It was a day just like any other day; every other day for that matter, the week before Christmas. A non-stop, full throttle, balls to the wall, dash into retail oblivion in search of the most elusive treasure and sought after booty…the Perfect Gift. The one spectacular bauble, the one ideal garment, the one size fits all gift card, already pre-wrapped and stuffed neatly into its accompanying envelope. This is the obligatory quest of a Nation. A curious and irrational exercise in civility, temperament and diligence, set into motion before the dishes are cleared after Thanksgiving Dinner. This take-no-prisoners, shop first-ask questions later, leave the weak behind mentality could likely be an underlying and unproven affect of turkey and stuffing with pumpkin pie.
For it seems that the commencement of this season begins following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and has claimed it’s first casualties before Snoopy and Garfield have been deflated and freed from their ninety foot Earth-binding leashes.
Yes…this is Christmas.
The season of giving…and traffic, and no parking, and sales, and snowballs and egg nog…and suicide. This is the time of year for Peace On Earth and good will towards Men. The time of year when charity is expected, and grace and joy are the unrealistic consequence of jingle bells and ginger bread. This is the time of year when poinsettias are potted and scattered across the nation as if to provide the entire country with a much needed splash of poisonous color in an otherwise grey and dismal landscaping pallet. The time of year when houses and their fore lying shrubbery and trees are draped and illuminated in the most elaborate of patterns, awash in every color the human eye can behold. Tis the season of the evergreen genocide, in which we assemble in mass, with axes and chainsaws in hand and set out on a locust-like brigade to level groves of pine trees…only to later reassume their stature in our homes and dress them in heirloom ornamentation with tinsel and garlands.
Yes this is Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. My favorite time of the year.
This is the season that makes me giggle at the slightest gesture. The end of the calender brings me a joy that I, admittedly, don’t fully understand. A strange and lyrical season that argues and fights with my more cynical nature and ultimately wins. These cold and busy weeks, when children are dressed in their holiday best, families gather together and friends are more seasonally available, are my favor weeks of all fifty two.
This is Christmas…a child’s global playground. The one time of the year when it’s truly better to be a child than to be an adult.
Except on that day.
That day… was a bad day.
Sure, it started out as a good day. It looked like every other good day before it at Christmas time. Bright and chilly, laced with all the previously mentioned distractions and yet, hopeful with the sense of accomplishment that the Perfect Gift would be found, and in the right size. And on sale.
That day began for me as it did for countless others; with coffee, breakfast, morning dog walk and a very, very quick shower. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Time was becoming a major factor in this Holiday countdown to the inevitable. Time was going to run out, whether I or anyone else was fully prepared for it or not. Christmas was going to happen.
So I got myself dressed, no longer the task of layering for warmth that it had been in NYC, shorts, t-shirt, flip flops – done. I am now one of the millions of Americans, officially in the Rat Race. With my own schedule, rough map of destinations and their allotted placement on my itinerary, I am on the go go go. Me, Myself and I are in a full on race against You, Them and They…and the first one to the checkout line wins.
And then it all stopped. I stopped. The world stopped.
As I sat in my car, having just started the engine, my ears were hearing something bad, and it was not coming from my well worn Ford Escape. Coming through my car radio, as if it were some ghastly portal straight from hell, was a report that my ears were hearing, but my heart and my head could not comprehend.
Something very bad was happening in Newtown, Connecticut. And it was happening in an elementary school…and to children.
I turned off my car and raced back into the house. Sure enough: every modern tool of communication had become its own ghastly portal from Hell, spewing this same absurd tale of children…babies…being gunned down in their classrooms. Now, I miss my car radio, because these indoor portals are broadcasting images, and this I cannot endure.
