An American Problem

A poem, more or less.

When
I read
Seventeen children
Were shot dead

I shook my head and swiped to the next blood red news. Fourteen injured and I didn’t blink. I didn’t think any more of it. That’s how inured I am. It was type on pages. Then I saw their faces and the shell of apathy cracked and the patina faded. These kids are dead. These children died. And I’m a grown man so when I cried it was on the inside and I took deep breaths until — my eyes cleared and the lump in my throat subsided. Choke down the shame that our society decided that this is the price of freedom.

This
Is the price
Of freedom
Are they free now?

180217-parkland-victims-16up-composite_f28d54947a0ad694bc02699c473e6dc2-nbcnews-fp-1200-800
Photo from nbcnews.com

Sacrifices on the altar of our pride and arrogance. Americans: the death cult.

Not naive. I believe we have a right and responsibility to defend. There’s a reason for the Second Amendment but every right has its limits.

Can a gun that’s loaded mow down innocents on its own? No. Can one man who’s disposed to fits of alienated rage slaughter dozens on his own without munitions?

So, even without gunpowder there’s a disaffected condition. But a killing machine and a kid on a mission turns a schoolhouse into an abattoir, sprouting exit wound flowers. A nightmare with no quick fixes except for…

Thoughts
And prayers

We’ve already decided what’s acceptable. We’ve decided that the status quo is collateral damage. It’s too soon for solutions when the bodies are still warm after the rampage. Then it’s later. Tick tock.

Reset the clock.

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Photo from cnn.com

Okay. That’s enough of that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being emotional. I don’t want to exploit the images of these kids or any victims of violence, but I also think it’s important to not forget their faces. To not forget the humanity.

When it gets warm outside the kids who live around here play in the playground. They’re loud, annoyingly so sometimes. They run and yell and the little girls scream the way they do when they play. When I see those faces above, the thought of children screaming in fear — like, pain, shock, and fear of imminent death — breaks my heart. And the adults trying to protect them.

But so what, right? That’s just emotion and fear. How can we prevent it from happening again? There’s no workable solution. That’s what people are saying and accepting. I think that’s true in a way, because there is no one solution.

This is a problem, a Jenga of problems, that we need to approach from all angles: educational, interpersonal, medical, legislative, legal, criminal, and cultural.

None of those facets will eliminate all of anything and there will always be a determined wounded soul (that’s more compassionate than asshole — I had to check myself), but a holistic approach can minimize the chaos and carnage.

I’m thinking about it like this. What actions can we take that will stop the next school/church shooting? What actions can we take that will stop a school/church shooting ten years from now?

1. DON’T ABANDON KIDS IN THE WILDERNESS

Parents, please monitor your children’s activity online. It’s cruel to make them fend for themselves in a brutal and sometimes deadly environment. Even if you can trust your children 100%, you absolutely can NOT trust internet communities and social media. How is a child supposed to handle death and rape threats, hundreds of people telling them to kill themselves, genital pics from some rando, or text messages from a flirtatious teacher?

I don’t have kids. I can’t say I know exactly where the line is between privacy and safety, but every time these murder and suicide and abuse stories come out, kids have been alone in the wilderness and the parents have no clue of the depths of despair their children were going through. Or on the other side of the coin, they have no idea of the scary trash that their kids are up to.

Every time.

2. GUN CONTROL

Common sense gun control to me means that the more powerful a weapon, the more rigorous the process and training. If you’re not old enough to drink legally, due to the statistical levels of responsibility and maturity, you’re not old enough to have unfettered access to a highly effective killing machine: firepower, stopping power, accuracy, range, efficiency, reliability.

States seem to disagree with me, but I say that if you’re going to carry a gun in public, you damn sure better know how to use it, and have training in the safe operation of the gun and discernment in potentially lethal situations.

Most gun owners are responsible. There’s no doubt about it. Thank you, responsible gun owners. I think we can all agree that mentally ill and people with a history of illegal violence should not be able to get their hands on semi-automatic rifles. Or handguns, in cases. Obviously, there’d need to be a legal definition or process to define “mentally ill”.

Can they still get a weapon somehow? Probably. But they’d have to pass through a tighter net, increasing the probability of catching them before they can cause mayhem.

3. COMBAT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Domestic violence is a common, near ubiquitous factor. You know the saying, when someone shows you who they are, believe them? It doesn’t get much clearer than this. I say, if there’s a restraining order or conviction, you give up your guns and you get — I don’t know. Therapy? Anger management classes?

If you beat, stalk, harass, or abuse women and children (or anyone, really), or torture animals, you have proven yourself to be a danger to yourself and others. If I remember correctly, domestic violence calls are the most lethal for law enforcement.

4. INTERPERSONAL SKILLS

From kindergarten on, teach conflict resolution, deescalation, and, later when their little brains are ready, critical thinking. From the git. And when someone is going off the rails, take it seriously.

Is this where mental illness would fit in?  Is this a “crazy” problem? Or a “fell through the cracks” problem? All of the above? Maybe mental health should be a part of everyone’s health care.

5. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

The economy. Ugh. What can we do about job opportunities? And constructive outlets, whether through sports, hobbies, employment, internships, projects, etc. We derive a sense of worth from a sense of purpose. If it were up to me I’d make it mandatory, as some kind of work education platform, to travel overseas or another region of the country.

6. HEAL THE NRA

The NRA needs to get back to its roots but with a modern touch. Let them provide resources, knowledge, facilities, and education for gun owners and enthusiasts. I don’t know when the ghoulish wingnuts got a hold of it, but it doesn’t represent even the views of most of its members.

By the way, here’s a personal pet peeve. How come I can carry a gun in the streets with very little training but I can’t carry a collapsible baton or Microtech knife? It’s easier to legally carry a gun, a decidedly lethal tool, than it is to carry a non-lethal means of self defense.

7. PROTECT SOFT TARGETS

In the meanwhile, how do we protect so-called soft targets. Do police officers volunteer or moonlight as school security the way they do for clubs and restaurants? Is that a thing? Where do school resource officers come from?

Can technology help? I know, I know. Who’s going to pay for it? What about privacy? Can we get a useful combination of security and CCTV? Gunshot detection technology like they’ve used in some cities?

8. THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

This is such a lazy platitude. I believe in thinking, meditation and prayer but it seems to function more as personal consolation than societal improvement. I mean, it’s so lazy that we don’t even bother with any useful specificity. Think about what? Pray what and to whom?

“O mighty Ballisticus, please accept this humble offering of the blood, shrieks, and terror of innocents and spare us your all-consuming, warmongering, fiery, nuclear judgement. And sinkholes.”

I know, I’m being sardonic, but I’m trying to say that we can do better than the cynicism and fatalism that we’re stricken with. That’s all. Maybe come together as communities to share thoughts and prayers. Legislators meet with your constituents and listen to their thoughts and share their prayers.

It is exhausting, isn’t it.

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