Active Listening #8: We are by Ari Sussman

Active Listening is a series that unites composers with audiences who care about social justice. The goal of this series is to inspire empathy, educate listeners, and offer steps to actively support each cause. Each composer has chosen to address a social justice issue they feel passionate about, and with each installment, actions which listeners can take are provided.  A new installment of this 10-part performance video and interview series will be released on the first Wednesday of each month through September 2019, featuring works commissioned and performed by pianist Lior Willinger. This project has been funded by an award from the Presser Foundation.

This Active Listening installment investigates the dire need for gun reform. “Gun violence is a national health emergency in this country, and we need to treat it like that.” Those were Elizabeth Warren’s declamatory words in the recent Democratic debate. A quick look at the staggering statistics on gun violence in America reveals an urgent crisis needing immediate action. While mass shootings continue to terrorize on a regular basis (with about 200 so far this year), a total of over 111,000 people are shot in the United States each year, claiming approximately 40,000 lives.

“So we are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it just yet, and for those who will never speak again. We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again.” – Emma González, Parkland shooting survivor/activist

We are by Ari Sussman

We are is entirely aleatoric; the music is ‘improvised’ and left to chance by the performer. We are is for all that cannot be.

In the United States, there are more guns than people. Americans own almost half of the entire world’s civilian firearms. Does that make us safer or less safe? Unsurprisingly, the developed countries with more guns tend to have more gun deaths. Likewise, the states with more guns tend to have more gun deaths. On the other hand, states with stronger gun laws tend to have lower gun fatality rates. Clearly, the solution to this public health crisis is not more guns. We need to pass common sense gun reform legislation and support funding gun violence research.

So what can we do?

Ari offers the following:

  1. I think that the best thing that anyone can do is to call your congresspeople on both sides of the aisle at every level of government. It’s important to be respectful but to clearly articulate your points to them. As a citizen of their jurisdiction, you have every right to protest and fight for what is moral and right. It is theoretically their responsibility to listen and absorb your message. You may never know how your words impact the lives and mindsets of your representatives and American citizens.
  2. A bill to make background checks for firearm purchases nearly universal has passed the House. This now moves on to the Senate for consideration. Expanded background checks has overwhelming bipartisan public support. Make your voice on this issue heard. Several organizations like Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and American Public Health Association provide scripts which can facilitate calling your congresspeople. March for Our Lives is circulating a petition you can sign to address senators to support the Background Check Expansion Act.
  3. In addition to universal background checks, there are other major policy reforms we need to push for in order to save lives. March for Our Lives lists a comprehensive policy agenda which includes providing funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to carry out much-needed gun violence research, banning semi-automatic assault rifles and high capacity magazines, and closing loopholes which allow gun possession to domestic abusers. These are sensible policies which every American can get behind.

The recording of We are is available for download on Bandcamp. All proceeds from the sale of this track will go to support CeasefirePA, an organization which works to prevent gun violence in the composer’s home state of Pennsylvania.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough when over 100 Americans are being killed by guns every day. We need to act now in order to save lives. 

Active Listening logo