Tag Archives: United States of America

Pulses of the Nation

CREDIT: David Goldman / AP

One year.

It’s been one year since America went from its last deadliest shooting to the next. That doesn’t just happen. Last year, 49 people were killed and 58 were injured at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This year it’s 58 people and 527 injured at the Las Vegas strip. When will it stop? When will we stop being satisfied with well-wishes and prayers and start taking action on these problems? When will enough be enough?

I learned how to shoot my first BB gun when I was 12 years old, my first rifle when I was 16. As someone who has grown up to value the rights our second amendment grants us, I appreciate the technique and the intricacies needed to not only handle a gun, but to also take care of it and keep it in a safe condition. While I was being trained, I was carefully instructed on how the gun always needed to be pointed down and kept on safety if you weren’t shooting it. Responsible gun owners know this and will treat their weapons as if it’s always ready to shoot to kill. One of my family members actually fired a gun for the first time in her life this past summer and started crying. When we asked her what was wrong, she said “To think that just like that… a life can end.”

I thought about what she said during this month’s horrible turn of events. Do we weigh the loss of life as much as we need to every time we pick up a gun? Do we respect the deadly power that it comes with? Or is it just a fleeting detail, hidden behind all of today’s controversies and current events?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t stricken with grief in a time like this. What kind of human being wouldn’t be? We tell ourselves that what happened wasn’t preventable, that if a man wants to commit an act of violence, he would do it with or without a gun. That much is true. Our nation’s most horrific terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001 was done with a few box cutters and four plane hijackings. Before that, the worst terrorist attack was carried out by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, where he killed 168 people by parking a truck bomb in front of a federal building. Evil intentions aren’t disarmed when you take the bullets out of a gun. As Tyler Joseph observes on the Twenty One Pilots song “Heathens,” “Just because we check the guns at the door doesn’t mean our brains will change from hand grenades.”

Still, it’s foolish to ignore the mountain of evidence that America has become one of the deadliest nations in the world. How deadly? Since 1966, there have been at least 131 mass shootings in the United States. Almost half of them have occurred since 2006. Out of established nations in the world, the U.S. ranks 31st in gun violence. 3.85 per 100,000 citizens died due to gun violence last year alone. In the United Kingdom, that number is .07. The majority of the perpetrators in these shootings are white males, and most of their weapons were obtained legally. Stephen Paddock is only one man out of a tribe of monsters. After the traumatic attack in Las Vegas, police found a total of 23 guns in his living spaces. All of them were legal purchases.

So let’s put these facts into perspective. The amount of mass shootings in the United States are growing in both frequency and fatality. I repeat: mass shootings are happening more often in America and with more casualties. This is not an anti-gun advocate saying this. This is a proponent of gun rights saying this. We had our deadliest shooting last year with 49 dead. It barely took a year to dethrone it. What does that pattern spell for our nation’s future if we allow this to continue?

Yet, the scariest thing to me is not the ongoing threat of gun violence in the United States: it’s the silencing of it. After the Las Vegas shooting, you would think people would respond to this violence and put more careful regulations in place to monitor gun sales. They haven’t. It’s now been a month and congress has demonstrated no initiative in addressing this constant stream of gun violence in the states. Funding for gun violence in the Center of Disease Control has gone down by 96% since 1996, with only $100,000 allotted on its budget. And the Dickey Amendment, which continues to restrict research on gun violence statistics, remains active with no indication of being overturned. How can we even begin to discuss solutions to these issues if we aren’t educated or informed on the statistics regarding these shootings?

I’m not saying we should have a general ban on automatic weapons in the United States. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t either. Gun control is a very layered issue, and with any issue like it, we need to talk about them in-depth to find the right compromises that satisfy both right-wing conservatives and concerned Democrats. Doing nothing and remaining silent about it is irresponsible and disrespectful, especially to those families who lost loved ones in Las Vegas, Orlando, or in any of the other mass shootings. We have plenty to disagree about in our nation: healthcare, immigration, the economy. The well-being of our citizens should not be one of them.

A point observed to me earlier this week was that Paddock used bump-stock on his rifle during the attacks to turn it from a semi-automatic weapon to an automatic. A friend of mine suggested that congress should discuss banning bump stocks in the United States, considering that would be banning a gun part as opposed to a gun itself. Fine. Great. That’s a fantastic place to start the conversation, but let’s have a conversation. Continuing to bury it threatens greater and more devastating tragedies to happen in the future. Is that when we’re finally going to talk about the issue? When hundreds are dead and families are left grieving?

