This Urban Semiotic blog has been dedicated — for the last five years or so — to digging up and discovering the signs, images and visual imprints that coerce the city core.  After writing over 2,000 articles for you here, I can confidently share with you the American Urban Center is governed by, and dug into, two unflayable, and perpetually un-learnable, lessons in dueling images:  The Bullet and The Body.


Discussing the gun and the casket over and over and over again leads one to believe that Americans love killing each other and that unquenchable bloodthirst will never leave us even if we begin to lead moral and ethical lives dedicated to loving each other.

The recent multiple murders in Binghamton echo Virginia Tech and Omaha and Orange and Ivy Hill in the sickening repetitiveness of war guns used against citizens — and yet, in the aftermath of pooling blood and broken promises — we still innocently ask as a nation, “How could this happen here?” as if we’re surprised that guns kill and that bodies fall and that there’s no end in sight to the unnecessary killing of the lives we claim to most cherish.

Timothy Egan fires back in today’s New York Times:

Bam, bam, bam. Three dead in Pittsburgh, cops, all of them, murdered by a man with an AK-47 who thought President Obama was going to take away his guns.

Bam, bam, bam, bam. Four dead in Oakland, also police officers, their lives ended by a convict with an assault rifle.

Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. Five dead in Washington State, kids mowed down in a trailer park by their own dad, a wife-abusing coward with a gun.

Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. Thirteen dead in Binghamton, N.Y., immigrants and their teachers slaughtered by a shut-in with a Glock and Beretta. He sent a delusional note, in fractured English but for the sendoff: “And you have a nice day.”

American life in the spring of 2009 is full of hope, peril, and then this: the cancer at the core of our democracy.
In a month of violence gruesome even by our own standards, 57 people have lost their lives in eight mass shootings. The killing grounds include a nursing home, a center for new immigrants, a child’s bedroom. Before that it was a church, a college, a daycare center.

After every multiple murder, a poll is provided showing a temporary and fleeting American regret against the gun — but that feigned rage quickly dissipates as an en passant excuse to honor the Old West system of street justice that, for some reason, we value more than the reality of our failing core cultural values.

When we value the gravedigger over the police offer and dead lead over the breathing body — we are required to confess in the public square we crave the death of others while simultaneously refusing to accept the wages of sin against our own selfish interest in living.

5 Comments

  1. What was really interesting was that it happened the day after a completely unrelated shooting but a lot of people tied the two of them together due to the senselessness of both of them.

  2. That’s exactly right, Gordon. All these shootings are all sort of blurring together. I saw an editorial cartoon yesterday with the “shadow” of the “VT” letters for Virginia Tech making the outline of a gun. It’s all so hopeless and dismal and repetitive.