Jonathan M. Metzl at Harvard Book Store
What We've Become:
Living and Dying
in a Country of Arms
in conversation with BETH SIMONE NOVECK
February 12, 2024
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes JONATHAN M. METZL—award-winning author of Dying of Whiteness—for a discussion of his new book What We've Become: Living and Dying in a Country of Arms. He will be joined in conversation by BETH SIMONE NOVECK—first United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer under President Obama and director of the Burnes Center for Social Change at Northeastern University.
About What We've Become
When a naked, mentally ill white man with an AR-15 killed four young adults of color at a Waffle House, Nashville-based physician and gun policy scholar Dr. Jonathan M. Metzl once again advocated for commonsense gun reform. But as he peeled back evidence surrounding the racially charged mass shooting, a shocking question emerged: Did the public health approach he had championed for years have it all wrong?
Long at the forefront of a movement advocating for gun reform as a matter of public health, Metzl has been on constant media call in the aftermath of fatal shootings. But the 2018 Nashville killings led him on a path toward recognizing the limitations of biomedical frameworks for fully diagnosing or treating the impassioned complexities of American gun politics. As he came to understand it, public health is a harder sell in a nation that fundamentally disagrees about what it means to be safe, healthy, or free.
In What We’ve Become, Metzl reckons both with the long history of distrust of public health and the larger forces—social, ideological, historical, racial, and political—that allow mass shootings to occur on a near daily basis in America. Looking closely at the cycle in which mass shootings lead to shock, horror, calls for action, and, ultimately, political gridlock, he explores what happens to the soul of a nation—and the meanings of safety and community—when we normalize violence as an acceptable trade-off for freedom. Mass shootings and our inability to stop them have become more than horrific crimes: they are an American national autobiography.
This brilliant, piercing analysis points to mass shootings as a symptom of our most unresolved national conflicts. What We’ve Become ultimately sets us on the path of alliance forging, racial reckoning, and political power brokering we must take to put things right.
Praise for What We've Become
"I know of few other thinkers who so consistently diagnose what ails America. This is the clarion call to everyone who professes concern about the state of guns in this country. If we stand a chance in hell of fighting back and remaking American in the image of gun safety, we need this book now!" —Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times best-selling author of Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America
"Jonathan M. Metzl has done it again. The implications of this vital work are immense, far reaching, and necessarily disruptive." —Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH
"This extraordinary book takes a deep dive into an act of racialized aggression in Nashville to show how our collective failure to stop mass shootings betrays the democracy envisaged by the framers of our Constitution: a democracy where people with differing viewpoints solve common problems by peaceful means." —Callie Kouri, Academy Award–winning creator of Nashville
Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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