Friday, January 11, 2013

In the Desert
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,                 
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,                       
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

My stomach has been churning off and on for weeks now. I’ve been uneasy. I’ve read more, heard more, thought more about guns, the gun culture, the 2nd amendment, and statistics about gun deaths since December 14th, not yet a month ago, than I ever had before in my life. I’ve watched videos, listened to interviews, even sought out gun shop websites to try and educate myself, because I haven’t been able to understand the “other” side. The NRA side--those government-hating, tax-hating, ATF-hating, American citizens who are so loud, so powerful, so paranoid. They are ready for revolution and no one is going to take their guns away from them. Not now, not ever. They are a militia. Militant. Sure of their stand, and ready to stand when the time comes.

And yesterday the name that had never left my store of names, or, I daresay yours, came right up front in my brain. Timothy McVeigh. He used a bomb to kill 168 people, including 19 children, and injure over 800 in Oklahoma City on April 19th, 1995. So...not an assault rifle. But he’d owned guns, worked gun shows, hated government, wanted to start a revolution. So he blew up a federal building. If you don’t remember much about him, or don’t know about the Oklahoma City bombing, all the information about Timothy McVeigh is on the Internet, easy to find. He talked to a lot to reporters before he was executed in 2001. Apparently he wanted us to know all his ideas about the evils of the United States government. McVeigh claimed he didn’t know there was a daycare center in the building he blew up; he would have chosen a different target if he’d known that. Strange that he didn’t research what he was blowing up, who he would be killing, before he lit the fuse to that bomb in that truck, but he didn’t. It was a federal building and that was all he needed to know I guess. He thought the government was tyrannical, and used Ruby Ridge and Waco to fuel his anger against his enemy, our government. But why did he blow up all those people? Why did he have to kill children in a daycare, sleeping or playing while their parent worked? The adults he killed weren’t on Ruby Ridge or in Waco, Texas. Why did he pick them? And by the way, we had a white President then.

Enough. As Gabby Giffords said the other day, “Enough.” There are too many Americans who are dangerous to other Americans and they are allowed to own, collect, amass horrible weapons. I lived in Maryland when the D.C. Snipers were killing people; I was a mile away from one of the first shootings. She was a young woman sitting on a bench at a bus stop, reading a book. None of the victims who were killed or wounded were carrying weapons, or posing any kind of threat to anyone. One man was mowing his lawn. People in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. didn’t know who was shooting at them, where they would strike next, or how to deal with the insanity of it all for weeks. 

Timothy McVeigh and the D.C. Snipers (I don’t want to look up their names and have those names right behind my forehead again) were extremely angry and extremely sick, one could say. So was Adam Lanza and all the rest of them. But, aren’t all of these gun owners, who need battle ready weapons in case our government decides to attack its own citizens, pretty much the same? Or at least heading in that direction?

Hell, what do I know? I’m a poet and a fiction writer. A literary blogger, if you will. But I do know a few things. I used to teach emotionally disturbed children and for awhile taught in a wonderful psychiatric hospital that had lasted 100 years, but lost the funding battle and closed down. I’ve lived in England and traveled in Europe and had conversations with Europeans who would never come to the U.S. because of the violence. Violence is bad for our tourist industry, you know. I’m pretty sure no one is going to eat game that is shot full of lead from an automatic rifle. I know that in our country, we are more likely to be shot than in other countries, because so many people have guns. And I think a lot of those people, the ones who have the most powerful guns, are pretty damn nuts.