Heartbroken — and Full of Anger

On Wednesday, at least 17 people — children and adults — were gunned down at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The perpetrator was one man who, it should come as no surprise to mention, was carrying a AR-15-style assault rifle and massive quantities of ammunition.

How can this still be happening?

I don’t know what else to say at this point. I’m heartbroken, but mostly — I’m really fucking mad.

There’s no debate to be had here. On one side there are people who prioritize human life — the lives of innocent children — and who are clamoring for smarter, common-sense gun laws, and on the other side there are those who do not and are not: Those who value the rights of a redneck with a gun fetish over the lives of American children, teachers, people going about their days in peace; those who believe it is more important to preserve the right for a person with a history of violent mental illness to buy an assault rifle without a hassle than it is for parents in the United States of fucking America to drop their kids off at school without having to pray that they will make it home without bullet holes.

I am full of sadness. I am full of piping hot rage. And rage, like dairy, courses through and exits my body as fire.

In the wake of this unconscionable crime — one which a mere ban on useless assault weapons could have prevented (and no, he would not have “found a way” no matter what — check your facts) — there are, of course, important things to remember and consider as we mourn:

Giving thanks to the heroes of Douglas High who saved lives. Taking a moment to consider the words of kids who lived through this terror, some of who’s parents had to experience the abject terror of a text that read “If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me.”

How can this be happening — again?

I’m furious at every heartless talking head who deflects the immediate need for gun control legislation, particularly when the majority of Americans want it. I want to strangle every person with the power to do something now who says the words “thoughts and prayers” and then does nothing — or has the audacity to blame the victims.

Tom McAllister of The Rumpus speaks my language as he describes with the kind of frankness that comes when there is bile and fire in your throat what to do with his body if he dies in a mass shooting:

Every day, pile more bodies in the halls [of the Capitol] so they can’t go anywhere without stepping over the victims. Force them to look down at a dead body and lift their leg over it as if stepping over a puddle. Don’t join them in their prayers (the god they pray to doesn’t exist). When they step over my dead body, I want them to look down into my vacant eyes and reckon with the way it ended. I want them to be transported into my mind and feel what I felt after being shot. In those final moments—as I bled out onto the tile floor of the mall, or onto the grass outside a summer concert, or in the dirt of the center city beer garden, or in the middle of my fucking classroom—I would be thinking of all the ways my own country has abandoned its people (for profit, for spite, for no reason at all).

This rage, this helplessness, this heartache is exhausting and infuriating. With every life pointlessly lost, it’s impossible not to lose hope that something might finally — at some point — change. I fear Dan Hodges was right years ago, after another mindless string of killings, when he said: “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

How can we be here?

My father and I hadn’t discussed the event until last night, but when we did, my rage was echoed. I’m not on Facebook anymore, so I hadn’t been privy to the discourse among my friends and family, which no doubt was a veritable mountain of sadness and anger in the face of more tragedy and impossibly stupid clichés like “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” and other such garbage.

My dad did share with me something he wrote with similar blood and tears in his eyes, and I’d like to share it here, with you:

Will our children and grandchildren — will anyone’s children and grandchildren — continue to become statistics in a war upon our society by those using guns to settle a score, or release their hatred, or tap the black vein of racism in their hearts? Unfortunately I think they will. Because we continue to elect people at all levels of government who put their careers, campaign coffers, and comfort ahead of doing their jobs: protecting the people and nation they have sworn to serve.

We know the numbers: 17 in Parkland, Florida; 58 in Las Vegas; 26 at Sandy Hook… In two years of random carnage in America, more men, women and children have been killed than in all the years of the Vietnam War combined (58,220). Just sit back and think of that. Where is The Wall for these victims of gun violence? Where is the slashing black marble slab with the names of the honored and mourned, those innocents now dead? Unfortunately, ‘The Wall’ is carried in too many hearts and memories all across our country. It is an unwelcome visitor that divides what was from what could have been. 17 people (so far) whose parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters and friends will never see them sit again at their table to eat, never see them grab that diploma and throw their cap in the air, never see them marry or have children or live out their dreams. What kind of country is this? What kind of country are we going to be? Is everyone in the nation going to have to suffer a tragedy in his or her family before something is done? Anything is done?

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of hearing excuses and having our President or Congressional Representatives brush aside even having a civil conversation about what we might do together to save even ONE CHILD! I understand we have elected the spineless and the fearful to office, but is that what we have become as well?

Have you lost someone you love to a normal, peaceful, non-violent death? How did you feel? What was that grief like? Now multiply it 17, 58, 26 times and imagine what the survivors of these mass shootings must feel like. Don’t talk about “thoughts and prayers” when the result is inaction and complacency. The excuses, at this point, make me sick.

Tell those close to you that you love them. Hug your babies and your friends and your parents and your siblings and your pillow, but also:

Call your senators, your representatives, your “not all gun owners” uncle and tell them you are full of sadness and rage too. Tell them it is no longer acceptable that more lives are lost as a result of greed, or because their hobby, somehow, is prioritized over a legitimate threat to actual lives.

And with that, I’ll leave you with this tweet by the wonderful Bess Kalb — which sums up my perspective on assault weapons:

Stay safe, friends. I love you.

Psst… If you’re able, consider donating to Everytown.org as another tangible way to fight against the gun lobby and culture of gun violence in this country.

(Top photo via The Independent)

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