All You Zombies: Gun Violence Must Become the #1 Election Issue of 2020

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Now another century nearly gone,
What are we gonna leave for the young?
What we couldn’t do, what we wouldn’t do,
It’s a crime, but does it matter?
Does it matter much, does it matter much to you?
Does it ever really matter?
Yes, it really, really matters.

-The Kinks, 1984

Hey, did you catch yourself forgetting to think about gun control for a week or two now–because there hasn’t been a mass shooting on the news, lately.  Yeah, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.  Forget.  Because solving this epidemic is gonna mean a whole lot of people who are used to blaming other people for the nation’s problems are going to have to buckle down, and do something resembling work.

Non-Partisan Wake-Up Call 

All you Conservatives: Stop pretending that the least mention of Gun Control is a conspiracy to take your shotgun away from you, leave your home defenseless, and force you to hunt with a bow and arrow.  Just because you saw a “Ban Assault Weapons” poster, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to “keep and bear arms”; you invented that straw-man position.  Your God-given human rights are not under threat.  So cut the crap.

All you Liberals: Stop pretending that because you don’t own a gun and abhor violence that this problem of Mass Shootings is going away, or if it doesn’t go away you can’t do anything about it, and your neighbor who owns a gun is dumber than you are, and he’s responsible and part of the problem, but you aren’t.  We are all responsible, because we all have a part to play in the solution.  So cut the crap.

All you Zombies:  Stop pretending that you’ve thought this through for yourself, and have done the least bit of research outside of listening to someone else’s rant on television or radio, telling you what to think.  Have you ever held a copy of the U.S. Constitution?  Was it engraved on granite–or was it on paper?   You do realize it was meant, by the people who wrote it, to be changed in the future, as needed?  Or did you miss that day in 5th grade?  Cut the crap.

THIS IS A SOLVABLE ISSUE.

PEOPLE ARE DYING.  KIDS ARE DYING.  MASS SHOOTINGS happen in WAR.  THIS IS A WAR.

You’d go to the wall, if invaders came to our shores, wouldn’t you?  To defend all of our lives?  Wouldn’t you?  Every person reading this would.  And yet, because the war is inside any wall we could build around our country, you’re just gonna sit around on your hands, and hope for the damn best??

Recently, I was preparing to sit down and fill this space with a movie review of John Wick 3, the thesis of which would have been that such a film needs to be rated X for Violence (NC-17, today.)  In other words, children should not be allowed to see it.  At all.

Which is ironic, of course, because never did a movie follow the formula of a video game so closely: the gathering of gold coins and a slow, monotonous killing spree intercut by confrontations with various bosses (enemy characters with actual names and faces,) with a minor change of mission after each movement, until you simply run out of enemies to kill.  To compare it to a musical suite–some critics have– would be to overdignify a series of acts characterized by having to shoot ever-more-powerful-adversaries multiple times in the face, as the ordeal drags on.

Something, however, kept me from it.  Perhaps I had some inkling of what was happening in Virginia Beach, in the real world; a place I used to live.  I have friends and neighbors there, and hundreds of former students.

Mass shooting.  That’s what was happening.

Of course, my first reaction was to find out if everyone I knew is okay.  As far as I was able to determine at the time, they were.  Okay.  And then the whole cycle resumes: shock, disbelief, relief, outrage, depression. . .amnesia.

Amnesia.  It’s human.  “It happened to someone else, somewhere else.  Not me.  I’m okay.”  It’s cultural.  Like “We live in a society of trade-offs.  Guns are part of our freedom.”

And it’s crap.

The depression that sends us back to sleep after these mass shootings is a by-product of anger mixed with a feeling of utter helplessness.  We don’t seem to have a solution.  We hope it’s finally over.

Only trouble is: it ain’t over.  Seventeen years ago, I walked the perimeter of Columbine High School, while on a summer visit to Colorado.  As lonely and desolate as any abandoned desert prison. I thought the clear air might have something to teach me.  And whatever it was, has haunted me through the intervening years, as seemingly, like clockwork, this disease we cannot rid ourselves of has moved throughout the nation, on an ill wind, taking lives wherever it will.

If the daughter of a Supreme Court justice or senior senator were vacationing in Virginia, and happened to be paying a ticket at the facility at the corner of Princess Anne and the    Parkway, we would now be seeing the beginning of the end of this epidemic.  Because when it happens to you, apparently, is a language we humans seem to understand.  It’s why we didn’t enter World War II until Pearl Harbor.

And that’s crap too.  Because somebody knew the 12 people who died on that day.  They’re all somebody’s wife, daughter, mother, sister, father, brother, son.  Friend, neighbor.  Peter Baelish had a few wise things to say: “Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend.”  They’re not somebody else; they’re us.  And, damn it, it’s tragic because this problem can be solved.

