Monday, January 17, 2011

Malice of the Absent

Finger forward, thumb cocked back, a squint perhaps, “Bang, bang you’re dead!”

Thousands of times daily, fingers on the playground, hands upon mesmerizing games, metaphorically uttered by co-workers, children and adults in the passing parade of people, politicians and pundits, and with desensitized distortions of life and death, on dark city streets, in wayward dusty small towns, borne to empower for fortune or in fear, yielding incidents that lead to tiny popping noises or to rattling deafening echoes flowing from fingers that leave blood on a street or in a hallway with life ebbing away, and with ever alarming frequency, carnage, terror, anguished horrified mourning on campuses, in workplaces, where we entrust our children’s very lives, and in the bright burst of sunshine of a shopping center like thousands upon thousands across the United States of America, reality imitates imagination that imitates reality at the point of a finger or gun.

And through all of it we remain in complete denial as a nation. We step beyond our failure to act to covering our eyes, blocking our ears, and failing to deploy our reason in the real forward steps of confronting a highly visible repeated catastrophe directly and vigorously resolving to change the accepted societal rules and laws to decisively correct our defective relationship with guns. Instead we once again weep, we memorialize, we comfort, we grieve, and we struggle with the discomfort of details that flow across our airwaves for a few days or sometimes a few weeks. Ultimately we as a nation in an ultimate irony, choose the weakness of will over the strength of our convictions.

Across the road in the early predawn of an autumn morning, a pickup truck backs into a trace of an old logging road across from my home. People get out, finish a steaming cup of coffee, speak in hushed tones, shoulder rifles, and silently move into the woods and fields. I slumber on a mere stone throw away, knowing all this, harboring no fear whatsoever, for these are my friends and neighbors. Across our land this image is repeated on a variety of landscapes in pursuit of a variety of game or perhaps just merely a bit of companionship or solitude.

In safety orange, these men and women, do not want or require automatic weaponry to burst out dozens of heavy rounds, armor piecing bullets, or high powered handguns with extended clips for rapid fire. They have planned their excursions since last season, buying what was needed in leisure not haste and if procurement of the necessary equipment required more time, more appropriate checks, longer waiting periods, and fewer places to purchase, they are fully capable of planning accordingly. Yet one disproportionally powerful nationally organized voice and an ongoing chorus of the insensible and inflexible have formed an alliance purported in part to protect the rights of those men and women in the predawn without consent based on honesty.

It is so beyond reason to twist every reasoned approach to the reduction of gun violence and the limitation of weapons of small mass destruction into a threat to the traditions and safe pursuits of responsible ordinary citizens who are our friends and neighbors. To rest their ability to have a rifle or two, a couple of shotguns, and yes perhaps even a pistol upon keeping full automatic high powered human assault weapons used in wars and a flood cheap high capacity and therefore high lethality handguns is irrational, irresponsible, and offensive.

Yet we continue to tread the path of inaction and to support the inaction of our leaders after every incident that focuses attention on the issue of the role of guns in our society in part because it is too complicated to discuss the issue rationally. And perhaps it is also due in part to accepting that the finger pointed, thumb cocked back, and shout of “Bang, bang you’re dead!”, will always lead to some actualization that we apparently are resigned to tolerate and live with while other lives are cut tragically short.

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