days. This summer alone we witness mass tragedy over and over in Aurora or Oak Creek or Texas A&M, accompanied by the day-to-day homicides and suicides routine to American life today.
To briefly summarize, the aftermath of 30,000 annual gun deaths and the expectation mass shootings will occur in our nation has been: NOTHING.
Each life is sacred, as a creation of the Divine and imbued with a dignity that means we mourn always whenever life is lost. To respond to September 11th was just and necessary, even if we can debate the ethical and effectiveness specifics of the responses.
Protecting life should guide our lives and our government, so why have we failed to respond to a new September 11th death toll created every 34 days and that killed over one hundred times as many people as those terrorist attacks in the ten years since?
Presently, the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations hijack the political discourse on gun control. They terrorize America with their insistence that unbridled gun ownership allowing military-grade weapons, expanded magazines, and automatic firepower is a right and a moral cause. They hold hostage politicians with their blood money and threaten gun control advocates to suppress dissent.
The NRA and pro-gun organizations are terrorists in their lobbying and legal advocacy, allowing others to commit the murders that flow from America’s gun crisis. Then, these organizations can claim innocence because “people kill people” and the guns only aid in what was already inevitable violence.
As the terrorism of September 11th pivoted our worldviews and our nation to a response that sought to defend life, now this current attack from unrestrained gun violence must equally move us.
Enough killing, enough suicide, enough injury, enough discord. The Second Amendment be damned – America is under attack from the gun lobby and it is time peacemakers and people of conscience stand up for a safer future.