On screen and on every channel some reporter or another has interrupted our regularly scheduled programming to bring us this breaking news. This heartbreaking news. It was the worst form of news imaginable. A lone gunman has done the unthinkable…breaking into an elementary school and killing twenty six people, twenty one of them children. The on screen images assaulted me from every device. Computer, cell phone, television…it didn’t matter, there was no escaping this tragedy. With tears in my eyes, I could not turn away. On screen, the parents of children attending Sandy Hook Elementary School were being detained, screaming and crying. Held back for their own safety by the municipal police of Newtown and enraged with fear for their children, parents were lost, confused and undeniably scared. More images race across the screen: children are running hand in hand out of their school, screaming, crying and terrified. Panic has found itself a hot spot in the lower Connecticut hills, and is spreading itself across the entire nation at break neck speed and with unrelenting force. Children are being murdered on MSNBC, FOXNews and CNN. The nation cannot help but be appalled. This is the criteria for a nightmare, the unexplained force of subconscious activity, mind games…just a bad dream. This is not the imminent global headline worthy of interrupting Judge Judy or The Price Is Right, It can’t be.
Who, Why, and How instantly become the only questions being heard. Both on air and on the street, people are dumbfounded. This can’t be happening. But it is. The details slowly roll on to the screen, far too slowly and with no guarantee of accuracy.
But time; it seems, has stopped.
For hours I sat in front of my television and watched as the most horrid and sketchy of details came scrambling in. Six, nine. twelve, sixteen confirmed dead…mostly children, some teachers, the numbers just keep climbing. With a heavy heart, I fumbled with the remote flashing from one news network to another, seeking some glimmer of hope. But Hope was absent from school that day and the images railed on. The things I saw will forever be etched in my mind and the screams of parents and children will echo in my ears for some time to come. But even these unimaginable video and audio assaults on the human condition would pale in comparison to the most disgusting and offensive of spew to be uttered by people who love their guns more than they love their children.
It took only a few short hours before the narrow minded, gun toting, right wing, anti-Obama lobby machine switched on and began to pollute the airwaves with scare tactics and remedial statistics. Within hours of the Pledge of Allegiance, the plague of the Nation had formulated a plan to express itself with no regard for sensitivity or facts. Before the lunch bells would normally ring at SHES, FoxNews managed to find some militant, anti-Obama-government, gun toting, ”expert” to defend the shooter’s right to posess these weapons. Even though he killed the actual gun owner and stole them…and the owner was his mother. This ”expert” demanded that this was another isolated incident.
Another. Isolated. Incident.
I am sick.
With apparently no time for investigation, facts, grieving, sensitivity or common sense, the conservative gun lobby began it’s assault on intelligence and began politicizing the nightmare before us. Such blatant disregard for sensitivity and compassion should be criminal. With smug expressions and ill fitting suits, representatives from this Hunt Club or that Gun Club made their way onto FoxNews, only to be coaxed by on air ”journalists” seeking to defend the Second Amendment and begin the left/right maelstrom.
Yes the hellish game of political spin had begun. With fresh blood and bodies still littering the floors of Romper Room, grown men
(presumably fathers), sat in poorly lit meeting rooms of high rise offices and discussed the ”language” for their press release. While two floors up, in sleek, well lit executive board rooms, the six-figure crowd discussed ”exposure” and ”public perception” and ”shareholder inconvenience” While the rest of the nation still tried to come to terms with what was happening in Newtown, CT, the Gun Lobby enacted a well calculated plan that had been formulated following the first mass killings in a school at Columbine,CO. Mailers will be sent out, statements will be made to the press, experts will explain statistics, rallies will be organized and if you can fucking believe it…gun appreciation day. The game of media cat-and-mouse have begun…a non stop he said/she said of statistics and numbers, laws and regulations, anger and fear, none of which explain why six year old Jonny is riddled with bullets on the gymnasium floor.
And, not unlike the game of chess: pawns move first.
The most powerful of the Right Wing Lobby Mafia, the National Rifle Association did what every publicist in the world would advise: lock down, hide away and keep quiet. Making no official statement and not being available for comment, the NRA let it’s unofficial underlings bare the brunt of a Nation that wanted justice, reform and sanity. Like some uncaring step-brother witnessing a schoolyard ass whooping; Firearm’s Big Brother sat back and watched while sibling after sibling took beating after beating. Unwilling and unable to intervene from it’s seemingly fixed position on this disturbing game board, the King of guns did nothing but wait. And when the time was right and fever pitch was raised to breaking point King NRA made his move.
