Endless Cycle

I remember the first time I was able to step back and view human behavior objectively to realize just how foolish we are as a species. It was in 3rd grade. We were outside during recess, playing four square. As is typical with kids, we were getting more and more wild with our hits and having more and more fun. Then something happened. I can’t remember what exactly. Someone twisted an ankle, or got hit hard in the face, or something that sent someone off crying to the teacher. We got a brief safety lecture from said teacher and there we were, standing next to our four square outline feeling sad, scared, and chastised. We all agreed to be more careful and then gingerly went back to bouncing the ball from square to square.

However, as our safe game with all the joy sucked out of it continued, I flashed back to this scenario having happened dozens of the times in the past, and the knowledge that our new, calmer approach would not last. Within minutes history was proved right, we went right back to trying to hit the ball hard into the corner for an unplayable score, regardless of what had just happened. It was our nature, and all the somber hand-wringing and promises wasn’t going to change that. We wanted to have crazy fun while playing, even though someone might get hurt. I think we had this attitude because we believed we would never get hurt. It would always be the other guy.

Which brings me to 2016. Another mass shooting. I’ve been reluctant to add my .02 because everyone else already has… over and over and over… each time it happens. What more can possibly be said? And what’s the point of saying anything at all? We’re in the same stupid cycle I saw when we were kids.

it starts with another round of hand-wringing and calls to be more careful, pass laws, do something! This is followed by pushback with the same old arguments like, guns don’t kill people, and good guys with guys being our only salvation, and only criminals having guns when they’re banned, all arguments that have been thouroughly proved to have been built on fallacies, and I’m always amazed when anyone trots them out.

Yes, of course, a gun, on its own, does not kill people. A person, with the intent to kill, will always find a way to kill, whether it’s a gun, a bomb, a car, or a plane. However, as intelligent, rational, human beings, we actually have the ability to hinder their ability to do this, and have often done so in the past. After 9/11 we made planes harder for terrorists to access with new security rules. After the Okaloma bombing we restricted the sale of some fertilizers because their ingredients make powerful exposives. We don’t allow average citizens access to tanks, RPGs, or nuclear weapons. Just because guns are mentioned in the 2nd amendment doesn’t give them some magical power thereby preventing them from being misused just like fertilizer. The guns mentioned in the 2nd amendment were single load flintlocks. Had the gunman in Orlando carried that into that club there would have maybe been one person dead. Claiming the 2nd ammendment covers semi-automatic and automatic weaponry is just idiotic. No one keeps an assault rifle for protection or hunting. It was made for assaulting people. The only other reason someone might have one is to take to a gun range and get a testosterone surge while firing it. If that’s your thing, that’s fine, but then go join the military or the reserve and put that testosterone to good use. THAT is what the 2nd ammendment wants you to do when it brings up that “well-regulated militia” part.

There was a new argument this go round. Usually it’s just the “We need our guns to protect us from the tyranny of our own government.” That always makes me laugh. Like rifles and handguns, or even assault rifles are going to stop today’s US military. We go to war against well-trained, well-armed militaries, and we think a bunch of people with no real weapons training are going to defeat our military?

Anyway, the new argument was that other countries are afraid to invade us because we’re so well armed. They trotted out a quote by Admiral Yamamoto, which upon doing a little research turns out to be completely unsubstantiated. The truth is, a recent terrorist training video actually encourages would-be jihadists to go to gun shows in America and stock up because of the ease of getting weaponry. Rather than an unsubstantiated quote, you can go here and see this video for yourself. Instead of discouraging attacks with our plentiful weapons, we’re actually encouraging it. There goes that argument.

There are many factors that go into a mass shooting, and to deny that guns are one of those factors is just plain stupid. To deny they are the only factor is equally as stupid. Maybe with time we can learn to unravel the complex issues of mental health, religious extremism, and intolerance, but until we do, why not start with one issue we have some control over — regulating access to weapons that do high volumes of damage and were designed for use on a battlefield. How about we start there, while working on the more compelx issues?

But the truth is, this entire blog is pointless. Nobody cares. We’re stupid children who want to play the way we want to play, not caring if someone else gets hurt, as long as it’s someone else.

As I learned in 3rd grade, humans are selfish, short-sighted, and sadly, we have painfully short memories. So, until next time… because we all know there will be next time. The altar of the 2nd ammendment doesn’t have quite enough blood soaked into it yet.

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Death, Grief, and Rejoicing

Today, millions of words will be written about the collective loss we all experienced on 9/11. Friends, spouses, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, parents… all ripped from the people who loved them. We lost our feeling of safety, discovering that oceans and friendly nations could not protect us. In our rage, we lost our way, lashing out at people we could get to, instead of the people who harmed us. We lost some of the lofty ideals our nation stands for, simply because of our fear and pain. There was so much more than 3000 lives lost on this day 14 years ago.

I often wondered if the loss each individual felt was eased by the fact that the nation shared their loss. To anyone who has suffered the death of someone close, it’s confusing that life just keeps humming along. People laugh. They fall in love. They go out to dinner. Inside, the grieving want to shout at the world to stop. The person they loved is gone, and it’s not right that people act as if nothing has changed. But, with 9/11 the world did stop. Almost everyone across the planet grieved in the days following the attacks. Did that help? Or only make the pain worse? And what of those families who had the misfortune to have loved ones die near the 9/11 date? Was it made worse by the fact that everyone was grieving the victims of the day, but grief for their loved one was largely ignored.

Today, some of those confused feelings are my own. Much like 9/11, yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day. The first hint of how the day would go was when we realized a client was waiting and her instructor was nowhere to be found. It’s easy at first to assume it’s a missed alarm, or a family emergency, or something benign. But as the hours ticked by, and phone calls and texts went unanswered fear began to grow. The morning was spent searching online and in our records for contacts that could help. Our work family mobilized, each taking on a role to find our missing member. Despite our fears, there was still a sense of shock and overhwelming disbelief when she was found, likely taken from us by an unknown medical condition. 40 years old. A life only half lived.

Today most people are focused on the lost potential of 14 years ago. Today my community is focused on the lost potential of yesterday. There is a sense of disconnect from the rest of the world.

When thinking about what I wanted to say today, I still feel at a loss. There are no great words of wisdom to share. It is too soon for lessons learned, other than the much repeated phrases that life is short, and the knowledge you should never leave kind words unsaid or kind actions undone. There is no understanding of why a very fit woman got 10 years less than obese me has had. There is guilt in not reaching out to connect more. There is also comfort in seeing that our work family really is a family. We came together with support and love, making sure we were all okay.

One thing did occur to me as I chased sleep last night. Death also gives us the opportunity to rejoice. Pain reminds us that we still live. We still have a chance to say those kind words to those who are here. We still have a chance to reach out with love and caring to those around us who need those gifts. We still have a chance to become the kind of person we want to be. It pains our hearts to be without the people we care about. We can take that pain and lash out and cause damage as our country did on 9/11, or we can use that pain to rejoice at the fact that we have been given yet another day to experience the joys, pains, loves, losses, beauty and ugliness of life. Those we have lost would tell us we should do the later.

As you grieve today, what will you do with your grief? Make a good choice and rejoice that you have it to make.

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