My Mother Owns A Gun

“Throughout the history of mass gun killings in America…” is a phrase I never want to hear again, but as the meta-indication of the phrase denotes, I definitely will. This time, as with so many times before,  a former FBI profiler used it while being interviewed by a cable news anchor whose actual expertise for his network is early morning political analysis, not breaking gun murder news. As such it was not surprising, yet slightly disingenuous, when he called Aurora, Colorado an American suburb straight from central casting. I do however, know what he meant: that Aurora could be any American suburb, we all know that town, that strip mall, that theatre multiplex with the stadium seating and the THX sound system. Any one of us could have been in that midnight show of the new Batman last night. We are all from central casting, and we all know this script by heart.  The coverage goes something like this, I will bullet point it for you, pun intended:

  • Heavily armed, likely mentally ill young man walks into a crowded public space and opens fire.
  • The victims are all age ranges, from the very young to the very old. It’s always the kids dying that really makes us sick. The first responders are deft and often heroic. The shooter is either killed or subdued and brought into custody.
  • Cable news scrambles to get the facts straight, sometimes they screw up badly like when NPR prematurely announced the death of Representative Gabrielle Giffords after her attack last January, and the TV news went with the unverified reports.  They start interviewing surviving or merely wounded victims who give their eyewitness accounts using phrases like, “it sounded like firecrackers” or “it seemed like a movie” or “I slipped on some blood.”
  • We cut to the news conferences and endless interviews of police authorities, the chiefs of surgery, the friend who knew a guy who had a class with the shooter, the open carry advocates, the gun control supporters.
  • We shake our heads and fight back tears and swallow the mouth sweats down hard.
  • We remember the last one and we always, ALWAYS remember Columbine.
  • Some of us start pleading for more gun control, but weak to do anything, we can only unfriend the person in our Facebook list we didn’t realize was an NRA talking points automaton.
  • We feel like shooting someone.

Why is this happening again?  WHY?  What the hell is wrong with us that we cannot, as community members, Coloradoans, Americans, as HUMAN BEINGS, once and for all stop with the free flow of guns in our country?

My mother has a gun.  MY MOTHER HAS A GUN.  I do not agree with this at all and I tell her every single chance I get that she is part of the problem.  Before you start parsing the 2nd Amendment and talk to me about hunting, let me make the uniquely American statement that if you are a hunter who uses guns to kill your animal prey and you keep those guns locked up in a vault and your ammunition is kept separately and also locked and you have registered and insured those guns and maintain the good working order of those guns,  I am not talking to you.  I am talking to my mother and the millions of Americans who own handguns because they feel they the need to protect themselves.  You people, the legal gun owners, are the enablers of our entire gun problem.  There, I said it.

My heart should not have to go out to the victims, or their loved ones, or the theatre staff, or the first responders, or the doctors, surgeons and nurses, or the mental health professionals, or the good people of my first home state of Colorado who are dealing first hand with this attack on their sanity and security.  My heart should be celebrating for the everyday triumphs of all the aforementioned, none of whom I know, but are all part of my central cast.  My uniquely American central cast.  I will of course, share my heart with those who are most in need.

And then, I will use my brain:

GUN CONTROL NOW.

***Updated: My mom and I have had a long talk about this post.  I got very emotional in telling her again how much I don’t like her gun.  In her words to me, “I love you.  We are okay.”

More in the Plus Column

Yummm, what?

All in all, quite a good day.  Decided to remind myself for posterity that even though it was the one year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, and that Sarah Palin is still a bizarre narcissist, and that my check engine light is glaring at me and each mile that passes adds a dollar of repair work to a bill already in the thousands, and that I still have not gotten back into my run routine, many good things stacked up.

To wit:

–> Good friend got her Op-Ed published!  Go local politics!
–> Grilled cheese consisting of chèvre, monterey jack, applewood-smoked bacon, and apricot-jalapeño relish with a cup of tomato soup on the side for lunch.  (Above pic was snapped and sent to torture the friend who missed this deliciousness.  It worked.  He was sad.)
–>New Italian cappuccino place around the corner from the office.  It looks like a Bond film inside.  Good capp too.
–> Daniel Hernandez, Public Service Badass aka Intern to Rep Gabrielle Giffords.  Hear me now: the kids I work with on US Public Service Academy are just like him.  The future for American government actually is bright.
–> One quart of oil extinguished one warning light.
–> Oasis.  Van Morrison.  Supertramp.  Heard them all today at random moments and felt… nostalgic/love/melancholy/elated/deeply content.
–> Received all “Exceeds Expectations” on my employee review.
–> And a modest raise.
–> And a bonus.  (You won’t be missed, check engine light!)
–> President Barack Obama.  Welcome back, sir. We have missed you.

Gratitude. It works every time.

Words Matter. Tone Matters.

Get it? (Thanks MH for sharing.)

Sometimes, writing is hard.  Sure writer’s block comes and goes, but often it is the burden of having too much to say, too many stories to tell, too many feelings to share, and that is certainly how I feel today in light of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona yesterday.  The sudden convergence of so many of the things I that I care so deeply about – public service, politics, citizenship, free speech, my country, the freedom to do your Saturday errands and meet your representative at a strip mall – have quite literally been shot in the head. I knew I needed to write, but because this event interconnects so many personal anecdotes, I fear a flood of word vomit.  But, I also know if I don’t get it out, I will stay sick.

