Right for All the Wrong Reasons

It’s been a while, not that that matters. I had a revelation that made me feel physically ill and I wanted to share it in a public forum. Not in the hopes that it will make me feel better, because that’s not likely. Not in the hopes of changing anyone’s mind, since that’s near impossible these days. Not even in the hopes of getting my revelation validated by my friends who might agree with me. I have a feeling that my revelation is going to sound ill-informed, highly biased, and, frankly, stupid. But it’s my blog, so I’m allowed.

In the last three weeks, there have been two high profile mass shootings in the news, the first at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY and the second at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. The responses to these tragedies have been typical, which is just gross if you think about how often a specific tragedy has to happen for there to be a scripted response. There are handbooks on responding to mass shootings now, so that mayors and other community leaders know what to do in the aftermath. And we all know that children in American schools suffer active shooter drills alongside fire and tornado drills. What was once unimaginable is routine.

The response is so textbook that it actually twists my insides because every time this happens, I want the script to change and when it doesn’t, a part of me dies. There are helpless cries for action! Do Something! And the response is no. Not in so many words, obviously. The 2nd Amendment folks will say it isn’t a gun problem, blame it on something else, and then do nothing about that problem. The Gun Laws people will do a lot of angry yelling but also complain about how the other guys don’t let them do anything to fix it. Also, if the solution isn’t on a federal level, it’s not actually a solution, is it? And at the end of the day, there are still 19 dead fourth graders, 2 dead teachers, and 10 dead grocery store patrons. Nothing changes but the body count.

I am Angry. I want to scream and lash out at everyone. The politicians pandering to the NRA. The NRA thinking only of the profits and PR. The politicians making a lot of noise to appease their constituents with no plans to do anything except capture sound bites for the next campaign. The politicians blaming the other side or the other problem and the people parroting the talking points instead of thinking for themselves. The media for making the same horrific reporting mistakes, exasperating the trauma. The media personalities who proliferate conspiracy theories because it garners views and then point out that they are entertainers and therefore can’t be blamed for idiots taking them seriously. Every person who encouraged me to have a child of my own because of all the joy it would bring, since now not only do I have raging anxiety about the future of this planet (if there is a future still possible), but I also have to plan for what I’m going to tell my kid when they come home from school in tears from an active shooter drill. All the sleepless nights with a newborn, all the dirty diapers and potty training and breastfeeding, all the stress of normal parenting that everyone said would all be worth it, plus the active real terror that someone will decide to commit suicide at their school. (That’s harsh, I know. We decided to have a kid and if we sometimes look at this awful world and wonder how we could bring a child into it, it was still our decision. Narcissist Me knows that everything bad that ever happens to them will be my fault.)

The statistics bloom immediately after these events. This many gun deaths in so many years. This many mass shootings (any shooting with 4+ people injured) this year alone. This many accidental gun deaths. Gun deaths compared to other deaths (cars, medical conditions, falling, etc). Shooting statistics in America compared to every other developed nation in the world. There have been more gun related deaths in the US this year than Ukrainian casualties in the Russia-Ukraine War. There have been 213 mass shootings in the US just this year. That’s a shocking number, I know, but remember that the definition of “mass” shooting is only four or more people injured. (I just said only as though gun violence is okay is smaller doses <vomit face>.) It’s only 147 deaths so far, guys, why are we panicking (that sound you hear is my soul leaving my body so it doesn’t have to read what I just wrote).

Listen, as much as I want to shriek at the top of my lungs about how every other fkn nation on this planet managed to stop shootings after one (1) incident by enacting strict gun laws, I know for a fact that it wouldn’t work here. Why? Because, dear readers, the spineless, NRA-cock-sucking politicians are right. It isn’t a gun problem.

Or, it’s not only a gun problem.

When those wet potatoes get up with their sad faces and say that it’s such a tragedy, thoughts and prayers, but this is to do with mental health not guns, they’re right. For all the wrong reasons.

NPR did an interview with a couple of mass shooting experts and they called mass shootings an act of desperation. In all these incidents, the most consistent factor is that shooters don’t have an escape plan. They’re either going to die by suicide, die by cop, or end up in jail forever, and they are at the point where they simply don’t care beyond causing as much damage as possible. Self-hate turns outward. Makes sense, right? Now, some people look at that and see MENTAL ILLNESS in big letters, which is a very narrow way to look at it. They want to pigeon hole these guys as psychopaths, which makes them unpredictable and therefore impossible to prevent. If they want to do evil, they will and no amount of legislation will stop them. “Murder is already illegal. If they’re willing to break the law to murder, what’s to say they won’t break the law to get a gun.” (I mean, making if really fkn difficult to obtain a military grade weapon would be a start, but we only try legislating morality when it involves women’s bodies, oops did I say that out loud?)

