Monday, December 17, 2012

The Lottery

The individual's right to bear arms is apparently of the highest priority.  Many are so committed to this principle that they're prepared to regularly sacrifice innocent citizens to gun violence--at least 10,000 people a year, not including suicides and accidents. Even the slaughter of first-graders doesn't make these people pause.  Even if a shooter marched into a hospital nursery and hosed out the bassinets with his precious Bushmaster, reducing the newborns to so much unrecognizable blood and bone and tissue and gore, the only answer for those for whom the only amendment is the second would be always more guns, and more people with more guns, preferably more lethal, always.  No other developed western nation pays such a high price for this freedom, at the expense of all others. Never mind that an armed but law-abiding civilian has never halted a mass shooting, or that a collective of arm-bearing individuals has never been needed to counter a coup.  Never mind, also, the most fundamental purpose of organized society under a government of laws--to safeguard its citizens from arbitrary violence.

Never mind to all that.  These armed citizens have rights!  Your right to not be endangered by a "well-meaning" self-deputized citizen wielding a Glock to save the wallet that you were gladly surrendering to the thief in order to shield yourself and your children from violence is of no consequence.  The worshipers of the second amendment are tired of being pushed around, and what's more, they're not going to let you get pushed around either--whether you like it or not.  It's better for you to die on your feet than for them to live on their knees. Body counts simply don't matter to these people; for them, the only measures that matter are the number of guns in their domestic armories, the size of their mega-clips, the rate of fire of their rifles, and the increasing ease with which all these death-machines can be gotten. The grief-shrieking mothers from the hospital would be pouring the liquid remains of their infants into little white coffins, and these righteous citizens would attempt to assure them that their infants had died to preserve the most sacred of our rights. The tree of liberty, they will tell you in the most sober and self-important of tones, needs to be watered occasionally with the blood of tyrants, but if they're short a tyrant anyone's blood will do.  They do not hold their manhoods cheap, and all too often it's the rest of us who pay the price.

Since this freedom is sacrosanct and preeminent to all others, we now live in the middle of an unofficial but increasingly deadly lottery, whereby this right exacts its toll.  Like all fair lotteries its selections are random, so there should be no cause for complaint. Every year, the lottery reaches in and plucks out several thousand lives, and these lives are paid with reverence to the angry death-god of the second amendment, so men can walk about armed to the teeth in the midst of civilized society. No one knows at the start of the year who will be chosen, and no one knows when it will happen, or even if it will happen at all. It can happen anywhere: on the street, at home, at work, in a store, at a theater, in schools, even in places of worship. Almost none of the sacrifices know in the morning that they will die that day, and if fate is kind their life will leave them as quickly as light leaves the room at the flick of a switch.  If fate is more fickle, death is long, searing, and excruciating, like white-hot coals lodged in the viscera. The lottery is funny that way, but it doesn't discriminate. It takes the old and young, men and women, all creeds and colors. Last week was just a bad week for first-graders. 

The steely-eyed men who so vigilantly safeguard their sacred right to collect deadly steel and deal death if they so choose never flinch at the carnage produced by the annual lottery. It's the "price of freedom." The freedom to do what, we're never told; most often it seems like a narrow, self-perpetuating, ever-expanding freedom to deliver death at a distance. It seems to have become an end in itself, but we're told there is no other way. So hold your loved ones tightly today, because today they could be chosen. After all, it's only 10,000 annual homicides out of a country of over 300 million.  That's really not so bad. This is "freedom" had cheap, really.  And really, what are the chances? What are the odds that you'll be touched by the lottery?  Isn't this "freedom" worth this price?

But if it were to happen that one day someone came to the door of one of these steely-eyed men and told him that one of his children had been chosen, we'd quickly see a man unmanned.  If someone had turned out the light in his child, it wouldn't matter who had done it, be it a bad man, or a crazy man, or a lawman, or some foolish man who thought he had a right to execute the law from the barrel of his gun and had just aimed badly. The abstract multiplicity of ten thousand would quickly dissolve to the sharp and terrifying and concrete singularity of one. The one that was loved. The one that was there. The one that is gone. The one eternal moment of horror and want and absence that will stay with him forever. 

When others lose the lottery it's easy to play the game; but on this day we would see a man flinch and, torn loose from his world of simple certainties, try to recall why this freedom had been so important. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

I'm Tired

I'm tired of weeping over silent lips.  I'm tired of praying over the bodies of the innocent.  I'm tired of the fruitless discourse that takes place after every random slaughter, which always fades back to the status quo.  Even Reagan was shot down like a dog, and it didn't change a thing.  I'm exhausted, drained, so much so that I can't even find the strength to light a candle for the grieving.  I'm weary of arguing with people whose frontal lobes seem to have been removed by the NRA and replaced with endless loops of nonsense, straw men, red herrings, and slippery slopes.  I'm worn out from living alongside those so fearful of their neighbors that they won't even entertain a reasonable compromise to stop the arbitrary slaughter via weapons of mass destruction that can fit inside a duffle bag or less.   I can't bear to listen again to their tired, old, senseless rejoinder: "Freedom!"  I want to close my eyes, but then I risk a vision of the next set of victims being hauled out of a school, or a mall, or a theater, in so many small body bags.  If this is the price of your freedom, then there is something depraved in the way you've defined it. If this is the price of your freedom, then sacrifice your own children on the altar of your second amendment; don't presume to tell me to hug my own children and be thankful that they weren't butchered--this time.  And don't you dare tell me that this is not a time for politics.  Because if there's a way out of our nation's long obsession with ever more lethal guns and bullets, the only solution is political.