Monday, October 2, 2017

Guns and Silence

Did you know you can hear your own heartbeat? You can. All the time. It’s loud too. Try this sometime. Find a very quiet place where you can be still. Close your eyes and listen. It might sound faint and far away, but it’s there and I promise, it’s loud.

How do I know this? A few years ago, I got a call from my wife telling me that she was short of breath, her heart was doing “weird things,” and that she was going to the emergency room. Somewhere between 15-45 minutes later I too found myself in the emergency room screaming at the poor lady at the front desk to tell me where my wife was.

She was down the hall and she was fine. Turns out she has heart palpitations. Every once in awhile her heart skips a beat or it has an extra beat out of rhythm to help catch up for some small fraction of beats it missed at sometime leading up to the palpitation. At least that’s how I interpreted what the doctor was saying as I worked my hardest to suppress my own heart attack. He also said that part of why heart palpitations are so uncomfortable is because we’re so used to the normal beat of our heart that when even a single beat is off, our body become alarmed and we feel discomfort.

Last night Stephen Paddock, who had been staying for the last few days at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, used a hammer to smash out the window of his 32nd floor hotel room, and used between 1 and 10 of the guns to fire indiscriminately down into a crowd of sixty-thousand men and women attending a music festival below. The number dead is currently around 50. The number injured, 500. The Mandalay Bay Concert shooting of 2017 is the worst mass shooting in modern American history... second only to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting of 2016. I spent my morning calling everyone I know in Las Vegas to make sure they were alive. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are on fire.

We have to talk about gun control.

We can’t we can’t talk about gun control.

We have to prevent mass shootings.

We can’t prevent mass shootings.

Can’t we avoid politics and just focus on the dead and their families?

Now is when we have to talk about gun control.

The answer is that we need to love each other more.

You’re the problem.

No, you’re the problem.

Don’t worry. In two weeks someone will tweet something ridiculous, we’ll find something shiny to distract us, a Kardashian will marry someone or divorce someone. We’ll put a plaque in a field somewhere and login into Facebook in a couple months to see that a susceptible teen trusted the wrong people online, or our friend was depressed and took their life, or someone who needed mental health treatment had easier access to assault rifles than they did to healthcare, or gang members got a hold of untraceable guns that were purchased legally at one point in their existence but then sold and sold again through unregulated markets. Subconsciously we’ll check the number in the headline and if it’s a 1 or a 2 we'll shrug and scroll on, and if it’s a 30 or a 50 we’ll cry and feel uncomfortable, maybe reach out, maybe say it hurts, maybe ask for change… for a minute.

Somewhere around 30,000 people die a year in the US from gun related death. Just under two thirds of those are suicides, another third are violent deaths resulting from homicide, the rest are accidents and unclassified. 30,000 people. That is 2,500 a month. 208 a day.

That’s our current normal. That’s the heartbeat we can’t hear.

The heartbeat of America is 208 bullets killing 208 people a day, every day. Every. Single. Day.

And the only time we notice, when things are irregular, out of the normal rhythm, uncomfortable, is also the time we’re not allowed to talk about it.

It’s disrespectful.

I want to respect everyone’s feelings. I really truly do. I desperately want to put enough love into the world that it will somehow shift the scales of chance away from a person becoming so damaged that they want to shoot and kill people. But I will never understand why we can’t address the issue from both sides, the person and their access to a weapon designed to kill as many human beings as it can as fast as possible.

Too soon though. It is disrespectful. I’ve been told to wait 24 hours... which is someone else’s 72... which is someone else’s 30 days, which is someone else’s never. "It's too soon to get political."

This isn’t politics to me.

And honestly, I’ve been quiet all day today. At work, online, at home. I wasn’t going to say anything at all. Not out of respect (I do) or out of mourning (I am), but out of defeat. I am defeated. I don’t believe anything is going to ever change.

The big ones are getting closer and closer now. They’re getting less coverage. The half-life of a tragedy is decreasing with each mass shooting. Columbine was covered for nearly a year. Pulse was covered for a few weeks.

The big ones are becoming our new heartbeat, and pretty soon we won’t be able to hear them either.

Earlier this morning Bill O’Reilly made a lot of people mad when he wrote in a blog post about the Vegas shooting “This is the price of freedom.”

I very rarely agree with Bill O’Reilly, and only partially do in this case. This is the price we choose to pay for our freedom to have easy access firearms, these daily deaths, the less and less anomalous big numbers. We can fight about the "politics" of it, but somewhere inside we all have a kernel of the truth in us. This is the price we pay. This is our Hunger Games. Only it’s not once a year. It’s every day. Forever.

Sorry. I love you guys. It’s been a rough day for me, much much rougher for others. If you hate this post, just ignore it. Or message me and tell me you hate me. My love to you and your family. My heart for those who died and theirs.

- John