Are you a white supremacist? I found myself wondering on Memorial Day as I walked through Helen, Georgia with my mom & stepdad. Along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Helen is an alpine-themed getaway for many city folks. This past weekend Helen was a meeting of two Georgias, two Americas. Spanish-speaking families gathered for cookouts along the green grass in the riverside city park. The public park was alive with people enjoying the Memorial Day holiday while watching merry tubers float down the river.
Not far from this scene, a restaurant called Cowboys & Angels had live music. The musician, Joe, was sitting in full Americana regalia, from an American flag button-up shirt, cowboy hat with an American flag rim, and shiny American buckle. He sang country classics to a crowd wearing their own American regalia. All these people united under the banner of a meal, but for how long? Until someone is angry or disappointed, and this place turns into a death scene?
Can you blame me for this concern? On our way up from Atlanta that day, we passed numerous signs for a candidate running for US Congress with the image of an AR-15 underneath his name. His only campaigning was the image of this gun. Is it fear-mongering or the symbolism of a desperate America? We also passed churches with little American flags along the yard. The awnings of many churches were covered with `Welcome` printed on top of American flags. It had me wondering, does this mean the church welcomes you only if you are American? What does it mean to be American to these folks? What version of America qualifies?
Are these the signs of supremacy? A little less doom scrolling is absolutely in order. But after the white supremacist attack in Buffalo, New York, and the incomprehensible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, I have to wonder, is a small town in Georgia next? Can I know that this type of violence won’t happen where I go? I am afraid it is hard to rule out the possibilities.
Our American epidemic of gun violence is unequaled, unchecked, and problematic. The ideologies behind mass shootings are grounded in racism, power, and hatred. While we know that banning assault rifles worked in the past, it is not often mentioned in the public sphere. Interviews with NRA spokespeople seem circular and mind-boggling. I could recall that the history of this country is steeped in violence. The profit motive ultimately drives us. From there, where will we get the motivation to take this problem head-on?
Instead, defenseless children are being asked to prepare for active shooter drills. That `solution` itself is looking at this problem as an inevitability. That is AFTER someone has arrived armed at a school. The situation in Uvalde is itself a horror. The students did have this training. It was the police that failed them. Where then can we turn for help?
From the comfort of my home, I have pondered. Yes, we have (a fraudulent application of) the second amendment. Nonetheless, most Americans want some form of legislation for gun safety. One great article that covers this issue in depth is To Change Mass Shooting (Truthout). A deep soul searching is in order.
We never know where it will be safe to hang out. Can I go grocery shopping or teach in peace? I can wither away in my angst, or I can take action. Democracy survives on citizen action. I will attend the March for Our Lives in Atlanta. There will be many other locations where this March is going on. We, the people working for a more perfect union must make our voices heard. Even if it requires uncomfortable, non-violent confrontation. The alternative, to live constantly in fear, is not acceptable.