1. It’s Sunday, February 18, 2018.
2. Four days later, we’re still talking about the murder of 17 students and teachers at a Florida high school.
That’s one sign we’re doing better this time. I was beginning to worry that the time span for completely forgetting about these mass killings was getting closer to a single news cycle.
And, thanks to CNN, we’ll hear more about this horror in Parkland this week. The network is hosting a town hall format with students and parents on Wednesday.
They’ll get the opportunity to again tell the horror story they’ve lived since Valentine’s Day, when a 19-year-old – fortified by his NRA-sponsored training – began shooting at will with legally purchased weapons.
Furthermore, they’ve been doing a pretty good job telling the world about what they experienced. Bravely, but with an intelligence and measure we haven’t seen much of in this country for a awhile, they are answering questions from reporters and demanding answers from this nation’s so-called leaders.
And they’re speaking out. One of the students, Emma Gonzalez, gave a speech at a rally yesterday that is among the greatest I’ve heard in my lifetime. Even Barack Obama had to be impressed.
Students across the country are talking about protests. A march on Washington. Walking out of their classrooms on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, the first of the modern school shootings.
The NRA is in hiding. When the shooting took place, someone on Twitter remarked that it would be a long holiday weekend for the organization’s social media director.
Politicians complicit in the arming-to-the-teeth of this country have been getting slammed once they offer their “thoughts and prayers.” Those messages are so predictable manner that you have to think they’re on hold in some office computer for use when applicable. They just touch an iPhone app to launch it.
So this is it. The long-awaited push that starts to bring this nation out of its gun frenzy. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
3. I’m not convinced.
I won’t be convinced until I actually see something happen. The reinstitution of the federal assault weapon ban. Background checks on people who buy weapons at gun shows or in private transactions. Gun licensing in all 50 states that is at least as strict, if not multiple times as strict, as getting a driver’s license.
Advocates of gun control – and I have proudly been one my whole life – have been trying for some form of reason to take hold since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. It hasn’t happened.
And how many horrible, heartbreaking tragedies related to someone getting (mostly) his hands on a gun and firing away. The University of Texas in 1966. Assassinations of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and John Lennon. Attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. McDonald’s in San Ysidro. Luby’s in Killeen. Columbine. Virginia Tech.
And while there have been deadlier shootings since – the Orlando nightclub and the Las Vegas concert – no event, nothing, rivals the disgust, the obscenity, the sheer senselessness of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I can’t think about Sandy Hook without tearing up and getting as angry as anything can possibly make me. I can’t think about how far below single-cell life someone has to fall to shoot up 6- and 7-year-olds.
And that there are people who will diminish the victims by saying it’s a hoax.
I know how angry I get thinking about this – I’ve just deleted a bunch of lines that were a little too much. And I didn’t know these kids or the adults who died with them. I don’t know their parents or friends.
So while I can only imagine how much the kids and parents and neighbors of Parkland feel, I think I understand that their anger and pain must be unbearable.
But the Congress of the United States sat on its hands after Sandy Hook.
The putz running the National Rifle Association brazenly stood there and said that more armed people, turning an elementary school into a shooting gallery, was what was needed.
Pickup trucks driven by breathing turnips in New York State sported “Fuck Cuomo” bumper stickers, some of the letters in the shape of assault weapons banned, because the governor and legislature took modest, reasonable action.
I would love to think that this country will do something after this shooting. I believe in the sincerity of all these young people speaking on the air and to rallies. I would love to be proven wrong.
I won’t be. Nothing happened after Sandy Hook. Or Orlando. Or Las Vegas – remember the so-called bipartisan push for bump stock bans? Or Sutherland Springs, because why should people worshipping be immune?
The NRA and the Republicans in Congress are waiting out the storm. This one might be a little stronger. But they’ll wait out this one like they’ve waited out the others. That’s what they are.
4. So, if you’ve read the first parts of this, you absolutely have the right to say this to me:
You are a cynical jackass.
Because what good is complaining about stuff if you’re involved in the solution. Or at least have an idea about how to solve it.
That would be a fair point. So here we go:
— First off, the problem with people on my side of the gun debate is that we’re wimps.
The NRA tries to intimidate those who don’t vote its straight line. A Dana Loesch puts a pretty face on gun craziness. The Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans of Congress will sound oh-so-sincere about their prayers and condolences when there’s a shooting. An Alex Jones gets away with calling Sandy Hook a hoak aimed at taking away everyone’s guns.
These people will stop at nothing to demonize those who believe in sensible gun control. They scare people who own guns into thinking that we’re on a hunt that would only allow would-be terrorists and gang members to hold weapons.
Gun control advocates never fight dirty when they fight back.
It’s time to do so.
Mitch McConnell and others in Congress are complicit in mass murder. Say that every single goddamn day – especially about McConnell – until there some form of legislation. A day shouldn’t pass when someone doesn’t say that.
The NRA has killed more Americans than ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban combined. It is as complicit in mass murder as Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atta. Say that every time you hear something about the IRA.
Any Republican – or Democrat – who takes money from gunmakers or the NRA is a whore with blood on his or her hands.
And that includes, first and foremost, the Russian-loving fraud who occupies the White House.
Stop trying to be civil. Civility doesn’t work with these people. It hasn’t worked for 55 years and it’s not going to start now.
— Second, instead of saying “Do something,” be more specific about what the “do” entails.
Gun whores like to muddy the discussion by saying there’s nothing that would work to cut down on this kind of violence.
From my point of view, the first step is a renewal of the assault weapon ban. There is no reason for anyone to have a semi-automatic weapon unless they’re in a war zone somewhere – and I’m not so sure about that.
A ban wouldn’t solve everything. But even if, at worst, only 10% of these shootings would go away, that’s an awful lot of lives saved.
Others have other ideas. I am ready to listen. I will accept steps as long as they’re steps and not ends.
I don’t believe one of those steps or ends is repealing the Second Amendment of the Constitution. I believe one of those steps is ending the NRA’s perversion of the Second Amendment that values gun holding over life. “A well-regulated militia” doesn’t translate to a bunch of fools shooting off automatic weapons.
— Third, and this applies to things besides the gun debate, stop trashing the younger generation.
I teach college students. I love them. They’re smart and thoughtful, and I don’t know how the generations that came before them managed to do this one thing right, but raising kids like my students and the high schoolers in Parkland is the best thing we’ve done. Far and away.
And yet, there are adults who don’t take these young people seriously. They’re dismissive and patronizing.
One of my students, for her homework, critique a New York Post op-ed, by some clown who went from a conservative think tank (see: oxymoron) to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. In this rant, he was telling Generation Xers that they need to do a better job informing millennials about life – that millennials needed a dose of reality.
I don’t believe a generation with five- and six-figure college debt, that actually does the fighting when we commit troops to Afghanistan, and that has spent school days participating in shelter-in-place drills needs any kind of a lecture about reality.
This generation might be glued to its phones. It might never have picked up a newspaper. But – in my experience – it consists of people who care about each other, who embrace change and accept others for who they are. And they have low BS tolerance.
Our generation – I’m a vaunted baby boomer – has totally, unequivocally, abysmally failed to stop Americans from shooting each other up.
I am fully prepared to follow a generation of kids that is willing to solve the problem.
Until they do, until someone does, I am not yet ready to believe that anything is going to result from the 17 deaths in Florida.
But, oh, how much I want to believe it will.