He looks wearily from his pillow across the room at his desk, where two monitors and a Mac sit framed by a window that overlooks the side yard of his 3 bedroom, one-and-a-half bath cape.
He lays in bed with his dog for another 15 minutes, scratching her behind the ear. Finally, he lets out a heavy sigh before rolling over, sitting up, and lowering his feet to the floor.
His 11-year-old Pitbull watches sleepily, yawning and stretching across the center of the bed. He turns to give her one more pat on the head, and her tail thumps the mattress in warm appreciation. Then she lowers her head and closes her eyes. She’ll sleep another hour before heading downstairs to begin her day.
He heads down the staircase from the upstairs bedroom, emptying into the sun-splashed kitchen. It’s one of the things he likes most about the house, but he’s not sure why. He gives this some thought and concludes it’s the practicality of going from a room where sleep still clings to you to a room where the coffee pot awaits. That design makes perfect sense.
“That must be it,” he mutters to himself.
He gets the coffee pot going immediately. He opens the French doors from the kitchen to the cement patio overlooking the yard. The grass is still wet from the morning dew; he walks out, sits on a patio chair, and waits for the coffee to finish brewing.
He starts to rethink why he loves the idea of a staircase connecting the kitchen to the upstairs bedrooms, which has nothing to do with coffee and sleep. He thinks the design decision harkens back to simpler days when the kitchen was the hub of family activity. And even though that was long before his time, the idea of it sits well with him.
In another hour or so, he’ll be back upstairs at his computer, looking at emails and preparing for meetings.
He can’t wait for the day when sitting on the patio is not a prelude to work but rather an interlude to a day without plans or schedules.
Fame is potent nectar, and in America particularly, we crave fame more than any other country.
In America, millions believe that celebrity or notoriety can help one overcome a life that feels empty or seems meaningless. There are television shows that celebrate and glorify instant fame. Some social media platforms provide the false promise that all anyone needs to achieve fame is a webcam and an account.
And when attempts to capture fame crumble and the realization that fame by talent or artistry is unreachable, some Americans reach for the gun.
Because in America, a gun is always within reach, and with it, fame and notoriety.
Many people are angry today because a constitutional right that’s been in place for more than 50 years and widely supported by the vast majority of Americans was overturned by five conservative justices, three of which were appointed by the most corrupt president in U.S history.
The court’s decision does not align with what most Americans believe and want regarding bodily autonomy and healthcare for women.
So, what to do?
Well, for the 2022 midterms, we need to become single-issue voters and do whatever we can to get like-minded individuals to become single-issue voters, and then VOTE!
Vote against any candidate who supports the Supreme court’s decision to do away with a woman’s right to choose.
It’s important to remember the court’s decision does not make abortion illegal. Instead, the decision says the constitution no longer protects a woman’s right to an abortion. It’s now up to individual states to decide whether abortion is legal or illegal. A woman raped in Missouri might be criminally liable if she tries to terminate her pregnancy in that state. But if that same woman crosses the border into Illinois, her right to terminate her pregnancy is fully protected and legal.
The ruling to overturn Roe will disproportionally affect poor women. Keep your eyes peeled for organizations that will connect women who live in states where abortion is illegal to services in states where abortion is legal — and then support these organizations by donating money and volunteering. Help these organizations provide transportation and a safe place to stay for those who don’t have the means to secure resources on their own.
She can still feel the weight of her son’s head on her chest and remembers how she cupped the back of his head and ran her fingers through his dark curls.
She still feels the final squeeze around her rib cage. She remembers her son loosening his embrace, his arms slipping from around her, before letting go and walking through the front doors of his elementary school.
She can still see that carefree smile as he looked over his shoulder back towards her before disappearing forever.
She can’t bear the thought of waking up one day and not feeling the remnants of that final hug.
She has not slept through the night since the incident and cannot forgive herself for letting her boy walk through those doors.
She just wants to close her eyes, stop feeling, and slip into eternal blackness.
Knowing that other mothers suffered before her, and still more mothers will suffer after her, with no substantial changes to gun laws, hollows her out.
Her son was murdered by an 18-year-old boy with an AR-15. His right to purchase that gun was protected by an antiquated and misused 233-year-old amendment to the constitution and a gun-loving governor.
Her son’s right live and grow up was not protected.
