Live free and die hard

The world will little note nor long lament the death of 33-year-old Drew Grant in a two car collision on a lonely highway in Arkansas Saturday night. Traffic fatalities are all too common in autoAmerica and typically merit little media attention.

Anyway, most of us were too focused – at least for the moment – on the latest mass shooting: Three dead, including a six-year-old boy, and 15 wounded at a Northern California garlic festival.

Indeed the only reason Grant’s passing (by the way, the driver of the other vehicle died too, and three passengers, including a child, were injured) is that before he had his name legally changed, Grant, aka Andrew Golden, had gained national infamy as the “baby faced” killer.

Along with 13-year old Mitchell Johnson, Golden, then 11, shot and killed four fellow students and a teacher in Westside Middle School, in Jonesboro, Ark, on March 24, 1998. At the time it was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, though not for long. Tried as a juvenile, Golden spent 9 years in juvenile detention before being released.

Some might consider Grant’s death by automobile poetic justice. It is certainly one of the most ironic exits imaginable. Young Andrew Golden lived by the gun in a country where some 33,000 people a year are shot. Drew Grant died at the wheel in a nation that shrugs off in excess of 40,000 traffic fatalities annually.

“Since January 2000, more Americans have died in car crashes than did in both World Wars, and the overwhelming majority of the wrecks were caused by speeding, drunk or distracted drivers, according to government data,” reports the Washington Post. “Where’s the social outrage? There should be social outrage,” said Robert L. Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told WaPo.

Every day, 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. The effects of gun violence extend far beyond these casualties—gun violence shapes the lives of millions of Americans who witness it, know someone who was shot, or live in fear of the next shooting.” This from the advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety.

Indeed, death by gunfire and death by automobile are uniquely American ways to go. Statistically no other nation on earth can touch our fatality rates in either category.

Make no mistake, we Americans have it well within in our power to stop the slaughter on both counts. We could ban military-style assault weapons and “cop killer” ammunition. We could do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. We could impose sensible waiting periods and background checks. We could ban private “off the books” gun sales and more.

But we choose not to. Our politicians have long ago decided that a staggering body count is an acceptable trade off for our sacred right to pack heat. And they know that voters are far more likely to punish them than praise them for their pro-gun sentiments.

Likewise we have the technology to stop speeding and reckless driving. There is a reason why lawmakers are prone to ban cameras that ticket red light runners and speeders. Because they know that Americans get angry over mechanized “speed traps” and insist that they be ticketed only when cops actually see them misbehaving and chase them down for it.

Which is more sacred in America: The right to arm ourselves against government tyranny? Or the right to drive as fast and as much as we please?

And so 40,000 traffic deaths here, 30,000 gun deaths there. Call them acceptable losses necessary to preserve our freedom to drive and shoot. It is what the Founding Father’s fought and died for

What can be more central to the American identity than guns and cars? “Live free and die hard” might as well be our national motto.

Author: floridavelocipede

A sometime journalist who used to string words together for a living before I retired to run a non-profit cycle touring organization that will henceforth go unnamed, as I have subsequently retired from that career as well. I write a bi-monthly column, theater reviews and an occasional magazine piece for my old newspaper. If I still had a business card it would read: Ron Cunningham: Trained Observer Of The Human Condition. Because like The Donald, you know, ego.

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