The purpose and the spark of a humane and civilizing influence is some ineffable quality for which we strive… and its existence serves as foundation for all of our religions, our liberating philosophies, our governing documents, our laws, our visions and our dreams. We labor above all to attain first, but thereafter to retain that quality in our culture, in our lives, if not for ourselves, then for our children. Call it innocence… call it grace… call it joy… it springs from a desire for peace and safety. It thrives in love and it is the goal of every good gesture, every act of courage and every evolving, intelligent impulse within our social constructs, a product we will call… for the sake of definition, an observable innocence of mind.
Innocence is a delicate and a finite resource, however, difficult and… at times… impossible to regenerate once it has been destroyed. It can be mimicked, but only at the cost of what is true, since every time we produce some false sense of security in safety, it requires the dismantling of innocence in proportions dictated by some unwritten metaphysical law.
The “right to bear arms” in the twenty-first century is the perfect example.
One of many justifications used to oppose the regulation of firearms in America is the manufactured illusion that an armed citizenry creates a safe and secure society, requires the same sort of delusion, though on a global scale, that drove the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the decades following World War II, each nation arming itself to the degree that each could destroy its rival and the entire population of the world many times over and in so brief a period of time, the very notion of this competition was called a “balance of power” through the capability of “mutual destruction.” The cost of this tenuous purchase of national security was a generational nihilism that essentially destroyed the innocence of its participant nations and robbed all neutral parties of their own safety and security and the incessant ignition of small proxy wars in the Third World.
Let’s put that horrendous example into the perspectives that have evolved through the auspices of the National Rifle Association and their benefactor, the gun manufacturers of America. Based upon a premise within the vague wording of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and fueled by money supplied to them by gun manufacturers, the NRA has become one of the most powerful propaganda agencies, marketing influences, and political lobbies in the entire free world, convincing a huge swath of the American population that they need to live like their pioneer forebearers, who, at least in popular fiction, were surrounded by hostile populations of men and beasts… a dark force in a lawless frontier that perpetually threatened not only their fortune, but their lives.
In the name of this… heritage… they have convinced Americans and bribed their politicians to vindicate the notion that our freedom, our “heritage” and our personal safety demands that every American has the right to bear arms without regulation, license, or constraint. The result? One hundred Americans die on any given day by way of gun violence. Think about that… one hundred people… human beings, men, women, children.
What does that look like? One hundred people.
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Every one of the Xs above represents a human being murdered by a gun… one hundred Xs, a fair representation of the sum of any one day’s average slaughter by guns in America. However, it is not a fair representation of the victims themselves, nor the broad expanse of grief, hardship and loss that each death implies. These Xs stand for people… individuals with lives that affect others. They represent mothers fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters all… baby girls, baby boys, sweethearts, friends, lovers, the innocent and the not so innocent, but each one of the was a living human being one moment and a nameless cipher in the news a day later.
X = Charlie
He died, according to a police report, on 06/25/1991. His death caused by ”… a single gunshot wound to his head while sleeping.” Charlie was the youngest of four siblings. He was my brother. He was 35 years old and apparently on the upswing after hard times. Hopeful. His parents, my mother and father, were forced to do that which any parent shudders to imagine… to bury one of their children. He was loved by many people, and by everyone in his family, each one devastated and unalterably affected by his sudden and violent death. But it’s one thing to bury your brother after the devastating effects of some disease… quite another in the wake of a senseless murder by person or persons unknown, a random crime with no apparent motive, no witnesses, no suspects.
One hundred violent deaths every day of every week of every month of every year in America causes a rippling effect touches the lives of others, such that each single death must surely effect at least a hundred others, friends, families… a hundred times one hundred lives affected in the wake of a death by gunshot.
What does that look like?
I won’t waste the space just to give you a visual representation of 10,000 Xs, but I think you can imagine page after page after page… and I’m willing to wager that most people in America have lost someone to gun violence in their lifetime, but how many more who are wounded, physically and mentally traumatized. The numbers reach incomprehensible proportions.
Today? Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and occur in places where none would expect… classrooms, movie theaters, concerts, festivals, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples… anywhere people collect and expect to be safe from harm.
America is a war zone.
How did that happen?
It would take volumes to describe the perfect storm that has culminated in this age of violence and insecurity, where no parent can be certain that their child will not be killed on any given day in a classroom… where no one can be certain that their prayers in any church, any synagogue, any mosque, any temple, any sacred place of worship will not be suddenly and violently interrupted by the sound of gunfire.
When do we say, “Enough.”
Not this time… apparently. Here it is, but mere days following the murder of 22 people and the injury of 24 more in a Wal-Mart in El Paso by a lone gunman armed with a military assault rifle and, the news cycle changes, the outrage takes a back seat to the suicide of a storied, sex trafficking billionaire, whose life has launched a hundred rumors… and whose death has launched a hundred more.
And so it goes.
No one will long remember El Paso. Who’s fault is that… if not yours and mine?
Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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