Say “Not Again” to Gun Violence in America: A Song and a Perspective from a Dad Abroad
(Published by invitation as a blog on MomsRising)
I am very grateful to MomsRising for the opportunity to share my music and thoughts with all of you.
The repeated, tragic shootings in our country have pained me. I am a proud father of three wonderful teenage daughters. Though a native New Yorker, from the Bronx, I do not live in America, nor have I been impacted personally by any of the many horrific events. I feel deeply for those who have suffered personally through these events, and applaud their courage to speak out and become activists for what is such an important cause: reducing gun violence in America and protecting our children in particular.
Music has provided me an avenue to express my sorrow, but also my hope that we can do something against this madness, and we can finally say “Not Again” to the repeated tragedies we have witnessed. Apart from sharing my song, I want to touch briefly on my perspective as an American living abroad, and as a dad.
While it is true that when you go abroad you learn a lot about the country you spend time in, what is less obvious, but more profound, is how being abroad allows you to see America in a different, more objective way. Geographical and cultural distance provides perspective. There are many millions of Americans overseas, and while I can’t speak for them all, I am sure many would have similar sentiments to mine.
Inaction seems incomprehensible in light of the ongoing tragic shootings taking place across the country. If the slaughter of children in their own school is not enough to spur decisive action, then nothing is. I am sure these statements would receive universal endorsement. And further, policy responses to them, such as background checks and restrictions on assault weapons, seem highly sensible and also appear to be met with wide, albeit not universal support.
Politicians need to do what is right, not what gets them re-elected. In this regard, the gun issue is emblematic of the broader problems of campaign finance and public service in America. Moneyed interest groups, such as the N.R.A, can target individual politicians effectively. However, even with their vast resources, they cannot take on groups of lawmakers, and certainly not congress as a whole.
Until our lawmakers are prepared to stand together, thus enabling those among them who are at risk to be able to take risk, and to know that they are supported, even protected, then the N.R.A. and other gun industry groups can and will undermine efforts at real reform. On the national level, the gun debate policy response seems stuck, but we can take solace that individual states are stepping up and strengthening gun control laws, with recent victories in Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland and New York, and we can and should applaud them. Success begets success, and change needs to start somewhere.
The last line of my song, “Not Again,” is a question, one I repeat several times throughout the song: “Is this who we are?” The eyes of the world are on America, including from the millions of Americans like me who are watching from afar. It is simply inconceivable that a nation as great as ours seems unable to act in this moment of crisis, and act in a concerted and decisive manner. Other countries have taken steps, many drastic, to reduce gun violence and have shown success. The answer to my question must be “no,” can only be “no.” After Newtown, and after all the events that have preceded it, it cannot be anything else. I pray that it will be “no,” and that during my lifetime the United States will become a safer, more humane place, and one where I would be proud for my daughters to return and live one day.
As a dad, I think about parents in America, and about the concerns they must confront: fear, uncertainty, and confusion as to how to explain the dangerous levels of gun violence to their children and, of course, fear for the safety of their children. I think about their concern for their children’s security in schools but, as gun violence knows no boundaries, also in movie theaters and countless other public places, not to mention in their homes. As America has battled to address and embrace civil rights, and continues to do so, to confront the public health menace posed by tobacco, which so affected America’s children and young people, so too will she tackle this plague of violence from guns. The question is how long it will take and what further price we will pay. We need patience, determination, and courage.
I began writing the song, “Not Again,” in despair after learning of the Aurora massacre, and finally finished it after the school shootings in Newtown. I simply reached the point at which I had to say something, and music was the most obvious avenue for me. My middle daughter, Casey, recorded backing vocals for the song. She clearly felt the seriousness of the issue, and I can hear the emotion in her voice.
I hope you will listen to “Not Again”, that it will touch you in some way, and that you will share it. But much more, I hope that the day will come when we can feel more comfortable saying, as Americans – at home and abroad – to our children: No, this is not who we are.