EVOLVE OR REVOLVE
Let me start by saying that I do not now and never have owned a gun. There was that brief period of time when I was the titular owner of a handgun. It had belonged to my father and when he died, my mom gave it to me and I stuck it in the back of a drawer and forgot about it. I have since given it to my husband who does own guns because I have no real use for one, but didn’t want to get rid of it because it was my dad’s.
My dad was a reluctant gun owner, his gun, a 22 short, which means the bullet casing is short with half the fire power of a normal 22. It’s barely a gun, especially by the Las Vegas shooter’s standards. My dad kept his gun in a dresser next to his bed, ostensibly so he could get it should the bad guys burst in, but because he didn’t want his kids to find it and get hurt, he kept the bullets in another drawer. If there would have been a home invasion — a term that wasn’t even coined when I was a kid — I doubt whether he would have been able to put the gun together in time while in the dark, but whatever, it made him feel better to know it was there.
My husband owns an array of guns — one he even built — because the men in his family like to hunt, a tradition that he is passing along to our son. I don’t like the idea of hunting, but I realize the need for it — the deer would eat everything if we didn’t cull the population — and I think people should be allowed to be who they are and not have to change for someone else. Hunting, even though they only go once or twice a year, is as much a part of his family’s heritage as drinking coffee and arguing about politics is a part of mine. I like that we are able to think about an issue from two entirely different points of view and retain our individuality while still maintaining a peaceful abode. I’ve never gone hunting with him, but I have gone to the shooting range a couple of times and am deadly at 25 or 30 feet. Under the right conditions, gun ownership is fine, and can even be fun for a liberal like me.
Of the maybe dozen guns my husband owns, four are muzzleloaders, which means that you have to load the gun powder in through the end of the barrel and pack it down with a ramrod, the same way they did it back in the 1791 when the 2nd Amendment was ratified. There is no way the Congress at the time had any idea that assault rifles were going to be a thing. If they did, I can guarantee they would have thought that amendment through a little more.
Almost five years ago now, soon after the Sandy Hook shooting, I wrote the following piece on gun control. I hesitated then as I do now to jump into the fray because it seems that no matter how high the death toll or how much we raise our voices, Congress does nothing to reign in the terror that is the result of a lack of gun control.
This time around, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of bump stock equipment, and, amazingly, some Republicans are considering supporting it. It’s a tentative, positive step, and while we may never figure out the motives of Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock, eliminating at least one of the reasons for his success is a small, tentative start. Let us hope that reason reigns and Congress, for the first time in a what seems like forever, does the right thing.
EVOLVE OR REVOLVE
Perhaps if Congress jumps off the fiscal cliff the rest of us can have a shot at redemption. We’re mired waist deep in arguments about economic policy, gun control, and women’s reproductive rights, among others, and the level of divisiveness, at a new high, has left us feeling uncharacteristically low. Our elected officials behave like kindergarteners disagreeing on the playground, the difference being that in kindergarten they teach you kindness, truth, respect and forgiveness so there’s a good chance those same kids will play nice tomorrow. That’s not even a remote possibility where Congress is concerned and maybe where our kids are concerned as well. By the time they get through college, the stress of competing with each other for spots on the team, A’s in the classroom and the few jobs still left out there, in addition to paying back mounds of debt, all the kindness, truth and respect will have been wrung from them and replaced by a need to win at any cost. And one day, some of them will be Congressmen.
While the American ideal of going for what you want no matter the cost settled this country, assuring our sense of individuality and a “can-do” spirit, the pendulum has swung too far. Witness Lance Armstrong who thought he was so above the fray that truth didn’t apply to him. Bernie Madoff. John Edwards. The Enron guys. Half of AIG. Even General Petraeus. We’ve become a nation of psychopathic egoists. If I could, I’d blame Ronald Reagan for most of it. Ronald Reagan, the actor turned President, who was lionized, romanticized, aggrandized and super-sized. Ronald Reagan, who Republicans fondly remember as the greatest Republican President of all time (why is it the Democrats remember Lincoln as the greatest Republican President?), the “Way Shower” of the modern right who ended the Cold War and proved to the world America was still boss. I could, but I’d be wrong to blame him for everything.
