Category: Non Fiction, Investigative Journalism
Rating: 4 to 4.5/5
Author: Gary Younge
As of March 8th, there have been at least 14 incidents of school shootings in the United States in 2018. This roughly sums up to 1 to 2 incidents a week, and that is only considering shootings that have taken place in school grounds and ones in which children or teens have been the victims or perpetrators. In the current climate, this piece of investigative journalism by Gary Younge is incredibly relevant, eye opening, urgent and necessary for anyone with an opinion on gun control in the US but unable to substantiate that belief.
“This book is full of people who made bad decisions; as a result, some put themselves in the line of fire, while others pulled the trigger. Not all bad decisions are equal.”
Younge picked one random date for this book – 23 November 2013. A 24 hour window. And observed the number of children and teens under 18 who died in that period due to gun violence. The end result is heart wrenching, illuminating, filled with quiet rage and condemnation of a system that renders a facet of American society broken/invisible.
In his introduction he says,”This is not a book about race, though a disproportionate number of those who fell that day were black, and certain racial themes were unavoidable. It is not a book that sets out to compare the United States unfavourably with Britain, though it is written by a Briton to whom gun culture is alien. Finally, it is not a book about gun control; it is a book made possible by the absence of gun control. This is a book about America and its kids viewed through a particular lens in a particular moment.”
Younge manages to narrate each incident with a sense of detached attachment, providing sufficient context & background to understand each incident beyond its tragedy. In simple, accessible writing, he narrates every incident evoking powerful empathy and understanding. He provides facts and reasoning on how and why these incidents occur. The influence of race and class, upbringing, the laws governing gun control, the judicial procedures of the convicted, the opposition from the NRA and lays down all these arguments with acute clarity throwing light in all the dark crevices.
With regards to perception of poor, black people in America, there exist so many assumptions that are actually false. For instance, many people think African America are likely to take drugs than any other racial group, that is not true. There is also a general assumption that black men routinely abandon their children. This is also not true.
“These faulty assumptions matter because they feed into the notion that it is the deficiencies in the black culture in general and black parenting in particular that are responsible for the shootings, that on some level the shootings reflect the collective death wish of a community incapable and unwilling to take care of their young. So pervasive and ingrained are these beliefs that the truth ceases to matter. They become scripts that many Americans repeat reflexively, and often uncritically, with all the confidence endowed by fact. The scripts are so ingrained, that the very people denigrated by them recite them as if by rote.”
It’s fills you with anger and sadness, doles out in equal measure at the unfairness of it all. Profoundly humane, intelligent, tenacious and exacting in its arguments, it provides a very important, necessary and eye opening look at America on guns. You almost forget the fact that there could be a book like this for every single day.