A PARADE OF GRIEF
Mass murders. Increased suicides. Tattered lives. Armed authorities pitted against unarmed Black men. Our means of preventing gun violence is fatally flawed. Robert Fraga covers the history, statistics and more, answering the question: what can be done?
Robert Fraga grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where his father helped make the atomic bomb and where Bob worked in the Los Alamos National Laboratory during summer vacations while at at Pomona College. Bob then moved to Canada. After graduating with his PhD at the University of British Columbia (1963-65), he moved to the Middle East, where he lived the next twenty years. He taught at the American University in Cairo where he learned a smattering of Arabic. Bob wrote The Greening of Oz (2012), about the town of Greensburg in western Kansas, that “came back green” after a tornado almost wiped it out, and in 2020, The Road through San Judas (2020), about the struggle between landless farmers and the wealthy Mexican family who wanted them gone. Bob lives in Lawrence, Kansas, and spends his summers in a 15th century home in rural France.
“In 2016, the author received a Christmas newsletter from some friends in which he learned that the couple’s son, a college student, had been shot six times by a stranger at a highway rest stop. Though the son survived, his horrific experience stuck with Fraga. “An extraordinary story?” writes the author. “An isolated instance of butchery? Not so extraordinary, unfortunately. Not so isolated either. The country is awash in guns. People use them to kill other people.” With this book, the author, a retired professor, documents the proliferation of appalling and grief-inducing incidents of gun violence that have marred contemporary American life, including infamous mass shootings and smaller events like the one that affected his friends’ son. He traces America’s history with the subject, from the days of Bleeding Kansas to the long tradition of political assassination, exploring the ways that American gun culture has become more radical over time. Related issues of racism, police violence, mental health, and suicide are discussed, as are the numerous ways that efforts to legislate gun control have been stymied at all levels of government. Fraga is a skilled writer, and his matter-of-fact prose captures the mundane terror of these stories . . .” Kirkus Reviews
New Zealand reined in gun violence, why can’t the US? Fraga explains how rural voters in the US have more clout than their counterparts in New Zealand, and they are the fiercest advocates of gun rights. Not long ago, a Texas congressman evaded a metal detector in the Capitol. He was reported to have sneered, “You can’t stop me.” Another congressman told police who tried to scan him after he set off the machine, “Nah, I’m not going to do that.” And a third member of Congress refused to let the police search her handbag after she bragged that she was going to carry a loaded Glock to Congress.
Many in rural states believe you fight guns with guns. Fraga examines the Heartland, specifically Kansas. ‘Bleeding Kansas” he reminds the reader, is “home to Dodge City, the cow town so beset by violence that it invited Wyatt Earp to be its Marshall. The City Council instituted a ‘Deadline’ along Front Street, separating the north end of town where guns were prohibited—cowboys packing heat there were arrested and immediately packed off to jail—from the free-wheeling south end where pretty much any behavior went unchecked.” Unpacking the right to bear arms and the 2nd Amendment, Fraga exposes the history of the NRA up to and including the Russian Maria Butina’s involvement in the NRA in 2016.
Robert Fraga wrote The Greening of Oz (2012), about the town of Greensburg in western Kansas, that “came back green” after a tornado almost wiped it out, and The Road through San Judas (2020), about the struggle between landless farmers and the wealthy Mexican family who wanted them gone. His latest, A Parade of Grief, is an important read.