I know almost nothing about guns and murder, death and dying, justice, or crime. My usual experience, like yours, in all of these things is peripheral, save for the times in our lives when these realities came near. We lose a loved one – a parent, a sibling, a spouse, or a dear friend and we are thrust into the vortex of sorrows. Once there, we may question our faith, embrace or curse our respective gods, contemplate the meaning of our existence, or curse that as well, as we struggle to make it through just one more day, until we can return our lives to some level of normalcy.
The majority of the time, we are distant observers. One tragic death somewhere else in the world is closely followed by another. The circumstances of each are as awful as they are senseless.
There is no reason that we should expect to find reason in death, yet we do.
We look for reason and find nothing, so we turn to others, most often religious leaders, to provide it. Failing that, we make it up ourselves. Usually the reasons that we settle on have something to do with God’s will or some other nebulous explanation.
When the scale of the tragedy – the sum of the body count, the deviousness of the crime, or the demographic of the victims – is horrendous or shocking enough to assault our sensibilities and garner our collective attention, we participate in a sort of mass hypnosis.
Your god, my god, no god, it doesn’t matter. Each irrational configuration of facts and beliefs adds to the delusion. Our emotions are stranded in a wasteland of incomprehension. Nothing that we think to do seems particularly helpful, so we offer prayers, moments of silence, donations, rants, and support. We try to translate our feelings of dread into something positive. If we are successful, it may bring us comfort, but at what cost?
Comfort breeds conformity.
Whether we find relief from the sorrows in an ancient text, the beauty of a sunset, or a preacher’s words, it’s a personal journey. I would never try to deprive anyone of these things – these closely held beliefs that guide us and help us to try to make sense in a senseless world, that help us to find a balance between the evil with the good, that allow us to see hope in a time of hopelessness. They are yours to use as you wish to ease your burdens.
It’s none of my business.
But when those beliefs are used to make policy, it becomes my business. We should never allow the voices of those who would inject dogma into the national discussion to influence policy.
- When the memory of slaughtered children is used as proof that removing god from our schools is to blame, I say, “No!”
- When we are asked to throw up our hands in despair and do nothing about the proliferation of guns in our society because the death of those children in Connecticut is god’s will, I say, “No!”
We all know that gun violence has been a problem in America long before now, as I wrote in response to Wendy’s heartfelt post “Thoughts on Friday’s Events” following the Newtown shootings:
I’m a country bumpkin now, but I grew up in some pretty rough neighborhoods. From that vantage point, gun violence has always been a problem, because I lived in the midst of it. A thousand deaths a year, every year, in NYC should have been enough to draw attention to the problem years ago. It wasn’t. Perhaps this tragedy will.
There are things that we can do to try to stem the violence, but we have to be willing to do more than pray to get there. People often disdain regulation. They see it as an infringement of their rights. The introduction of helmet laws for bikers, seat belts, anti-smoking efforts were all met with resistance. While not perfect solutions, there’s no denying that these efforts have saved lives. Why should the regulation of guns be any different? We must let our elected leaders know that what we have now is not working. It will never work.
My initial reaction upon hearing about Newtown last Friday was to lash out, to point fingers, to look for a villain. A week later, it’s hard to shake the sense that the world is a terrible place. NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre’s soulless comments yesterday, bolsters that belief. For him to purport to have meaningful input on Newtown while excluding guns altogether is tone deaf at best and a diabolical attempt to stoke fear and swell his organization’s ranks at worst.
If I am to fear my neighbors, then I ought to be prepared to do battle. How else am I supposed to protect my family? That is the lunacy of LaPierre’s more-guns-is-the-answer stance. If I don’t participate, I am, in effect, shirking my responsibilities.
This almost makes me want to go out and buy a gun, which I suspect is exactly what the endgame is.