The Fame Flame

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.

Tweaking Gun Regulations is the Wrong Approach

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.

The Second Amendment Outlier

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.

Prayer is Not the Solution

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.

From Classroom to Casket

Rose on tombstone. Red rose on grave. Love – loss. Flower on memorial stone close up. Tragedy and sorrow for the loss of a loved one. Memory. Gravestone with withered rose

From classroom to casket

an American journey

arrive on a school bus

depart on a gurney


As children lay dead

in Uvalde Texas

it’s hard to ignore

the obvious nexus

with unfettered access

to weapons of war

the number of dead

will continue to soar


We live in a land

of pierced hearts and sorrow

no shooting today?

just wait till tomorrow

In a fog of futility

explicably numb

we reach for our heartstrings

but there’s nothing to strum

Empty

I don’t know what to say anymore. I feel empty inside – bereft of hope – drowning in sorrow – swallowed in darkness.

My expectations of humanity obliterated – smashed into the ground under the butt of an AR-15 in the hands of apathetic, craven, and power-hungry lawmakers.

What does it say about our country that slaughtered elementary school children huddled in corners of classrooms, their bodies ripped open, their fragile bones splintered and shattered, their blood smeared on the floor and splattered on the walls, the final minutes of their lives filled with overwhelming fear and terror, and still US representatives refuse to even talk about gun legislation?

This happens over and over and over again. The next school shooting is right around the corner and yet we remain stuck, unable to do anything because the people we send to congress care more about their job than the safety of your children.

The river of apathy that runs through the halls of congress intensifies the futility and hopelessness we all feel for days after a school shooting.

Now we’ll go through the scripted responses from spineless and heartless Republican legislators – the lies about the threat to the second amendment, the outrageous claim that we need more guns to combat this violence, the blame it on mental illness argument.

We’ve heard these responses so many times that we can recite them almost word-for-word.

Baby teeth and bullets

I’m Calvin’s lonely cousin
the one without a friend
The darkly-quiet moody one
The one who couldn’t blend
I’m the smoker in the stairwell,
skipping school all day
the fall-between-the-crack-type-kid
the one who slips away


I’m the ink inside the headlines
the lead story on the news
The kid the network anchor says
was surely born to lose
I’m the details at eleven
a community in shock
I’m the often-bullied quirky kid
who lived just up the block


I’m a parent’s darkest nightmare
I’m my doctors deep concern
I’m the angst that no one seems to get
the match about to burn
I’m an issue in the social science
circles of the day
I’m the brush it underneath the rug
that never goes away

I see angels circling the sun
feathered wings and halos
golden and hand-spun
Frozen little angels
Circling the sun
bursting into rain drops
cleansing everyone

I’m the isolated Incel
The bullet in the gun
The angry white American
Who’s blaming everyone
I’m the cryptic manifesto
The video online
The AR-15 lover-boy
Who grew-up Columbine

I’m the one who gave up caring
I’m the anger and the rage
I’m the finger on the trigger
I’m the tiger in the cage

I’m the suicide by cop
On the stairway in my school
I’m the little boy with crooked teeth
That others ridiculed

I see angels circling the sun
feathered wings and halos
golden and hand-spun
Frozen little angels
Circling the sun
bursting into rain drops
cleansing everyone

Tired of the AR-15 yet?

pexels-neosiam-673862

Memo to gun rights enthusiasts:

We’re not living in the land of the Walking Dead. We’re not trying to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

If someone breaks into your house, it’s probably not a gang of crazies looking to kill and eat an entire family. It’s more likely a desperate schmuck looking for cash or something to hock. A decent home security system can provide the deterrence and protection you need in most cases. But if a criminal persists, I suspect a 12-gauge shotgun or a handgun is sufficient protection.

Do people really “need” their AR-15? Of course, they don’t. Any citizen who argues they “need” an AR-15 is full of shit. But here’s the thing – they LOVE their AR-15. They enjoy firing it, and more to the point, they enjoy the feeling they get when they fire it. They get pumped like John Rambo on crack when they fire their AR-15. 

A round exploding through the barrel – the synaptic crackle and pop – the release of endorphins – the sense of control, the validation of masculinity, and the empowering dissipation of weakness and insecurity, all in one-fell-swoop. 

Why would any law-abiding citizen give up all that pleasure?

I understand the tired argument that guns and ammunition are “inanimate objects,” in and of themselves, not dangerous. But if we know that one inanimate object is being used consistently in mass shootings and that banning the sale of that object would not cause harm to society, why the hesitation?

The NRA continues to use fear (nothing loosens purse strings like fear), patriotism, and (appallingly) God, to peddle guns and pad the bottom line of gun manufacturers.

The gun lobby fills the coffers of members of Congress to push the false message that the AR-15 makes citizens safer and that it’s a valuable insurance policy against tyranny. And let’s face it, ideologically ensconced, fact-challenged Americans don’t need much convincing from the NRA.

Combine NRA efforts with an American mentality of wanting what we wantwhen we want it (also known as the big “FUCK YOU, I LOVE MY GUNS!”) – and we have what we have today.

Will banning the AR-15 and similar weapons end mass shootings? Unfortunately, no. The mass shooting issue is complicated and multifaceted. We need to do more than regulate weapons to prevent these tragedies. But banning these weapons will mean less carnage and fewer casualties per shooting. I know that’s not much, but in my opinion, it’s a baby step in the right direction.

The boulevard of the unsuspecting

pexels-derwin-edwards-4001530

A mentally disturbed and delusional kid – spurned by others – sitting behind the wheel of a BMW – firing a legally purchased 9 mm semi-automatic pistol into a crowded café and deli – killing and maiming – just as he promised.

On any given day in America, any one of us can get cast for the role of the unintended victim in the twisted wreckage of someone else’s tragic life– like we are all just a trigger finger away from a becoming a profile on CNN’s website.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun – is a good guy with a gun, except that almost never ever happens – even though Americans are armed to the teeth – we still wake up (on average) to a mass murder every two weeks – and in most of these cases, the only thing that stops the bad guy with a gun, is that very same bad guy, when after killing a slew of people, he decides to eat a bullet.

Unfortunately, many American’s are as delusional as some of these shooters – as they continue to tell themselves that more guns make for a safer society, when the data tells us the exact opposite is true.

We are immersed a culture that glorifies violence, where too many believe that violence and aggression are the solution to problems – we have inadequate and often ineffective mental healthcare and way too many people who should not have access to guns – –  have access to guns.

I am sick and fucking tired of the NRA denying the role guns play in mass murder – there is clearly a gun component to this problem – but any time anyone even mentions, considers, whispers that maybe we should look at gun regulation along with other components of the problem, the NRA ratchets up a campaign of lies and fear.

We need to wake up.