The folks we elect need to do their jobs.  They’d rather argue about whether an abortion law the Supreme Court decided sixty years ago needs to be revised.  About whether a newly fertilized egg, a fetus, deserves life–when undoubtedly living human beings are being murdered regularly, systematically, and predictably now, in cold blood, and the laws that could save those lives are not even being discussed with any seriousness.  

Yeah, it’s hard.  It’s a lot of damn work.  Those people on the hill have to argue and decide: IF access to firearms should be restricted further than it is; HOW it can be restricted by laws, and enforced; and WHAT sort of firearms we are talking about.

This business about stricter background checks (“WHO””) is a distraction.  The WHO is everybody.  It’s everybody’s problem, because everybody is at risk–and so everybody has to give up something.

The WHAT is far more pertinent.

Don’t pretend there can’t be a limit on “arms,” as (not) specified in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  There already is.  As a private citizen, you can’t own an M1-Abrams tank.  You can’t own a functional 50-caliber machine gun.  Do you really think you have a good reason to own a semi-automatic, concealable weapon capable of killing or wounding 30 people in 30 seconds?  Do you?  Cause if you’re afraid the National Guard might someday come to your house, I got news for you: your little cache of AR-15s and 10,000 rounds of 5.56mm aren’t going to defeat the National Guard.  You ain’t John Wick.

By now, the answer to “IF” should be painfully clear to anyone without an investment in a gun collection and several thousand rounds (most of my former neighbors in Virginia Beach, for example.)  It’s really just a matter of wrangling out HOW.

These so-called pre-election “issues” are crap too–to the extent that they are far less immediate, and distract from immediate dangers.  Instead of solving the real problems of our society: institutionalized racism disguised as “border security,” employment statistics manipulated to disguise the fact that real, full-time jobs have been replaced by pseudo-jobs, and exploitation is the New Normal; an entire generation of kids being sold into debt and wage slavery; farmers and small businesses being starved out, to name a few–politicians get us looking the other way.  It’s sleight-of-hand.  The oldest trick in the book.  And they do it, not because they aren’t smart enough to do the real work–but because it’s too damn hard.  Especially if you’re safe: you’ve got the Secret Service, or something like it, and security at home and fences and metal detectors and ADT and a reputation and a big lawn and money between you and the problem.  Then you’ve got no motivation to solve the problem; because you tell yourself the lie that it’s not your problem, or that it’s too big of a problem.

“But if you restrict guns by law, only the criminals will have them.”  You’d have to be 5 freakin’ years old to fall for this stupid line.  Examine a law–ANY law.  Just because some people break laws, does that mean you just give up and not make laws?  Is this how you raise your children?  By this logic, because some people insist on driving drunk, we shouldn’t bother making it illegal, or enforcing it, or punishing offenders.  Brilliant.

Post 9/11 especially, we have given up so much freedom already, in the name of security.  It should count for something we can point to, and say: For this, we made a sacrifice.  We all chose to willingly give up a little something, so that everyone else could have their fair share.  We already do it every time we stop at a traffic light, and wait for the other guy to, as the Declaration of Independence names it, “pursue [his] happiness.”  It’s not total freedom.  It’s what the Founders who wrote the U.S. Constitution–yes, the same ones who called it a human right to bear arms–called Liberty.  A restriction on freedom, to protect the greater good.   When people–regular people–say “Freedom isn’t free,” what they really mean is that, by its nature, liberty isn’t free.  You earn it.  WE earn it.  By deciding what’s really most important, and letting the rest go.

You wanna Choose Life for another person?  Turn off the BS screens and the rhetoric and the class-loyalty and race-loyalty and party-loyalty long enough to realize that choosing bullets is not even close to Choosing Life.

Call to Action: What can we do?

I’d like to lay it at all at the feet of the lawmakers, but I don’t have the heart to do it anymore.  They’re clearly not able.  They need our help.  Not just Democrats, not just Republicans, or Indies, or non-party members.  ALL OF US.

We need to hold Congress accountable.  To do their jobs.  To represent us.

We need to reconsider what’s more important: loyalty, or life.

I swear I will go out and change my party affiliation for this.  Because crap is crap, no matter what name it calls itself by.

As election time approaches, and politicians start sending mailings and shaking hands and kissing babies, you wait, because someone is going to come to you for a vote, from Dog Catcher to President.  Liberal or Conservative, shake their hand in a gesture of peace, and then challenge them with a direct question:

What are you DOING about gun violence? At your level?  NOW?

No promises, no plans or visions.  ACTION.