Reagan did a lot of things that were antithetical to a democratic society. I’m a little fuzzy on all of them since 1984 was a year after I was graduated college and I busy celebrating my freedom and the fact that I had a few extra bucks in my pocket. However, I did notice one or two things. One: For purely economic reasons, Reagan closed a lot of the mental health institutions, turning crazy people into crazy homeless people. America said little about this and since it was happening to the disenfranchised who had no voice, it all went through without guilt or remorse. Two: Reagan made popular the term “trickle down economics” which later became Reaganomics, a theory embraced by the rich and hardly anyone else. The last thirty years have proven that the trickle down theory doesn’t work, rather it has contributed to the huge dichotomy of wealth in this country. Decades later, the tricklers are still trying to sell us the same piece of crap car, thinking we’re still not going to look under the hood. Currently, 1% of the people own 99% of the rest of us. Exaggeration? Perhaps, but what are we, the 99%, waiting for? The Messiah? Rush Limbaugh or Fox News to stop spewing fake news? A half-price deal on Groupon?
Reagan’s policies set generations of people back. They just didn’t know it then because it’s only started happening now. Reagan knew trickle down would take years to catch up with him and when it did, chances are he’d be dead (surprise!). But now it’s arrived (surprise, surprise!) and people are borrowing against their 401(k) plans, the ones the government suggested they set up in lieu of their soon-to-be-extinct pension plans, because they can no longer meet their mortgage payments or pay their electric bills given the 30% cut in salary they’ve been forced to take to keep their jobs. It’s the new 60-hour-just-be-happy-you-still-have-a-job mentality rolled out by corporate we’re-people-too-America.
“How did we get here?” we ask. The answer is karma — cause and effect. Unfortunately, because we don’t always immediately see the effect of our actions we irrationally assume that things are not related. Some effects, especially those of a policy nature, take years, maybe decades to manifest. A person involved in a car accident sustains immediate injuries and is rushed to the nearest hospital, but a person who eats pesticide-laden food every day for 30 years may take that long to develop cancer or an auto immune disease, or have their organs start breaking down. You don’t get lung cancer from smoking your first cigarette, and the economic s*** doesn’t hit the fan the first time a company lays off its American workforce and sends the whole shebang to Mexico.
What do you have when you gut a company’s assets, do nothing to rehab or reconstruct the infrastructure, and give all the profits to the corporate shareholders? You have a shell. A shell by definition is “an outer form without substance,” an exterior whose interior consists of empty space — no heart, no brain, no guts and no soul. Without conscious intent and conscientious enterprise karma will get you every time. Reagan’s trickle down theory is why we’re in such a mess today. Our self-serving, purely economically motivated decisions are why so many live without health care. Republicans are bitching about the upfront cost, but do you know what the downstream cost of no health care is? What the societal cost is of one bipolar guy not on his meds is, one guy who needs a facility with trained health care professionals to make sure he takes them? Surely more than what it costs to keep him in a facility, especially if he decides to start shooting. In the end, somebody always has to pick up the tab, and the front end is always cheaper than the screwed up, triage-laden, wow, I didn’t see that coming back end. Typically, Congress chooses the back end, but that’s only so others can deal with it thirty years down the road. That’s because they’re cowards.
In a wrongful death action, the court will valuate a life, i.e., put a value on the deceased’s earning capacity over his potential lifetime as a way to calculate the individual’s worth and make whole the loved ones left behind with cash (unfortunately, it’s the only way we know how to do it). But how can we even begin to assess the loss of the love light of a single one of those first-graders in Sandy Hook Elementary? Can you put a value on the sun? Impossible.
In Pennsylvania in 2011, we had no qualms about allocating $2.1 billion out of the General Fund to cover the cost of the state’s prison system, but in a less punitive, less primitive society — i.e., more heart-centered — most of those people wouldn’t even be on the prison track. They would have had an education, a job, people who care about them, a sense of self-worth. Hidden truths (cause) may take years to come to fruition (effect).
