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.
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.
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.
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 wantingwhat we want, when 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.
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.
When I heard the news out of Newtown CT yesterday, I was of course saddened. I stopped working for a while and watched the news reports, worked a little bit more before heading to Providence to watch my son play basketball.
When not directly affected by such tragedies, we absorb the news of them, we process that news (fairly quickly it seems to me), and we move forward.
Next week, for the vast majority of us, life will go on. We’ll put our little ones on the school bus or shout a goodbye to our teenagers as the fly out the door in the morning, and we will do so with only the slightest bit of hesitancy.
I suppose our capacity to push through these types of events is a survival mechanism. Natural selection has weeded out the trait of extended emotional grief. Our ancestors saddled with that trait did not survive long enough to pass it along, and I suppose that is a good thing. I only wish we could find a place somewhere between “crawling into bed and pulling the covers over our head” and “life goes on”.
This week will have a familiar sickening feel to it. We’ll watch the news coverage and walk around a bit dazed. We’ll struggle with the feelings that come with resigning ourselves to the negative in life. We’llfeel it behind our eyes, on the back of our necks and shoulders, and in the pit of our stomachs.