I sat down to write this post at least 5 different times today. I had a snow day, and between getting some needed house-cleaning and Christmas preparations taken care of, I thought I might force myself to bang out a few words that could do some justice to the pain in my heart (the heaviness in my soul, the burning in my eyes, the ache in my bones) over the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
But the words would not come. They still may not. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling torn between the necessary chores of my life and the desire to just break down and give in to the grief of this unfathomable event. As a parent, as a teacher, as an American citizen, as a human being, I cannot believe that something this horrific happened (yet again) in a place of safety, knowledge, and care.
Because I don’t know how to articulate my thoughts on this issue, I have asked The Moo to take on the arduous task of commenting on this tragedy. I know that this is not a political blog dedicated to social commentary, so feel free to pass on this post if you’d like. In moments like this, however, when hugging my squirming child close after “cooking” breakfast together is all it takes to bring tears to my eyes as I imagine what those Newtown parents must be feeling, it is hard to think of motherhood as anything but political.
While Hilary may not…I can. In fact, I can and will talk to anyone who will listen to me about this tragedy. The “I,” by the way, is the lovely and talented Mizz Flagg’s husband, The Moo (or Mike, if you want to get technical about it).
So here’s the thing: We can do better. As a species, I mean. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, historically, we never really have. When given the chance to craft newer and fancier ways to kill one another, humans are without equal. We maim, molest, rape, murder, hate, discriminate and violate each other in ways that are unspeakable. No other animal on this planet (or any other, I’d wager) would do what humans have done to themselves over the course of the last five thousand years or so.
All that hate, all that evil, culminated in the slaughter of children three days ago. This wasn’t a war; this wasn’t revenge. This was an elementary school full of life before it became a place forever tainted by death. And how did it happen? What allowed this nightmare to unfold?
Guns, guns, guns…it’s always guns. No other country on earth has gun violence like America and no other country on Earth loves guns the way this nation does. We cling to them as they reduce our children to bullet-riddled corpses. Why? Because…well, we’re not really sure.
We like to hunt; that’s one thing. But the kind of guns used in these mass murder sprees are not exactly the types one sees in the woods, aimed at a deer. We have the 2nd Amendment; that’s another. But the thing is, the 2nd Amendment was never, ever designed for the kinds of weapons we now produce. The thing was written when you were lucky to get two musket balls off per minute in hopes of defending yourself from tyranny. Does anyone actually think the Founding Fathers were writing that Amendment, thinking, “You know, maybe someday we’ll have advanced so far as a nation that we’ll have invented ways of killing literally dozens of people without ever having to reload?”
So what are we left with? Why do we make these things? Why do we buy these things? The answer to that is simple, of course. We buy these weapons so that tragedies like Friday’s massacre in Connecticut can continue to happen. We buy them so that disturbed people can exact their fantasy-ridden revenge on the demons that go bump in the night. Simply put, we buy them to kill people.
So here’s my humble suggestion in the wake of the unthinkable, heart-breaking, beyond-tragic events of last week: Let’s stop. Let’s all just stop doing this to each other. Let’s stop making weapons that are designed solely for murder. I’d go so far as to melt down every gun on earth if I was allowed, but since that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, here are my suggestions:
1. Stop acting like the 2nd Amendment is some sort of sacred bit of writing whereas the others are somehow flexible. You have freedom of speech, but you can’t yell “fire” in a movie theater. Likewise, you may have the right to bear arms, but that doesn’t mean you get to buy semi-automatic murder toys.
2. Require a certified mental health evaluation before any gun is sold; don’t wait until after the nightmares occur to address the importance of mental stability.
3. There should be a federally-run licensing system of checks and re-checks before handing a human being the awesome responsibility of a firearm. This should not be left to individual states, because of places like Arizona. And Texas. And the rest of the entire former Confederacy.
4. I also think an insurance system, similar to car insurance, would be a good idea. Want more than one gun? Premiums go up. Have a kid in the house? Premiums go up. Have a picture of your locked gun cabinet or safe? Premiums go down. Let Geico run this and we’ll all be better off.
5. Finally, stop nodding politely along when some crazy person (a co-worker, a relative, a madman waving a sign on the street) tells you that, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Call bullshit when you hear it. Ask him or her if they think that twenty children would be dead today if the murderer on Friday didn’t have access to a gun. Could he have killed? Surely. He could have used a knife, a rock, his bare hands…anything. But there’s only a one in a billion chance that he could have killed twenty kids before someone stopped him without his murder tool of choice. Only a gun allowed him to do that. So it’s true that people kill people…but guns help. A lot.
We cannot stop madness or evil; sadly, those things are as ingrained in the human brain as our impulses to hug our children. But we can do better; we can demand better. America has done great things in the past; it has paved the way for democracy and helped save the world from tyranny. Now it’s time that we do something great again: We end the gun culture. We tell the NRA, the gun-nuts and the militia men that we don’t really give a shit if it bothers them anymore. They’re always so worried that we’re going to take their guns…well, guess what boys? We can and should take your guns. We can demand our government to do all it can to stop these nightmares from being repeated; we can throw down a gauntlet and say, “Enough.”
Hilary said she couldn’t write about this; I can’t stop writing or thinking about this. My beautiful daughter is nearly three. She’s sleeping peacefully right now, upstairs, as I type this. In two years, she will go to a public school…one very much like the one that was filled with the sounds of bullets, screaming, terror and murder three days ago. I can’t stop talking about this, writing about this, thinking about this…I can’t because things need to get better. Now. The American people and the human race can do better; now it’s time to prove it. We are a species capable of interstellar travel and the invention of the internet; surely we are able to stop slaughtering our own children.
So, all I ask is, as horrible as all this is, as hard as it is to talk about…talk about it. Shout about it. Call Congress about it. Get in arguments around the dinner table; pick a fight in the break room. Friday’s massacre proved that it’s no longer okay to be polite; it’s no longer okay to accept the status quo of the gun culture in this country. And when you meet the inevitable resistance of a gun-lover, simply ask, “Is it worth it? That cold piece of iron in your hands…is it worth the life of your kid? Your grandkids? Your nieces and nephews? Are you willing to turn on the TV someday and watch in horror as their bloodied corpses are dragged out of a classroom…just to keep your precious assault rifle?”
If that doesn’t shut them up, nothing will. And if the events of last Friday are not enough to change the direction of the gun culture of the United States of America, nothing will.
– The Moo