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Poet Andrea Gibson takes aim at guns.
Poet Andrea Gibson takes aim at guns.
Coco Aramaki

Reader: We're Not Giving Up Our Rights Because Bad People Do Bad Things

Andrea Gibson, the renowned Boulder-based spoken-word master, just released a new video — produced by filmmaker Sarah Megyesy, with a soundtrack by Ani DiFranco — for the poem “America, Reloading.”

The video shows children scrawling images about fear with crayons as Gibson’s voice delivers words that are as complex as they are devastating, damning our nation’s feeble response to mass shootings. The poem describes America as a country that celebrates “the independence of machine guns,” “where anybody can buy a cemetery at a sporting goods store.”

"It’s my hope that it will inspire direct action, conscious organizing, and more informed discussions between people with varying opinions about the most compassionate way forward," Gibson told Kyle Harris when he asked the poet about the new video. "It’s also important to me to simply keep this on people’s minds (and hearts). To turn our eyes in the direction of what is true, no matter how painful that truth is to face."

Responses to that interview with Andrea Gibson showed just how divided readers are over guns. Says Leon: 

Sorry, we're not giving up our rights because bad people do bad things.

Adds Aaron: 

How many children die at school every year? Your kids are in more danger walking to school than getting shot at school. Ban cell phones, too....

Responds another Aaron: 

True, but we have a massive amount of rules and prevention when it comes to traffic and walking to school. Maybe we should have that same vigilance towards gun control. Also, to dismiss this problem in a "this is worse" scenario is akin to telling a rape victim to shut up because they weren't murdered. It's an asinine and divisive argument held fastidious to those who embrace violence over progress.

Replies David:

 So Venezuela bans the private ownership of guns. Venezuela also just used the military to run over protesting civilians with armored vehicles. There is a reason we have a Second Amendment.

Dom takes the discussion back to art, sort of: 

Who cares about poetry? Fucking annoying enough that Denver spent money on those signs all over Colfax and what not. More murals, please.

Concludes Stephanie: 

I hope poetry can help.

Gibson, who has long railed against wars, white supremacy, patriarchy and transphobia, says the video project reflects a longstanding concern about gun violence, which Gibson obsessed over after moving to Colorado in 1999, shortly after Columbine.

“I had friends who had spent that horrific day in the ER waiting room, waiting to see if their loved ones had or hadn’t survived,” Gibson recalls in an essay about the video. “As activist groups all over the state and nation rallied for gun reform, I remember feeling certain that the images of children crawling out of second story school windows in an attempt to escape gunfire would surely loosen the greed-grip of the NRA. I was wrong.”

In the two decades since Columbine, 187,000 students have experienced school shootings, Gibson says.
“Valentine’s Day, the day our nation has historically celebrated love, is now known as the day an AR-15 stopped the hearts of seventeen students and staff members at a high school in Parkland, Florida,” Gibson continues in the essay. “As I write this, two survivors of that shooting as well as a father of a child murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary have died by suicide in the past week. Also in the last week, New Zealand has announced sweeping changes in their national gun laws in direct and immediate response to the white supremacist murders of fifty people at two Christchurch mosques, shining undeniable light on what could be, but hasn’t been, done here.”

Read the rest of the interview with Andrea Gibson here.

What do you think about Gibson's poem? The video? The potential of art to make social change? Post a comment or email your thoughts to editorial@westword.com. 

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