Despite all of that, I withhold judgment on Ronnie and here’s why: the uber-Republican Reagan supported a ban on assault rifles. Even with the Second Amendment’s hallowed place in our shared history, Reagan was against unfettered freedom when it came to owning assault rifles. True, he had a change of heart from his own presidency, but in 1994 he wrote to Congress, asking them to support the Clinton ban on assault weapons.
Reagan himself, his press secretary, a cop, and a Secret Service agent had been victims of a deranged man’s shooting spree in 1986. Even so, calling for support for Clinton’s ban was a ballsy thing for a Republican to do, and for this I’m admire the guy. He lobbied specific members of Congress and the measure passed by two votes in 1994. (It expired in 2004.) Sometimes you have to do the right thing, make amends, say your sorry. Our current Congress never seems able to do this. Do they simply lack the moral fiber to legislate responsibly or is the NRA lobby that freaking strong?
Recently. the NRA ran an ad calling Obama an elitist and a monarch because his kids go to school with armed guards protecting them while the rest of the country’s children do without. Last time I checked, there was only one POTUS and Secret Service protection for him and his family came with the job. It has to because it’s like the Wild West out there and without protection, some psycho would have taken the First Family out a long time ago. However, most of America’s children don’t have such high profile parents, and armed guards aren’t necessary although at times it seems like we’re trying our darnedest to make them so. Did twenty little school children give their lives in vain? How many more will it take to get people to put their murderous toys away, sit down at the table and talk to each other with respect? What kind of world do we live in when TSA pulls you out of line at the airport for a Swiss Army knife, yet people walk around freely carrying concealed weapons?
Here’s the difference in how a child and an adult deal with their stuff. It was the night before the first day of school and my daughter was nervous. After we talked awhile, I kissed her goodnight and left her to deal with her anxiousness. The next day she reported trouble sleeping, fear, circadian rhythms in disarray.
“I couldn’t sleep last night.”
“Did you hear the rain?”
“No, I didn’t hear anything.”
“Well, it poured so you must have slept.”
She actually did sleep, and what’s stellar about it all was her coping mechanism; she realized she needed to take action in order to be at peace. After an hour and a half where anxiety barred the gate, refusing to let her eyelids shut, she decided to have a “closing ceremony” a la the Olympics games, and wave a fond farewell to the summer she thoroughly enjoyed. She enjoys every summer, but this year she was on the cusp of something big, of going from child to adolescent and it was happening so fast she wasn’t quite ready for it.
My daughter recalled all the events of the summer, the vacations, the swim meets, the week-long sleepovers with cousins at our house, the friends, new and old. She thanked them all for their part in her amazing summer, blessed them and sent them on their way with nothing but well wishes. Moments later, relaxed and in a state of completion, she fell asleep. The endless summer was over; her new chapter about to begin. What she did was to shift her awareness from fear to love. Instead of clinging to the old and fearing the new, she blessed the old and embraced the new. Here again the wisdom of a child surpasses.
I’m always amazed by how hard people fight evolution, how they argue for their limitations. Sometimes it’s only when they get to their deathbed, taking those last few remorseful breaths that they finally get their affairs in order. Some people cross over without ever changing their minds. I guarantee those people will be back to try again. Evolve or revolve — those are the only options. There are secrets waiting to be discovered in this vast and mysterious universe, but in order to do so we have to open our hands and let go of the past otherwise they’ll be too full to grasp what’s coming. Scientists say time is speeding up, faster and faster, and one day it will finally collapse. Then it’s bye-bye 3D, and hello to the 4th, 5th and beyond dimensions. So until time literally runs out, let’s shift our awareness before what’s left of it collapses and shifts it for us. Call it an evolution of the spirit. Either we evolve or in ten years, or even ten minutes, we’re going to have a revolution on our hands — and some of us are going to be armed to the teeth.