Any equivocation should be met with a single response:  You will not have my vote on election day without a clear ACTION LIST, not a PROMISE, for what you are contributing to the elimination of gun violence in America.  And if your opponent, of whatever party–Republican, Democrat, Indie, Green, Blue or Pink–has one that’s better, s/he WILL get my vote.

Then watch something happen. . .because, as a wise American once wrote, No matter how small the beginning, something once well-done, is done forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Archetypes of Pop Culture: Sacrificial Lambs and Old Goats

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“Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”  These words, asked of the American people less than a week ago by President Barack Obama, echo a plea repeated by civilized peoples, and dramatized in literature, at least as far back as the ancient Greek city-states.

You must understand: Literature and film only present extreme manifestations of what regular human beings endure every day.  They amplify everyday experience.  In short, they only exaggerate, but they do not change the basic truths.

Oedipus, in fear of his own inadequacy, called for a scapegoat because a plague had come to Thebes: “Whoever he may be, cast him out!” And his mandate did not stop short of murder.  In the first post from this series, Zombie Apocalypse Now, I alluded briefly to this horrific phenomenon of human sacrifice, which people today foolishly dismiss as a relic of the historical past, or unique to primitive cultures.  No–we do it here, and now.  We did it on December 14, 2012, in Newtown CT.  We?  Yes, every  one of us has a share of that guilt, as long as we remain silent, and await the next event.

WE resist change.  WE fear our own vulnerability.  WE are too selfish to trade personal safety for the good of our society.  You can insist on conjuring a demon of chaos, and calling him Adam Lanza, or Seung-Hui Cho, or Eric Harris, or Dylan Kleybold.  But you still have to answer either one of two questions: Either, What contribution are you making–no matter how small an act–to take his weapons away, OR: What will you call him next year?

Because it was never more truly said than in this case: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

In that earlier post, I made this claim:  “The plot archetype beneath the collective and individual struggle for survival emerges as what Campbell called the Scapegoat Myth, wherein other human beings are sacrificed impulsively for one’s own personal safety/comfort (as in the all-too-human pushing of someone aside to escape the pursuing [Zombie] horde), or ritualistically, for the supposed good of the community at large, as simply told in the classic Shirley Jackson tale “The Lottery,” or most recently convoluted by Joss Whedon in his Cabin in the Woods (2011). In such tales, Man is revealed as the most monstrous Thing of them all, because alone among created beings does he turn on his own kind – zombies, aliens, pirahna, at least, do not eat each other. But a man will slay his brother, or steal his life savings, or repossess his house, or covet his wife. All in slavish worship of his insatiable hunger.”

This archetype is so compelling within the collective unconscious–sustained by guilt–that it resurfaces in a slightly different form of storytelling, every few years.  It has to.  The plague (perceived first as an external threat) takes many forms, such as a monster like the Kraken, or Witches in Salem, or Communists, or the shark from Jaws, or terrorists, or serial killer (as in Stephen King’s televised novel Storm of the Century: “Give me what I want and I’ll go away” demands the murderer, in bloody wall-script.  By the time such a demand–“Price,” to use Obama’s apt word–is actually named, fearful citizens will go to any length to satisfy it.  Not coincidentally, King’s villain wanted children too.  The innocent, the virgin, the young, are so much easier to digest than the corrupt adults.

Like Martin Luther King before him, it has now become clear to our nation’s leader that the plague on U.S. society is violence (guns are simply one of its limbs.)  And if we cannot, all in one day, lop off the head of the beast, then a limb ought to make a good start.

Witness the fearful public reaction, even before U.S. leaders make any concrete decree.  Hiding behind the ambiguity of the Constitution, and mindless sloganeering: “Pry it from my cold, dead hands,” as if they really had that kind of courage.  A true person of courage would not be ready to so easily commit the lives of others he’ll never know, and on a regular basis, to staunch the flow of piss down his own leg, because he can’t imagine life without the power to kill within reach.

I’m the last person to advocate for relinquishing control over my personal affairs to government lawmakers.  If you love your guns–and more likely you love them as anyone loves any material object, simply because its yours and thus has value–and if you believe in the right to keep and bear arms promised in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights–good.  Insist lawmakers make sensible distinctions, and not some fascist, blanket mandate. Trade in your pistols and automatic rifles for a deer rifle, or shotgun, or even a compound bow.  You can still hunt game and bar the door against intruders with those, and they are not likely to ever be hidden under a coat or smuggled into a school.

Are we really going to roll over, as a nation of 300 million people, and say that this plague, this monster, is too tough for all of us combined?  If another nation of millions attacked us, we would not hesitate to rise up in wrath, before we sent a single, innocent child in our stead.  But that is a solution of violence.  Do we dare seek a solution of peace?  Do we dare model for our children the way of courage, and not fear?  Do we have the guts?  Are we willing to pay THAT price?

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