Do not let this issue get buried. If we do, we threaten to bury our own loved ones with it.

– David Dunn

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A Reflection On My Racial History

How do you think it feels knowing that your race caused decades of inhuman suffering and cruelty on a group of people that didn’t deserve it?

It’s the end of Black History Month, and after African-American citizens spent four weeks reflecting on their own history, I thought it was important that I took a moment to reflect on my own.

When I was thirteen, my great grandmother informed me that her father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Wearing the white robe of evil and judgement as if he were as clean as snow, he marched with his brothers in uniform against those of a different color from him with a sign filled with spite in one hand, and a torch burning with hatred in the other. She never learned if her father quit the organization or not. She found his uniform in the attic later on when she was an adult.

The rest of my family’s history isn’t much better. My dad’s uncles thought African Americans were selfish, lazy human beings, sputtering racial slurs at them while they drank their glasses full of whisky. Friends of my mother’s parents jokingly called them “jungle buddies.” Things only started getting better for my family when my mother stood up to her white classmates for her black friends when she was eight years old in elementary school. She was ridiculed and called by her classmates a “nigger lover.”

Bad as that is, I know it isn’t half as bad as what some of her friends had to face during that time.

Nowadays, with everything that has been going on in Ferguson and Staten Island, I sometimes find some people judging me and labeling me as a racist just because of the color of my skin. They don’t say this in words, but in silence: in the eerie, guarded ways they stare at you and in the sharpness in their breathing that feels like blades to your character.

I understand their contempt, and if I were in their shoes, I would probably judge myself too.

I’m not proud of the things my ancestors has done. I’m not proud of the things my entire race has done. In fact, I have to live with the fact that I’m living in a former slave state back when the south was considered the Confederate States of America. How can I say I’m proud to be a Texan, when I know all of the gross, unforgivable things we’ve done as a state?

But here’s what I need to keep reminding myself: it’s not me. I am not my family. I am not my origin. I am a passionate citizen of the United States of America. I love my brothers and sisters of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. I smile when I see them exercising their rights of freedom of expression, and I cry when I see them discriminated for their beliefs and appearances. I am filled with joy when their voices are heard, and I am filled with grief when their voices are silenced.

I am not my history, and for that matter, neither are you. We all should be proud, equal citizens of the United States. It’s high time we start acting like it.

– David Dunn

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The Philanthropist And The Entertainer: A Eulogy

Before I begin, let me start by stating the obvious: yes, I know that I’m late with reporting this. Everyone already knows about the following issues I will be tackling. The information provided in this article is no longer timely. I know that. However, given the gravity of the situations and considering that I’m also writing this from an essential perspective, I write and publish this in the hopes that people will have a changed outlook to similar occurrences in the near future, not that I’m looking forward to these things repeating themselves in any way.

On Saturday, December 5th of last week, Nelson Mandela passed away at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, succumbing to the respiratory infection he’s been struggling with for years now. He was surrounded by his friends and family when he died. The nation mourned, a memorial was held, and the world leaders all flocked to Africa to celebrate the life of one great man, including President Barack Obama and South Africa’s own Jacob Zuma. Mandela was 95 years old.

A week before, the world was ridden of another great man. On November 30th, two days after thanksgiving, celebrity and actor Paul Walker was killed in a fatal car crash that took him and friend Roger Rodas’ life on the road. The car burst into flames upon crashing into a light pole, which investigators believe the car was going 90 miles per hour in a 45 mph speed zone.

Regardless of the details of the crash, their deaths were tragic all the same. Rodas, who was a raceshop owner and Walker’s financial adviser, was survived by his wife and his two children, one of whom was his eight-year old son who saw him at the crash site. While Walker is most known for the Fast and Furious series, Walker was also known as an avid car lover, racer and a phenomenal philanthropist, founding a charity in 2010 called “Reach Out Worldwide” as a response to the earthquake in Haiti. Him and Rodas were coming back from a philanthropic event hosted by this same charity before they got into the fatal crash.

These three great men passed away under tragic circumstances, all of them leaving behind families who will love them and miss them forever. Two of them were known world-wide, and contributed to the health and well-being of mankind. One of them, however, changed a nation and inspired generations.