Over the last several days she has listened to cold intellectual and academic debates about that amendment and what it means. It doesn’t mean anything to her. It’s all just empty words and platitudes. After all is said and done, her boy is dead.
She walks into her bathroom, places two framed pictures of her son on the sink and runs a hot bath. She takes off her clothes and sits on the tub’s edge, staring at his smiling face.
She remembers the day these pictures were taken.
In one, her son is wearing his Houston Astros baseball cap and clutching his glove to his chest. His first baseball game with his father. His smile bursts through the glass picture frame and she feels a sudden pang in her heart.
Her husband took the other photo and gave it to her last Mother’s Day in a frame with brightly painted flowers. In it, her son is seen squatting in the flower bed on the side of the house, joyously pointing at a snail that he discovered. The sights and sounds of that day are still fresh in her memory. She can still see the mud from the freshly watered garden seeping from the holes in his spiderman crocks — and she still hears all of the questions about this newly discovered creature.
“Mama, does he live in that shell…. is that his home?”
“What happens if he gets too big for his shell? – where does he go then?”
She remembers telling him that the shell protects the snail and keeps him safe from harm. And that memory triggers a flood of emotions. She can’t stop thinking how vulnerable and scared he must have been in those final minutes, and how no one was able to protect him from harm.
She opens the medicine cabinet and takes out a razor blade. She picks up the framed pictures and kisses each one, tears running down her cheeks. Then she turns the pictures away from the tub to face the wall at the back of the sink.
She shuts off the water, slides into the tub, and carefully cuts open the veins running from her wrist up to her forearm. She does this on each arm. Then she drops the razor in the tub and feels it slide along the side of her hip before resting underneath her left buttock.
After the latest mass shooting of children, I cringe with disgust at my fellow citizens crowing incessantly and selfishly about their right to own and carry an AR-15.
As their toxic attitude elbows its way to the forefront of a national discussion on safety, we watch news coverage of funeral processions for the 19 elementary school children slaughtered by that weapon.
It’s fucking infuriating.
I’m tired of the threadbare and ill-fitting argument that tries to square a 233-year-old constitutional amendment with the right of an 18-year-old fast-food worker to purchase a weapon designed for inflicting mass casualties. The argument collides inhumanely with grief-stricken and shell-shocked parents with pierced hearts and tattered psyches.
With images of their dead children still fresh in their minds, grieving parents listened to a United States congressman argue his constituents need the AR-15 to shoot varments.
We should be enraged by what happened in Uvalde, Texas. But, we should be just as enraged by what’s not happening in the aftermath.
Small and incremental change in the face of a full-blown public safety crisis is like placing a band-aid on an AR-15 gunshot wound to the head of a 9-year-old. We need substantial changes to our gun laws if we’re genuinely interested in saving lives.
Tweaking existing regulations around the edges is mere window-dressing for politicians. It will do very little to prevent the next mass shooting.
An outlier is something specific you can point to and say “that’s what differentiates group A from group B.”
When people ask why America has way more mass shootings than other countries, finding the outlier becomes an exercise for politicians, media, and citizens alike.
Republicans, who are close bedfellows with the gun lobbyists, always point to mental illness as the reason for mass shootings. But when you compare mental illness in America to mental illness in other countries, you see that Americans don’t suffer disproportionately. It doesn’t matter if you’re French, Italian, Spanish, or American. We’re all at the same level of crazy.
Mental illness is not an outlier for mass shootings.
But in America, when someone feels jilted, wronged, or bullied, they can stroll into a gun store, log in to a website, or walk to the back of their daddy’s closet and get a weapon like the AR-15. You can’t do that in other countries. They have laws that prevent that.
So, access to guns is an outlier.
Everyone knows that gun access is an outlier, but Republicans continue to focus on everything but guns. They put all their words and energy on other factors — steering clear of gun access like an infectious disease. For example, after the school shooting in Uvalde, TX, “hardening” targets (making it more difficult for potential shooters to access schools) became a talking-point for Republicans.
But “hardening” targets ignores the root problem. Even if we transform our schools into virtual fortresses, an angry or desperate person with a gun will find a way. When a wanna-be mass shooter gets their hands on an AR-15, they understand what they can achieve. They’ve seen what success looks like – they just need to pick a target. And if they can’t walk into a school, they’ll walk onto a playground, or they’ll walk into a mall, movie theatre, grocery store, or their place of work – as we’ve seen repeatedly.