This is true. People bent on evil will commit it. HOWEVER, that’s not where the conversation should start. That assumes that Evil is inherent and inborn, but it’s not. The conversation should start at why these people got desperate, got radicalized, decided that evil was the solution to their pain.

Crime, of all kinds, is a product of desperation. Time and again it has been shown that communities that have strong social support have decreased crime rates. That’s healthcare, education, childcare, fair wages, and fair labor. When we look at nations that killed mass shootings with stricter gun laws, we’ll also see universal healthcare, quality education, and high rates of family support like paid maternity/paternity leave and free childcare. A solid social safety net does significantly more to improve the safety of a community than more guns, more cops, more surveillance. I don’t have the facts and figures of all this, so correct me if I’m wrong. But clearly it isn’t just about just stricter gun laws. It’s about working to remove the desperation.

It’s funny that the response of gun-friendly politicians is to blame mental health. Not funny haha, obviously. Instead of following that line of thinking to increase government support for mental health initiatives and social programs designed to get people help, they actually increase the unfair stigma against mental health disorders and make no mention of the fact that they actively cut funding to mental health programs. A lot of neurodivergent friends of mine spent the last week reminding people that blaming the mental health of the shooters is a red herring, and they are so right. If those pandering ass-puppets actually believed that was the problem, they’d do something about it. But that would be making the government responsible for the well-being of its people, which leads me to the core problem to this complicated issue.

Americans think we’re special. We’re individualists. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and don’t need anyone’s help to do anything. We don’t need help, period. Our problems can’t be solved the same way other developed nations have because they aren’t Americans. We’re a God-fearing Nation of Individuals all grasping desperately for the American Dream!!!!!!

Which is toxic, like a lot of mainstream culture. We live and work in a society that cannot function without cooperation, yet we cling to this idea that we are the masters of our own fates. It isn’t true. We have laws for this reason, we have social contracts that we adhere to, sometimes to our own detriment. When things go right, it’s because we did everything right. And when we see other people struggling, it’s because they did something wrong. They’re fat because they’re weak. They’re poor because they’re lazy. They’re violent because they’re crazy. The reality is that Individualism is toxic. Instead of being part of a community, we are cut off and alone with our struggles, our pain, our fears.

Individualism is rights without responsibilities. That means claiming free speech when spouting hateful rhetoric and then complaining about cancel culture when someone uses your words in their murder manifesto and people call for you to be fired (out of a canon). You have a right to say what you want without the government retaliating against you. I have the right to call you a Nazi-fluffing choad in a stupid bowtie. We have a lot of rights, but there are consequences to those rights. You cannot pursue happiness at the cost of someone else’s life. And you have a right to own a firearm. And we can argue all day about what the Founders wanted or understood. The Constitution was written as a living document because they were making up as they were going along. It’s not the Gospel dictated to prophets, it’s the invention of a new, untried form of government by a bunch of slave-owning, landed white dudes. And that’s not the point.

Guns are toys in this country. Because they are a right, we act like we don’t have to earn them. I could just go and buy a gun right now without taking any training or passing any tests. Fill out the paperwork and here you go. Are there any tests to get a hunting license? Are there requisite hours at the range before you’re considered proficient? I don’t know, I’ve never wanted to buy a gun. I don’t like guns.

I was in the Army. I had to go to the range twice a year, sometimes more. I carried an M4 (named Wendy) on my back for a year in Iraq. I’ve fired M16s and M249s and M60Bs and Mk19s at the range. I even fired an AT4 during BCT. And while the guys around me talked about their raging boners, I didn’t really see what the excitement was about. I don’t understand gun culture. Maybe it’s because my Mom hated guns when we were growing up, wouldn’t even let us play with water guns. But honestly, loving a gun is like loving a hammer. It’s a tool. You use it, you clean it, you put it away.

There is also the fact that I was introduced to these weapons via Drill Sergeants, who put the fear of them in me. Always treat the weapon as if it is loaded. Never point the weapon at anything you don’t want to shoot. Never doubt for a second that if a barrel points in a Drill Sergeant’s direction, they will knock you the fk out. Literally, the only time Drill Sergeants were allowed to lay hands on us was at the range. It was never a game. It was never fun. It was training. It was learning a skill, just like everything else. And afterwards we spent an hour picking up brass. We got searched to make sure we weren’t trying to make off with any rounds. We went through drills to break down and reassemble our weapon. We cleaned them meticulously with q-tips for hours, feeling intense anxiety each time we brought it to the DS for inspection. There is something soothing about cleaning a weapon, scraping off carbon and the smell of oil. In the Army, I never used a gun because guns are for civilians. I used a weapon and I learned to respect it just like I learned to respect my Drills. Fear and Awe.