If you read that last part and were about to say Paul Walker, I’m going to slap you so hard you won’t be able to tell the difference between a Ferrari and a Volkswaggen. The day I was informed of Walker’s death was surprising in the least. At 24 years old I didn’t expect to hear that he had passed away, though admittedly I wasn’t surprised to hear it was a car crash. All of social media blew up with his death. My Facebook was crammed with status updates. There were too many tweets to count. And in the following days, so many publications were writing about his death he might as well have been Michael Jackson.

Now experiencing the same shock and sadness with Nelson Mandela’s death, I find it interesting that the public’s reaction is mild at best and non-existent at its worst. Looking back at my twitter and Facebook feeds, I notice nearly everyone I followed wrote about Paul Walker almost instantaneously the day he died. When Nelson Mandela died on December 5th, about how many people do you think tweeted or facebooked on his death? On my feeds, I counted five.

Anyhow, back to Paul Walker. On one of the posts I was reading, a close friend of mine commented on the feed which stirred quite a controversy between him and other bloggers. On another friend’s post, he commented bluntly: “What war did he serve in? Oh yeah, that’s right…”

He later came back on Facebook, writing about Paul Walker’s death and criticizing all of the attention people were paying towards it. Obviously, people were angered and offended by his comments, but take a second to understand it from his perspective. My friend, who will remain anonymous out of respect, previously served in the military before going to college. He served in the Iraq war for eight years on two tours of duty. The experience of killing and seeing many of his friends getting killed impacted him deeply, and when he came back to the USA he was mostly alone, suffered from cases of depression and paranoia, and was homeless for many years of his life before a friend convinced him to go to college and change his future. He experienced the worst the world had to offer, came back from it and decided to make himself something out of it. I respect him with great admiration, as I do towards anyone who makes the sacrifices he does and comes back choosing to better themselves out of it.

But this isn’t about him. This is about Paul Walker, Nelson Mandela, and the media that popularizes them both. Answer honestly: in the days you heard about Walker and Mandela’s death, which one did you hear about quicker? Whose death was talked about more? Who’s stories were discussed more in the media? Do you even know who Nelson Mandela is?

If you don’t, here are the bullet points: Nelson Mandela was born into an apartheid and racially segregated Africa. From 1950 to 1962, he protested against his government and the racial evil they advocated, and because he spoke out he was thrown into prison for 28 years of his life. When he finally was released from prison in 1990, he ran an election for presidency over South Africa, and was the first black president ever to be elected into office. During his time as president he brought an end to apartheid, advocated human rights for all African citizens, and unified a country during a time of great tension.

That’s just a summary of his career, but Mandela has done so much more. After his retirement, Mandela focused on charitable foundations and poverty. He communicated to the NAACP on the economic assistance of Africa. He focused on world-wide issues through an organization called “The Elders” founded by himself and others in 2007. And when his son Makgatho died of AIDS in 2005, Mandela lead a campaign aimed towards the improvement of treating and preventing AIDS among other hurting families so they don’t have to go through the same things that he did.

Point being: Mandela changed a nation. For Pete’s sake, he changed the world. There were some things that people were critical of him towards, including his violent protests at the beginning of his career or his condescending views of the United States during the Iraq war. Beyond that though, look at what this man has done. He has taken hardship, unfairness and tragedy, turned it around, and made everything better for an entire nation. I only saw a few facebook updates for this wonderful man, yet Paul Walker looked good and drove sports cars for a living and the internet basically exploded at the mention of his death.

I end mentioning one notable scene from this year’s 12 Years A Slave. In one sorrowful scene, Solomon Northrup is begging to a Canadian carpenter named Samuel Bass, played by Brad Pitt, to write and deliver a letter to his hometown so law enforcement can bring his citizenship papers and free him from his life as a slave. While at first intimidated and afraid at the notion, he eventually comes to resolve, standing up and saying to him:

“I will write your letter, Solomon. If you indeed find freedom, it will not have only been my privilege. It will have been my duty.”

Mandela too recognized freedom from oppression as his duty over of his privilege. And yet we pay more attention to the death of an entertainer over that of the carpenter who freed them.

-David Dunn

Post-Script: Everyone, no doubt, has seen the Fast and Furious movies, because that’s what Paul Walker was most known for. I encourage you then to seek out Clint Eastwood’s phenomenal 2009 sports-drama film Invictus, which not only shows Nelson Mandela’s impact of a nation, but also of the hardships he’s had to endure along the way. Also, Morgan Freeman is in it.

SOURCES: The Guardian, WORLD Magazine, The Huffington Post, NelsonMandela.org
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