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Truthdigger of the Week: William Rivers Pitt

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Posted on Jan 25, 2014

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By Alexander Reed Kelly

Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating. Nominate our next Truthdigger here.

Did you hear about the two students shot by a fellow pupil at Delaware Valley Charter High School in Philadelphia on Monday? What about the 16-year-old shot at Albany High School in Georgia at approximately the same time? The Widener University student shot Tuesday while sitting in his car? Or maybe the student at Berrendo Middle School in New Mexico who opened fire in a crowded gymnasium with a sawed-off shotgun?

Altogether, seven school shootings occurring in the space of 24 days make up the list of horrors that kick off William Rivers Pitt’s latest Truthout column condemning those who protect the rights of people to own firearms. School shootings used to make national news. But now they’re so commonplace, as Pitt’s writing makes clear, only the most grisly are mentioned in the national news.

If the current rate holds, Pitt writes, Americans will see 84 school shootings by the end of December. By the standards of a time when such shootings were unthinkable, 84 school shootings in a year is epidemic level.

“You. Yes, you, who love your guns,” Pitt implores. “I would ask what is wrong with you, but I already know: you love your guns more than you love your child, or his child, or her child, or my child. You love your guns, period.

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“I am puking sick of reading every single day about how your baby, your toddler, your brother, your sister, your cousin, your niece, your nephew, blew their brains into their lap with a gun you left lying around, because freedom, or something.

“I am sick of mourning the gun dead day after day, every day, because every day someone wins the Someone Gets To Be Dead Today lottery, because of you, and a whole lot of those winners are children.

“I am sick of how you hide behind gun money, gobs and gobs of political gun money, while complaining about the influence of money in politics. If any other item in common use in America—like aspirin, or a car—was wasting people with the dreary regularity of guns, that item would be banned by congressional fiat ... but it’s guns, so the slaughter slogs on, even as you tell your friends you hate the influence of ‘special interests’ in politics, because you’re a fraud in Technicolor.

“I hope—I pray—that you are sick of yourself as you watch the bodies pile up around you like cordwood, as you see the shootings at this school, and that school, and this school, and that school, and someday your school, which will be on the TV news from a helicopter’s view, with a voice guessing at the latest body count, while you are waiting for the word.”

Pitt concludes by saying it is not the anti-gun people who will end the slaughter, but the pro-gun people who know better and have so far refused to speak up. Will anyone hear cries like his? Journalists, academics and citizens of conscience have been speaking up for years. All of them face a seemingly omnipotent pro-gun lobby that is aligned with established business and political interests. Many Americans will continue to insist on the equation of guns and freedom, and they will do so because, in our crumbling and contracting world, they are scared. And fear is relieved by flight to what appears to be the surest possible means of defending oneself and one’s community. Because of the laws in place in America today and a prevailing belief in the treachery of other people, that means continues to be the firearm.

Americans need more voices like William Rivers Pitt’s. In the hope that his voice begins to speak in the heads of the powerful, we honor him as our Truthdigger of the Week.


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