Knowing that we can’t create universal safe zones, anxious Americans begin to feel like fish in a barrel. A sense that wherever we go or send our children, we’re potential victims of an angry man with an AR-15 who can murder multitudes in seconds.
An obvious solution is to address the outlier directly and limit access to weapons. Passing laws that up the age requirements for purchasing guns, requiring background checks, or banning certain types of weapons, such as the AR-15, would likely reduce the carnage.
The problem we face is that other outlier, which is the second Amendment to our constitution.
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Two hundred and thirty-three years after passing the second Amendment, Americans are reciting it as pushback against health and safety measures for fellow citizens. That’s where we find ourselves today.
With the 2nd Amendment, millions of Americans believe a well-armed citizenry provides a valid “check” on tyranny. And if you’re waging war against your government, you better be packing serious heat. A pistol and a 12-gauge can protect you from an intruder, but they’re no match for the 87th airborne.
That message, where citizens become patriots to fight against a tyrannical government, has been marketed and sold with great success. It’s a message that taps into our deeply held beliefs around freedom, independence, and rugged individualism. And the byproduct of this successful messaging and business model is a country awash in weapons.
I’d also argue that the mindset of “the patriot” and the mass shooter have something in common. If you push these people too far, they’ll respond in kind.
We’ve seen members of congress posing with and filming campaign commercials with the AR-15. Marjorie Taylor Greene created campaign posters of herself posing with an AR-15 and threatening other members of congress. We’ve seen angry citizens at town halls across America talking about taking up arms because they believe the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Whether it’s an 18-year-old incel looking for revenge, a deranged congresswoman from Georgia, or millions of Americans hoodwinked by lies and conspiracy theories, each sees guns as a means to solving their problems. Unfortunately, that socio-pathogenic attitude has infected America profoundly.
Passing laws to stop mass shooters from arming themselves will inevitably affect law-abiding citizens. But if you believe the polls, most gun-owners are OK with that. Moreover, gun owners are more than willing to be inconvenienced by regulations if that means their sons and daughters are less likely to be mowed down in 3rd period English.
The people who are not willing to make concessions are politicians. A politician who budges on guns will likely lose the NRA as a friend and endorser. And because most politicians have less backbone than a jellyfish, it’s unlikely they will do what is right and in the best interest of their constituents.
And so once again, America sits at a crossroad of gun rights and our right to health and safety. Politicians are left standing with their dicks in their hands, unable to make decisions and pass laws. And as they wrestle with the politics of guns, innocent people will continue to be mowed down in classrooms, grocery stores, movie theaters, concert venues, churches, malls, and parking lots.
We often turn to prayer to help us heal from emotional or physical trauma. Prayers can help us achieve inner peace or resolution. Prayers can help us get to a place that allows us to get on with life. In that sense, prayer can be a valuable tool.
But prayer is never a solution to a problem. Prayer is never an agent of change. For example, do you know who was praying the most fervently during the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas? The teachers and the parents of the students trapped in the classroom – and the children themselves. They were desperately praying for God to intervene and save them.
By now, we’ve established a precedent: praying to enact change does not fucking work.
Republican senators and congressmen desperately want their constituents to believe that prayer is a solution. Because they know if people rely on prayer alone, nothing changes. And if nothing changes, these senators and congressmen will continue to fill their coffers with money from the gun lobby.
The only way to enact change is through action. By demanding those who represent us support meaningful and impactful gun legislation. And if they don’t, we must organize, march, campaign, and pressure both candidates and corporations in communities and states where representatives refuse to act.
How does one’s life change if they no longer have their AR-15?
What can these folks no longer do that they could do when they had their AR-15?
Does their world change in any substantive way if they no longer have that particular gun?
Can they still go to work, provide for their family, hug their children, and take their son or daughter to their little league game?
I’d suggest that the only substantive change to their lives is anchored in “feelings.” They’d no longer be able to fire an AR-15 — no longer be able to experience whatever the fuck it is that gets them off when they fire that gun.
Perhaps, those suffering under the NRA-fed delusion that they “need this type of weapon” might feel unsafe without their AR-15. But that feeling would dissipate over time.
Are a rush of endorphins and a false sense of security worth sacrificing the health and safety of children?
The depth of this uniquely American attitude in the face of unending human tragedy is a fucking disgrace.