Question: When do 140,000 American lives not matter?

Answer: When they are lost at the hand of other Americans, wielding the weapons which have cost us our freedom.

To be more exact, a recent study has shown that between 2002 and 2013 141,796 Americans have died in gun violence in this country. 141,796 mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, children, friends. In that same time period only 263 Americans died in attacks by “terrorists.” If you are offended by those quotation marks, please ask yourself…

Of what, and of whom, should we really be afraid?

We’re fighting an incomprehensibly expensive war against an enemy who is easy to identify because their culture and language and clothing and religion are different. They are easy to identify, and because they are supposedly not like us, they are conveniently easy to hate. The offenses of this enemy are wicked and reprehensible. 

But hatred and self-righteousness always come more easily than looking in the mirror.

That enemy is the easy target, but they are not the real enemy. Look at the numbers again.  One hundred forty THOUSAND lives – killed by us. The travesty of this senseless reality should humble us by the immensity of the loss, and the apathy and silly dysfunction, which are responsible for this disgrace, should shame us into action.

But it surely will not, for our enemy is too well hidden - in plain sight.

It is so easy to fear the “other,” but being honest enough to acknowledge that our greatest enemy is within should be a far greater fear – because that enemy is more real, and much more dangerous. The numbers make this undeniably true.

We are killing ourselves at a tragic, unbelievable rate. But we choose to fear “the enemy.”

There are no easy answers, but our love affair with guns is a significant part of the problem. We call it freedom. In reality, it is the bondage of fear.

There are no easy answers, but our love of money has caused us to justify corporate profits at any cost. We call it freedom. It is the entrapment of greed.

There are no easy answers, but arrogant loyalties held in the name of partisanship have blinded us to the common good. We call it freedom. It is the slavery of ideology.

We are not free. The numbers should make that clear.

People who really are free do not annihilate each another, and justify their own demise in the name of capitalism and democracy. What could be more ironic? The economic rules of our “free market” no longer allow us to limit the power of money for the sake of a greater good. We are not free. 

The political demands of a system, “of the people, for the people, by the people,” no longer allow us to compromise even when the future and fate of the whole is at stake. We are not free.

It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? And it’s frightening to think how high that number may have to get before we realize we are completely responsible for our culture of death – which means we actually have the power to change it.

141,796 lives do not matter as much as the guns and greed and graft which are our real priorities.

And until their lives matter, “freedom” won’t matter either.


Photo by Tim Evanson