My baby turned 14 yesterday. This morning as I hugged her goodbye when she went to school, I was in the middle of writing a story about the shooting in Las Vegas. How many parents hugged their kids goodbye that day - how many husbands kissed their wives... how many friends texted TTYL for the last time that day? More than 59, at least. Each person who stood in front of that stage represented the lives of so many more. Each life lost was an echo of their parents, friends, children... everyone they loved and everyone that loved them. None of them knew it was the last time. None of them had anything in mind except a good time. None of them went to downtown Las Vegas knowing they would die, or knowing they would be asked to act heroically in the face of unimaginable danger.
My Facebook feed is fraught with adamant proponents of gun control and staunch defenders of the second amendment right now, and on both sides of the fence, they are right. It IS time to talk about the issues that are plaguing us as a nation. It is ALWAYS the right time to tackle these things. Take my damn guns away from me if you must, if you think it will solve All Of The Problems, but then can we please, please focus on the hearts and minds of our families and communities? Can we look at how we have moved away from taking care of our own and knowing when something is not right with the person next to us?
We are so interconnected on a global scale that we have forgotten how to connect with the human next to us on a bus, on the playground, at the store, at a concert. We are so good at killing things virtually, and we enjoy the rush so thoroughly, that killing them in real life has lost it's meaning for us. Remove all of the weapons and see how much change we experience. Cain killed Abel with a rock. Men murder their wives with bare hands every day. The tools of our violence are not the problem. The violence of our hearts is the problem. I will hand my guns right over if you will then stop and look at what we have accepted as a culture is "normal."
Murder and mayhem have become our entertainment. We delight in the gruesome and binge on horror as if these things have no effect on us, and even worse, the young minds absorbing everything around them. We are too consumed with the drama of people who have no bearing on real life that we miss the real life drama unfolding next door. Reality TV has replaced reality. We have become content to be observers instead of actors. This is our life. That shooter was our brother, our neighbor. Maybe he went to our church. The victims are all of us.
People have been killing each other since the dawn of time. Until we figured out how to trot from one side of the globe to the other, all of our mass killings took place in tribal genocide. Then we got bigger and better at war and found more intricate ways to justify our violence. Now we don't have the tribes to protect us because we're all so well off that we don't need each other.
Then suddenly we don't know where the shots are coming from, and we don't know who and we don't know why. In that moment, everyone around me becomes either my tribe or my enemy. I will protect, I will defend, I will sacrifice or I will claw my way to the top of the pile in self-preservation. But it's a faceless, causeless war that we fight here in the United States. It is a storm of terrorism with no predictable landfall. It is unmitigated anger, pain and hopelessness. We face the ever-morphing enemies of mental illness, racism, and religious extremism. The ones who take the brunt of this onslaught, we fault for their flawed reactions. We attack our officers and authorities for overreacting while we turn a blind eye to the neighbor or family member who began crying for help long ago. We protest violently against people doing their job who had no part in making the laws that we do or do not want. We're fighting each other - it's the perfect set up.
Half of my friends say removing guns will help. Half of my friends say defending our rights is the only solution. I cannot abide the offering up of more innocent Americans as the divided baby that is King Solomon's solution to an impasse. If giving up my rights creates a pathway to a productive conversation, I would gladly do so, but do we have ears to hear the truth, or more importantly, humility to admit that our shallow entitlement has led us here? Do we have the courage to tackle it one step at a time in our communities and homes and neighborhoods? Are we brave enough to teach our children that actions have consequences and that we are ALL responsible, or will the baby be split in half in spite of my sacrifice?
I do not have answers. I do not have the specific directions that tell us each as individuals which steps to take toward healing. But I do have hope. I have hope in the good people that are there, covering other bodies with their own in a hail of gunfire. People who run into the fray as others are running out. People who value the whole over self. People who do not see in sweeping generalizations. We are not a country of haters. We are a country with a few hateful people. But we are a country rich with good people who have looked away for too long. Good People who have turned to their televisions for answers and only found division. Good People who are growing weary of the endless blur that they are fed. Quit sheltering. Quit Avoiding. Quit denying and protesting vainly and taking your issues out on the only people who are out there holding the lines of order and morality and responsibility. Be the Good People. I believe in the Good People. I hope to God I am one of them.