I watched and read the news yesterday about the rampage shooting, and along with the horror of watching the death toll go up, there was the sorrow that this was such a terrible way for the world to hear about Binghamton. It should not have happened this way.
I also watched the afternoon press conference, a little annoyed at the politicians’ statements when I wanted to hear facts from law enforcement. However, I’m told that Gov. Paterson gave a more than decent speech. And since facts (about the victims, about the shooter, etc) are still slow in coming, I admit my mind has started slipping toward thoughts about political implications, especially as I read raging new debates on forums about gun control and the NRA. (For the record, I think we need some form of gun control, but barring that, I’ll take a real conversation without extreme posturing.)
Reading the pro- and anti-NRA standoffs in the forums yesterday, it suddenly hit me that the vast majority (if not all) of large scale rampage shootings in America have happened everywhere but the Northeast. Any local citizen outrage over the availability of guns is usually deflected not just by a “gun culture” (rural NY has that too), but particularly by political structures of long standing that the NRA influences very adroitly. But New York is a different political landscape: much more diverse, more heterogeneous and more fluid. A landscape that the NRA is untried in defending, and the state has a very powerful media machine. We’ve never really seen what would happen if gun control suddenly became a front-and-center issue of debate throughout upstate New York State. Crime-related urban violence has been “ignorable” for too long, but something like this is hard for even the complacent to ignore.
And then there are the people who died, and what they died doing. This could have happened in any immigrant assistance center anywhere in the state. But I have to think that this story must hit many New York City readers where they live, more than they are used to when it comes to news items from distant Upstate. New York City is, after all, the “city of immigrants.”
Are we really One New York, after all?
It is unfortunate that President Obama is in Europe right now. It seems to me that the shooting in Binghamton represents America’s highest aspirations being laid low by everything wrong and out of control about America. This tragedy nightmarishly reflects the themes of his presidential campaign. We urgently need someone to make the right connections, and to get past the tired and destructive political dynamics surrounding the gun control issue (both liberal and conservative tiredness, since we should be wary of trashing the 2nd Amendment).