WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2015 – John Lennon was gunned down outside his home at the Dakota in New York City on Dec. 8, 1980.
In March of 2013, Yoko Ono tweeted, “Over 1,057,000 people have been killed by guns in the USA since John Lennon was shot and killed on 8 Dec 1980.”
Over 1,057,000 people have been killed by guns in the USA since John Lennon was shot and killed on 8 Dec 1980. pic.twitter.com/xxXU3gSlaD
— Yoko Ono (@yokoono) March 20, 2013
Mark David Chapman pulled the trigger on a legally acquired gun, setting forth a shot heard round the music world, one of those moments of violence and great sorrow. Since that cold December day in 1980, America has seen hate grow above and beyond what John Lennon may have been able to imagine.
And so little has changed. Except now we don’t hear about the killing of one beloved entertainer and, some would say, prophet. Now we count the numbers, shake our heads and thank our gods that it was not worse.
To the violence, hate and ideology that led to the murder of President John F. Kennedy, the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., the murder of Sen. Robert Kennedy and the murder of Mohandas Gandhi we add the murders of babies at Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and Sandy Hook, teens, families and parents at Aurora, Colorado, the thousands murdered on 9/11, armed service persons at Fort Hood, the murders in Paris and, most recently, the murders in San Bernardino, to name just a few.
Ono’s tweet shows the pair of blood-splattered glasses with the iconic New York skyline behind them, worn by Lennon at the time of his murder.
Ono’s tweet was also a prayer and a demand, demanding that we pause and remember, pleading with us to act, to stop the insanity of violence. But today we have to ask where that insanity of violence comes from. Is it that Americans care less about human life?
Or that we have more mental illness than we did when Mark David Chapman changed the world on Dec. 8, 1980?
Maybe it is that we are failing as a country to treat each other with basic kindness and respect.
Nature abhors a vacuum (485 B.C. Greek physicist-philosopher Parmenides) and the fighting, the divisiveness, the lack of leadership, the anger of America has us at a new frenzied level of fear and the rushing sound of the screams of those murdered in our cities and in our work places, is deafening.
It is deafening the national conversation. It is deafening our leaders, who seek not to instill hope but instead volley for the next CNN or Fox News sound bite and the iron fist they have on their political jobs.
All the mass shooters of the last generation would fit comfortably in a small living room — unfortunately, that living room is going to get bigger if we do not stop and change how we are communicating. The millions of people killed by guns since John Lennon died weren’t killed by assault rifles or in mass shootings. They are not the victims of jihadists or crazy people.
They were killed in a million little acts of violence, either self-inflicted or inflicted at the hands of hundreds of thousands of little killers. It is not the guns but those killers who need to be controlled. They won’t be, because killers will always kill and it’s easier to talk about guns.
In a polarized government filled with people more interested in sound bites than in finding serious solutions, “reasonable” is a fantasy that will never happen. California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her ilk care about grandstanding, not about children. If they did, they would have pursued legislation that, if it had been in place for the last generation, might have saved more than the handful of lives lost to “assault” rifles.
We need enforceable laws to protect ourselves from those who kill, whether with a gun, with a baseball bat or with a truck full of fertilizer. But really what we need is citizens who treat other citizens as though they have a right to their own “pursuit of happiness” without taking away the rights of others.
True change means that we must change as people. We must stop clouding our judgment with fear and stop lashing out at each other in anger. Our leaders need to lead, and focus on the things that blight our children’s lives and sow the seeds of violence.
Take a moment to look at what is happening on our college campuses — the erosion of our Constitution and the rights it provides us — in order to allow one group to have a larger, hateful, violent voice. Why would our president ignore those who celebrate Hanukah yet scold us for not embracing those who might seek refuge on our shores?
Maybe, if the tolerance that politicians speak so freely of were equally meted to Christian, Jew, white, black, brown, it would make a difference. However, when we speak of tolerance meaning taking away from one group to give to another, it creates anger, fear\ and a vacuum of hope that creates violence.
The goal should be not to remove something from group A to give to group B, but in supporting group B to acquire that which group A has. In other words it’s OK to protest against Halloween costumes; however, people should be able to dress up — no matter how distasteful you might find their choice — without fear of being murdered.
A voice’ dissension from your personal ideals does not mean that voice needs to be murdered, figuratively or otherwise. However, there are times when that voice is violent and leads to the pushing and shoving and possible murders of others.
So is it OK to silence that voice?
We need to remember that before Anonymous, whose goal it is to create fear in those they see as hurting the world citizenry, we had Richard Nixon masks. And neither a Guy Fawkes or Nixon latex mask hurts anything more than the sensibilities of the weak.
And that larger, hateful, violent voice, whether it is on our college campus, in our Senate chamber, coming from the Oval Office, the church pulpit or jihadist infiltrating our country is what is killing our way of life, not guns.
We need to remember the message of the prophets, like Lennon and Gandhi, and imagine a world filled with peace. And that starts when we work together to create jobs so that children have a future to live for versus a deafening vacuum that screams at us to kill.
Unfortunately peace too often follows war. And today we are faced with wars between our political parties and our war for “the brotherhood of man,” which requires that we seriously consider the murder of ISIS militants and those that would murder us first.
The vacuum screams louder as no right-speaking person mourns the death of the couple that murdered in San Bernardino. But where in that vacuum is the concern for the child left behind? When we ignore that child, we ignore our humanity.
Should that child be taken from the grandmother, who is being looked at for her own jihadist views, so that she is not raised to hate? Should she be “eliminated” before she becomes a jihadi hell-bent on avenging the death of her parents?
This spectacularly wealthy country is pocked with blighted communities, violent places where the way to get ahead is to prey on the weak and to band together with the violent. The people of those communities need ways to support themselves and their families that don’t involve disregard for life.
Can we save that child?
We won’t stop every killer. Assassins will still seek infamy by killing the famous or the helpless. As at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, murders, haters will find ways to make society grieve.
We can’t end it, but maybe we can stop some of the random violence that is killing our children by making violence a last resort, versus a first choice.
We need Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step up and stop the violence. We need leadership in Baltimore to address the real problems in that city. We need police and military to be seen as helping groups, not bad guys to be feared.
We need President Obama and other Democratic leaders to stop pivoting to gun control, because laws don’t stop crazy people, criminals or jihadist. We need Republicans to stop reacting to Democrats in fear and instead find a way to work with Democrats to find gun law change that works.
We can imagine a better life for our children and make it real with better schools, better jobs, a life without gang war and the war against drugs bleeding the life out of urban communities. We need to stop everything that divides us — from the southern border to safe zones on college campuses — and start listening to the rushing sound of hate that is filling Parmenides’ void.
Can we imagine all the people living all their days? Because whether it is John Lennon, John Kennedy, Jonylah Watkins, the children of Chicago or any of the children at Sandy Hook, or Columbine, or Aurora, or Virginia Tech or San Bernardino, we lost the gifts they each had to give to the world.
Their families and loved ones lost so much more. Fear is a vacuum of hope. And that vacuum in America is being filled by the hateful words of presidents, senators and presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle.
It is insanity at a grand level that we live with. And we are poorer because of it.