In what would become one of the most commonly discussed press releases; amongst people that wouldn’t normally give a shit, Wayne LaPierre -Executive VP of the NRA expressed his sorrow for the tragedy in Connecticut, reminded the Nation of it’s right to possess guns, AND if you can believe this…suggested putting armed guards in every school in America.
THIS can’t be happening…but it is.
Rather than consider even discussing gun control, or reform of any kind, the suggestion of the NRA is to put at least one gun in every school in the United States. That’s right- the NRA has turned one of the worst of human tragedies into a sales opportunity and membership pitch…and out looks like middle America is buying. Immediately following Mr. LaPierre’s ridiculous statements and even more absurd suggestions, American social media exploded, leaving intelligence gasping for life, and an entire country pebbled with stupidity’s shrapnel. I don’t tweet…ever, but my Facebook news feed was suddenly punctuated with right wing, second amendment defense fund, alarmist propaganda. Warnings issued to citizens that ”the Socialist, left-wing, Muslim, Obama administration” was coming to take away our guns. Post after post telling of ” the right to bare arms” and the Constitutionality of gun ownership. I saw posts attacking the President as a hypocrite for being protected by armed men at all times…even though the Secret Service is mandated by the Treasury Department and not the White House. People blamed Hollywood and video games…Godless parenting and mental instability. Some people even blamed the schools and teachers…like those murdered at SHES. People…friends of mine…parents of children I know and love, all heralding the same dangerous message: ”the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun”. But the most upsetting of all, the one post that blistered with scathing insensitivity and rancid forethought was nothing more than the ad for the weapon used in Connecticut: a simple photo of the gun against a black backdrop with a tagline: ”your man card has been reissued”.
What the fuck…?
It is probably obvious that I am not a gun owner. I grew up in a home where guns would not be tolerated. My mother and father were practical people and there was absolutely no position for hand guns in their practical homestead. As an adult I’ve come to realize that there is still no place in my life for guns. This is a decision that I am comfortable with, one that I can live with. But I do not begrudge those who do own guns. How could I? How can we?
We rely on the safety of a gun, both as individuals and collectively as a nation. We are Constitutionally empowered with the Right to own guns, a Right not afforded to citizens of all nations and one that We take for granted. People collect guns, trade guns, auction guns, personalize guns, compete with guns…and yes, die from guns. But we love our guns. Every US child, including those murdered in Connecticut, has played ”cops and robbers” at some point in their glorious childhood. Fashioning a gun from their forefinger and thumb, a simple twig or even Mom’s hairbrush and chasing the ”bad guys” around the house or yard. Plastic guns have been made for children for as long as I can remember and undoubtedly of wood or some other material before my time. Dart guns, squirt guns, cap guns and bb guns are all commonplace toys in American childhoods…as much as hot dogs, baseball or apple pie. Hollywood has a fetish with guns that only grows stronger AND don’t get me started on video games.
So why is it that a Nation that was raised on guns, relies on guns, manufactures guns and makes billions of dollars on guns, can’t have a rational discourse on gun control? Why is this great nation so polarized on an issue that’s in such desperate need of compromise and unity? How many more isolated incidents does this nation have to witness before grown adults can embrace a logic that seems inherit to children?
No one, anywhere is suggesting collecting the privately owned guns of US citizens, such a thing is absurd, irrational, and not even remotely practical. However this kind of hyperbole is dangerous, it prevents open dialogue, incites division and clouds the truth with fear. Politicians know that guns are a political minefield; a dangerous landscape that few inside the beltway traverse and even fewer escape politically alive. The Gun Lobby has deep pockets and never-ending connections that keep Bills out of Congress and people out of Washington. The White House is moving slowly and cautiously towards gun control legislation while just down the street The Supreme Court seems to be biding it’s time, waiting for the inevitable Bench-Busting case that will force the Court’s hand on national gun legislation.
But we cannot wait. As a Nation, we need to move first…we are after all..the pawns in this game. We need to look for real solutions to gun accessibility, background checks, mental health and military grade weaponry. We need to be able to have frank and honest discussions about guns without mistruths and unrealistic threats to the Second Amendment. We must not politicize tragedy and glorify division at the expense of facts and emotions only to delay legislation. This Government of and by the people must lookout for the people…especially when the People aren’t old enough to vote.