Thursday, June 16, 2016

Is it finally too much?

“Call them mommy” “Hurry”

I still can’t even think of that text message exchange without crying. I can’t imagine being the mother on the end of the phone at 2 in the morning and feeling so utterly helpless. No, I can imagine it. That’s why I sit here with tears splashing down my face even days later.

Every now and then I think I’ve become numb to any more horror. I notice on Facebook that everyone was “Charlie” once for a while, but now they’re not “Pulse.” We just can’t keep thinking of new ways to say “This time it got to me, this time I am so so so so sad.” And then I hear of a text message to “mommy.”
If you’re in your Third Third, then assassination looms large in your life: President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X. Those were horrific and formative to the selves we were to become, but did we ever think our futures would involve this number of shootings against the general public?

Yes, there’s an important qualification to this: many of these acts aren’t against the “general” public; they’re against African Americans or gays. They’re hate crimes. But as one friend of mine put it, if you can kill 20 little kids in an elementary school in Sandy Hook and NOTHING CHANGES, then we’re all sitting ducks.

Oh, not you? Because you carry a gun? Oh, lucky that your kid isn’t hiding in the closet, you think it’s a home invasion, and you shoot your kid. Or you shoot the poor trick-or-treater. Or your kid finds your guns and shoots himself.

I live in Alaska. I know people can use guns responsibly. I’ve eaten meat killed by someone with a gun. I even did a day of Shotguns and Stilettos with Becoming an Outdoorswoman. I’ve also been a victim of armed robbery by a guy who shot off his gun before robbing us (real sign of crazy man). The only time I felt fear in the outdoors was when three guys showed up at camp with a boom box, lots of six-packs, and three rifles.

I ride a bicycle. Every single time I’m on the road, I am aware that cars are bigger than I am and I have to make choices that reflect that: Get eye contact before you cross, ride here not there. I am more careful because cars are bigger. (And yet you also had to take a test and get a license before you could drive that big car on the road.)
I used to feel a certain measure of control about physically defending myself; I took self-defense classes. But introduce a gun, and he’s bigger. Introduce an assault rifle and he’s HUGE.

If other people keep getting bigger, we run out of ways we can compensate by being careful. We all run out of ways of staying safe. If my gun is bigger than your gun, do you have to get a bigger gun? We’ve created mutually assured destruction in our lives, our very own escalating arms race.
People say guns don’t kill people, people do. So what’s the problem about looking at the people buying them? What’s the problem with saying guns are meant to kill meat (if you must) or even one person at a time (if you really must…)? But what’s with the kill-dozens-at-once assault rifles? I have not heard anyone pause, think quietly, and give me a good answer to these questions.

The thing is, there’s so much anger floating around right now, we’re all on somebody’s list and we’ve all got our own lists. Somebody doesn’t like your political party, the country his parents came from, how your pants hang, her grammar, your fancy car. Face it, none of us are list-proof and none of us are without our own lists. We’ve become a boiling mess of anger and this is whom we’re arming?

Make no mistake, we are arming them: We set them loose on the elementary school kids in Sandy Hook. We set them loose on the employees at a holiday party. Our silence and inaction set them loose on the 141 other mass shootings listed on the Gun Violence Archive for 2016.

And yes, all of us set the guy loose on the young man who asked “mommy” to hurry. I hope it’s not your kid or my kid who calls next.

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