30,000 Lives Project

Mission Statement

The purpose of this project is to:

·      Start a dialogue about guns and violence in our society
·      Advocate for stronger gun-control laws
·      Provide a forum for victims of violence, or those who have been affected
·      Convert a meaningless number into a meaningful message
·      Urge gun owners to reject the NRA 

I wrote two things recently about the gun control issue that have stuck in my mind.
The first is that nothing will get done until all of us who favor increased gun control feel as strongly and as passionately as the gun lovers do. They’re utterly militant; we’re busy doing other things.
The second thing? A quote by Joseph Stalin: one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. In particular, I thought of the 30,000 deaths by gunshot that occurred in 2010. On an impulse, I decided to create a single-spaced list of 30,000 randomly generated names (in a font size of 12.) I wanted to see—how many pages would it be?
It came in at 724 pages.
That’s the thing about statistics. We may know the national debt is however many trillions it is, but we can’t get our head around it. The same is true of the amount of trash in the North Pacific Gyre, for example. That’s why the artist Chris Jordan did the Cans Seurat.
Here’s the original A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of The Grand Jatte painting by Georges Seurat:

And here’s what it’s made of, in Jordan’s version:

That does get the point across, doesn’t it? Much more than the statistic that 106,000 cans of soda are consumed every 30 seconds in the United States.
There’s another point. Without knowing for sure, I’d wager that 90% of the readers of my blog and my Facebook friends feel the same way as I do about the issue. So any social networking or blogging I do is classic preaching-to-the-choir.
I grant you—the only time when a great issue is forced is when enough people get insistent enough not to drop the issue. The question of slavery in the nineteenth century is a classic example. People just wouldn’t let it drop.
But it might be an idea to get out of the house, get into the public eye, and get talking to people who don’t share my point of view.
So here’s what I propose. I have invited fifteen of my friends to gather in a major plaza of Old San Juan and read 100 names from the 724-page list on Saturday, 23 February 2013. I’ll film the event and put in on YouTube.
It would take 300 days to read 30,000 names, one-hundred names at a time. That means that if you started on the first day of the year, you’d finish just in time to assemble your Halloween costume.
“Any man’s death diminishes me,” wrote Donne, “because I am involved with mankind.” And Joseph Stalin was both right and wrong. 30,000 deaths are also 30,000 tragedies.
The bound list of 30,000 randomly generated names

A sample page of the list of 30,000 randomly generated names  

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