I was in Washington DC in July (the first of two trips there in 2010) working with a grassroots policy movement I support with bills before Congress to create a United States Public Service Academy.  I have now been to DC four times in two years, and each time I feel more completely American than the time before.  Other times I feel significantly American are ironically, during and after instances of national tragedy. Yesterday, after the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, members of her staff, a federal judge, a child and citizens of the community, I felt the weight of that American identity and all it means to live in a country where we can both meet our Congresswoman at the local Safeway and carry a concealed weapon because (in some states) we have the right to do so.

I have been laid-up in one way or another the past month with various injuries, aches and pains, and yesterday morning started with me trying to not slip into despair over a fairly gnarly muscle spasm in my low back that has severely limited my mobility and hurts like a mother-effer.  Knowing that I would likely not be able to run yet again, I could hear the whinging pity party music starting to play in my head.  Resigned, I opened my computer and started to mindlessly click around and within about 20 minutes the banner headlines of BREAKING NEWS started to appear that there was a shooting in Arizona. I turned the TV on and started passing through the cable news channels to see who had the best coverage of what was happening.  I distinctly chose MSNBC first since I too am not immune to our polarized political/media climate and am a progressive-liberal Maddow watcher, but their coverage was all over the place; stomaching FOX that early and in pain was not yet an option for me, and so I went to CNN, who even though they had the B-team in, were doing the best they could under the circumstances.

Once I started to process what I was hearing, I went back to Facebook to see if any of my Arizona friends and college students with whom I work on the Academy (and have in fact met with Giffords on several occasions) had any news and within minutes declarations of shock and sadness were being posted. I realized then that I was shaking and had to walk away from the computer.  My sore back prevented me from doing what would have been best, running or hiking, so I turned on a football game, and tried to numb out rooting for the Saints.

The past 24 hours unfolded on the cable news networks as to be expected, lots of the same meager info being repeated and B-roll of Giffords on the floor of the House on a loop.  Also predictable, were the status updates, posts, tweets and blogs that were taking political sides on our now ubiquitous social media outlets.  (Remember when… only SIX years ago, there was no Facebook and MySpace was for teens and bands, and no one tweeted excepts birds… sigh.  Times they are a changin’.)  I of course found myself gravitating to my side of the aisle, and could feel my frustration rising with reminders of all the most famous vitriol that was spilled less than three months ago during the mid-term elections.  I did note however, that my new personal policy of staying out of it on Facebook was doing some good for my sanity.  About eight or so months ago, I began drastically reducing my own postings of news and editorials that I found important and also pretty well stopped commenting on others’ posts of news and editorials.  (Also hated that FB started reporting to all on what I was commenting on in the main feeds.)  I could see threads of people I know and love having fights and spewing ad hominem attacks on one another out of sheer frustration, often parroting the complete misinformation propagated by the main stream media and commentators but never actually having a conversation about ANYthing. It disgusted me.  And worse it shut me up right when we needed cool heads to talk about what to me should be a non-issue: health care for all of our citizens.

I tried to focus on using my power for good not evil, and stuck with promoting the Academy via my FB account, but  mostly through direct emails to my family and friends.   I was thrilled to be able to go to DC again and walk through the House and Senate office buildings and meet with Reps and Senators and staffers.  I felt blessed to have had this experience and to be representing such a worthwhile bill and knew that this work is exactly what the media, mainstream and social, was completely missing with its superheated rhetoric. Although I left DC in July on a high note, I had an ominous sense that the sludge of violent discontent was running just underneath our feet.  (Yeah, just like in “Ghostbusters 2” only we did not have those nifty zappers to blast and contain the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man of Doom we created.)

In late September, with the campaigns for the midterms at full tilt, The Daily Show announced the Rally To Restore Sanity which would be held the weekend before the elections.  My brother surprised me with plane tickets and a plan: we were going to the Capitol to get sane! The show pulled permits at the National Mall for 60 thousand people. Over TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND of us showed up and there was not one arrest.  The sheer number alone told me that a majority of Americans of vastly differing views are craving calm and rational discourse but no one is giving it to us, except comedians and musicians. I have written before about the healing power of art and music, but democracy also requires serious, rational, quantifiable debate and discussion which then leads to understanding, compromise and law.  And this is supposed to be led by the people we elect to represent our views NOT by highly paid commentators whose only skin in the game is their image, not their citizenship.

Honestly, I have pages of notes that I had written back in October, before the Rally and the elections, and intended on writing a post about it.  I was totally riled up, it was working on me too!  Something stopped me, and I think mostly it was the sense that no one would really listen because my frustrations, although loud and intense in my head, were not about taking a side. Everyone (on all sides) was in fact participating in the nuclear-option rhetoric.  I thought of Sarah Palin and her constant use of gun and attack imagery and taunting; I thought of Representative Alan Grayson calling Republicans “the Taliban”; I thought of Rush Limbaugh <insert racist/homophobic/sexist taunt here>; I thought of Joe Manchin, Governor of West Virginia, shooting the cap and trade bill in a campaign ad.  Gross.  All of it so disgusting and cynical and hurtful and ultimately consequential.  And I did not speak up, so I am now.

Civil discourse is critical.  Without it, we enable those among us who lack the self-control and who very well may be mentally ill or unstable to use extreme violence to make their point.  Murdering people with whom we disagree is catastrophic.  Murdering innocent people who happen to be in the way of the bullets is tragic, heartbreaking, and offensive to the human spirit.

Words matter.  Tone matters.  Respect matters.  American democracy is lost without it.  We must show our leaders how to do it as they have lost their way.