My friends and neighbors in the United States are constantly asking me whether it is not dangerous in Israel and whether I’m not afraid to travel there, as I do so frequently. In the wake of Friday’s Connecticut school shooting tragedy, I find myself wondering for the first time whether life in the United States might be the more frightening scenario.
Increasingly, it seems that it might be. Schools. Malls. Movie theaters. The workplace. Houses of worship. Nightclubs. Funeral homes. I can’t help but wonder: why don’t Americans see themselves as living in an equally fraught and violent reality, not unlike that in Israel?
Reader, before you jump up in outrage, consider the fact that there have been more than forty (yes, 40!) school shootings in the United States since the tragedy in Columbine.
In Israel, at least we know who our enemies are. We are aware of the terror we face, and we contend with it every minute of every day. But in the United States, it seems that the enemy smolders from within, unidentified, quietly residing in small towns and big cities, where weapons of mass killing are but a mouse-click away. And American society, rather than combating the enemy, aids and abets it, by way of its legislation, lobbyists and absence of sufficient regulation.
The enemy could be the boy next door, lurking outside of our childrens’ schools or in the pews of our synagogues and churches. The enemy could be coming after us at the post office, at McDonalds or in the shoe department of Macys. Yet, nothing is done. As every horrific incident subsides, outrage and debate yield, once again, to the oblivion of routine.
Last year, handguns killed 48 people in Japan, 8 in Great Britain, 34 in Switzerland, 52 in Canada, 58 in Israel, 21 in Sweden, 42 in Germany and 10,728 in the United States.
According to New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, “Guns have murdered more Americans here at home in recent years than have died on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. In support of the two wars, more than 6,500 American soldiers have lost their lives. During the same period, however, guns have been used to murder about 100,000 people on American soil.”
Terror? Here in the United States? Let’s have a quick look at 2012 in review:
February 22, 2012—Five people were murdered at a spa in Georgia, when a man opened fire.
February 26, 2012—Multiple gunmen fired into a nightclub in Tennessee, murdering one person and wounding 20 others.
February 27, 2012—Three students at a high school in rural Ohio were murdered when a classmate opened fire.
March 8, 2012—Two people were murdered and seven wounded at a hospital in Pennsylvania when a gunman brandished two semiautomatic handguns and began to shoot.
March 31, 2012—A gunman opened fire on a crowd of mourners at a Florida funeral home, murdering two people and injuring 12 others.
April 2, 2012—A student at a university in California, walked into his former school and murdered seven people, “execution-style.”
April 6, 2012—Two men went on a racially motivated shooting spree in Oklahoma. Three black men were murdered and two were wounded.
May 29, 2012—A man in Washington opened fire at a coffee shop, murdering five people.
July 9, 2012—Three people were murdered by multiple gunmen at a teenage soccer match in Delaware.
July 20, 2012— Twelve people were murdered and 58 were wounded when a gunman entered a movie theater in Colorado and opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon.
August 5, 2012—Six people were shot to death in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
August 14, 2012—Three people were murdered in a shooting rampage at Texas A&M University.
September 27, 2012—Five people were shot to death and three others wounded in a shooting by a laid-off employee.
October 21, 2012—Three women were murdered at a mall in Wisconsin.
December 11, 2012—A young man began shooting at random at a mall in Oregon, leaving two people dead.
December 14, 2012—Twenty-six people, including twenty young children, were murdered at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
In Israel, we have intractable enemies, backed by the vast resources and weapons of evil regimes like Iran. There is no simple solution. But in the United States, the enemy is our own impotence and fear – fear of the formidable lobby of the National Rifle Association, fear of gun-toting, Second Amendment-invoking voters and our own unwillingness to bring about change.
In the United States, the enemy and terror are domestic, and of our own accord. They are completely under our control, and subject to our legislation. Why, then, is terror permitted to reign free, as it did so tragically yesterday in Connecticut? Yes, there was a murderer. But the blood of those children, to my mind, is on the hands of legislators and lobbyists, as well. Without question, Friday was the time for tears. But today is the time to combat the terror that our own irresponsibility, permissiveness and lack of action have bred.