That’s why we can’t solve any problems in this country. Our culture is toxic. We treat our rights like they came from Santa Claus, with no reverence or respect. That’s what I hear when people say “God-given.” That phrase takes away responsibility and ignores the real sacrifices made to make those rights a possibility. Soldiers dying in war, citizens protesting injustice, martyrs sacrificing themselves for higher causes. (And in reference to “God-given,” God sacrificed his Son for us, not so we can selfishly cling to what’s ours at the cost of others.)

I’m a Christian, which is hard to say now. I haven’t been to church in a long time. First it was because of our move, then because of the pandemic, then because of the behavior of so many prominent Christians who claimed their so-called rights were more important than loving their neighbor. I have a deep-rooted fear that I will walk into church and see that selfishness and it will shrivel whatever faith I have left. And I know that isn’t fair, that so many people of faith stepped up the last two years to take care of their communities, that they turned away from hateful ideologies that had infiltrated their churches. But on the other hand, I see people claim this is a Christian nation (it isn’t), I see politicians invoke their Christian faith while blatantly ignoring the tenets of Christ in pursuit of their own riches and infamy and Individualism. You cannot be an Individualist and claim Christ as your Savior. The ideologies are incompatible.

The last thing, the last awful thing I realized in my revelation, is that we need God back in schools. Years ago, I saw a meme after a school shooting that said something along the lines that school shootings happen because we took God out of school. That’s a horrific thing to say when parents are grieving for children. And it’s right for all the wrong reasons.

What people mean when they say “we need God in schools” is a Christian God, Bible study, and teacher-led prayer. So, you know, indoctrination. They want kids standing up and pledging allegiance to the flag to prove they aren’t communists. They don’t want Islamic Prayer or Jewish Prayer or Hindu or Buddhist or Seikh or Satanist, they only want Christian Prayer. And they think by forcing Christian prayer and Christian doctrine on young children, they will solve all their problems because it’s magic or something. And I’m not sorry, no. That’s not how faith works. What we actually need in schools is Love. God is Love, yes? God isn’t prayers and religious texts and specific dress codes or whatever. Look at forced religious doctrine in Islamic nations. How horrifying is it when we see the treatment of women in a theocracy? And we want to do that here? After the holy Founders deliberately and emphatically separated church and state? I mean, sure, sounds like a good idea to Christians, but what if the school goes with the wrong denomination? Can you imagine a Lutheran family sending their kid to a Baptist school? And this also assumes competent Christian teachers. Considering how much criticism teachers get for *checks notes* doing their jobs during a pandemic, I’m surprised anyone would consider them capable of teaching Christianity. Isn’t public education some kind of liberal indoctrination to turn all the children *queer* with books on penguins with two dads? No?

God is love. Put love in our schools and you don’t have to argue about religion. Love our teachers by supporting them emotionally and financially. Love the students with enrichment programs and support from faculty and admins and for the love of all that is holy, stop fussing over lunch debts and standardized tests. Love in our schools teaches our children to love and to know they are loved. And children who are loved, who feel loved, won’t find themselves beyond caring if they live or die.

At least I hope so.

In conclusion: stricter gun laws are a start, but we also need a stronger social safety net, loving community over selfish individualism, and the cultural understanding that RIGHTS = RESPONSIBILITIES.

And just so you know, I don’t want your guns. I don’t think criminals will be thwarted by state laws prohibiting guns. I think a federal ban on military grade weapons in civilian markets (to include police) will make it markedly difficult for your average suicidal, radicalized teenager to obtain them. I think we have the wealthiest military complex in the world so the idea that civilians having military-grade rifles will protect them against a tyrannical government armed with nukes is dangerously naive. I think the “militias” that turn up at 2nd Amendment rallies look like pathetic cosplay. I saw a meme that pointed out we protect important people, celebrities, and landmarks/events with guns, but failed to mention that those are almost always handguns. Handguns can still kill people and are responsible for a lot of toddler deaths, but they’re markedly absent as weapon of choice for mass executions. Except in video games and action movies, of course.

I am praying for the people suffering grief. Violence doesn’t end with a body count. The children in that school who survived will suffer long-term trauma. Parents, teachers, bus drivers, everyone feels the horror of a random shooting. My sister-in-law is a teacher with a student who lost their aunt and grandmother in Buffalo. I can’t fathom how anyone managed to drop their kid off at school last Wednesday. We keep saying this is the last time we can let this happen and before the echo of the words dies off it happens again. If you don’t believe gun laws can fix this, if you think that the solution is turning schools into high-security prisons, arming teachers, or just doing nothing because it can’t be stopped, I don’t know what to tell you. We’ve tried putting cops in schools, we’ve tried metal detectors and secure campuses and active shooter drills and it’s not working.

It’s not working.

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Filed under Ramblings, Rants

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