Puerto Rico: The 30,000 Lives Project

marcTroubled by the number of people who die yearly as a result of gunshot wounds (30,000), Marc Newhouse [author of Life, Death and Iguanas, see previous post New Book: Marc Newhouse’s “Life, Death and Iguanas”] has spearheaded a project to read 30,000 randomly generated names in public spaces, in an attempt to raise awareness of the need for stronger gun control. The next event will be today, Sunday, March 24 (instead of the usual Saturdays) at 1:00pm in Plaza de Armas in Viejo San Juan. Here are excerpts, translated by Taí Fernández, of a review of the 30,000 Lives Project by journalist Antonio Quiñones Calderón (originally published in El Nuevo Día).

(…) It is in such citizen-participatory spirit that the “30,000 Lives Project” is centered. The project was conceived and is being sponsored and performed personally by Marc Newhouse, a cellist, teacher of the English language and writer who has resided in Puerto Rico for many years; Newhouse, originally a Wisconsin native, has become another good Puerto Rican.

Marc was highly disturbed by a fact he had recently encountered: 30,000 people, on average, are killed every year in the US and its territories—including Puerto Rico—as a direct consequence of gun shots. He was specifically disturbed by the fact that approximately one in every 30 murders by gun shot—within the whole US jurisdiction—occurs in Puerto Rico alone, even when our island’s population amounts to a mere 1.19 percent of the total national population. When his brain fully grasped this troubling fact, Marc was instantly convinced that nothing will be instrumental in halting such tragedies until, as he explained, “all of us who favor a strong gun control policy are vigorous and passionate enough as gun advocates are.”

A quote by the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin came to his mind then; Stalin said—cynically and cruelly: “One death is a tragedy; one million deaths is a statistic.” This encouraged Marc to produce his project, hoping that those 30,000 deaths by gun shots in 2011 in the US would not end up becoming just one more statistic. So he decided to compile a randomly-generated list of 30,000 names symbolizing those lost lives. For this, he used an 8 1/2” x 11” sheet format for a single-spaced list, one name per line, written with normal font at 12 points. He ended up with 474 pages [sic.]. “Everyone who sees the printed document—tells us Marc Newhouse—has the same reaction: ‘Wow! Those are a lot of lives….”

The list will be read out loud on Saturday afternoons in public squares in the metro area of San Juan until next December. Marc, his friends, and citizens who find out about the project and recognize its merit meet each Saturday to read 100 names out loud and publicly. They then engage in a dialog to tackle the importance of finding ways to confront the violence that has taken large control of our society. This initiative, akin to that on Agenda Ciudadana, is, without a doubt, a valuable example of individual contribution to society.

For more information, please visit: http://lifedeathandiguanas.blogspot.com/

For this post in English, see http://lifedeathandiguanas.blogspot.com/2013/03/el-nuevo-dia-reviews-30000-lives-project.html

For original article (in Spanish), see http://www.elnuevodia.com/columna-respuestaaunaconvocatoriavital-1473808.html

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