Helpers and Heroes

I suspect that my mother picked up this phrase while working as a nurse at the hospital she retired from some time ago. I can recall when she started slipping it into conversations; often her focus was on C. Everett Koop. She put him on a pedestal because of the way he was then treating the AIDS/HIV crisis of the day despite his religious beliefs. He put the health of his patients above his dogma and, in hindsight, I can see why my Mother venerated this man. And that was what she was saying, “See, this guy understands the problem and has risen above it, remained objective in the face of it, and can address it effectively.”

Yesterday, some more people died in our country’s latest moral crisis. I first learned about yet-another-mass-shooting because a friend in my Facebook feed tagged me in a post about it; I moved to an island to hide from this sort thing, and consequently I stay away from the news unless directed.


I need to thank Robert for his kind words; as an author it’s a rare moment that a reader might tell you that they’ve been moved by something you bothered to write down. I’m sitting here savoring this, in fact, because whatever I wrote I made a difference. As a wordsmith, it feels oh so good. But, hanging over that savory morsel is the simple fact that since I wrote about Sandy Hook absolutely nothing has been done about the underlying problem of cultural gun fetishization or mass shootings. Nothing! Nada! Zilch!

Given the situation and some thought Robert is right. So too, is my Mom. We need to start looking for helpers and heroes. People in the middle of the mess, like C. Everett Koop, who can look beyond their articles of faith and recognize that there is a problem that can’t be addressed by continuing the same traditions that got us in this predicament. Adopting institutional inertia as a battle banner is waving a big fat excuse over your campaign.

We need a fanatical supporter of Second Amendment rights to stand up and say in a clear voice with no disassembled words, “Gun ownership in the United States is a problem.” We’ve glorified the use of a simple tool to such a degree that pointing out the obvious is anything but politically expedient. The people that fetishize their armories are never going to listen to all us targets. We’re the ones trying to take away their guns. We’re weak, we’re uninformed, we’re part of the problem as they see it.

No, what the United States needs is an ATF Executive or an NRA director brave enough to insist that continuing to do things as they’ve been done will only result in more meaningless death. This person needs to propose a better way. A rational and effective roadmap because just as civil society can not tolerate an epidemic of infectious disease, a social vector left to kill innocent people will be purged one way or another. Our hero must enlist the sanest components of his faction as helpers and as they come along so will even the most fearful and deranged.

More guns, easier access to guns and ammunition, armed teachers and social workers, anything that resembles the current system of management around gun ownership found in the States won’t ever work. It can only lead to more tyranny, not less. That’s how hosts react to infection.

Our society has already begun to ape countries where guns are a ubiquitous part of day-to-day life and that’s not good. For instance, the only difference I see between those murdered yesterday in San Bernardino and the 129 students and teachers killed in Iguala is the body count. Is this what we want? How many more have to die before we recognize that we’ve got a cultural problem that must be addressed?



3 thoughts on “Helpers and Heroes

  1. The one thing I didn’t read here that I wanted to see is that we’ve had another shooting and everyone is going to say “oh my god” and “pray” and “the world is going to hell” and no one is going to say we are all complicit if we just bemoan the situation and take no action. There are things you can do even if you’re not Wayne LaPierre.

    Find your representatives. Write them, phone them, bug them. Hold them accountable.

    Support the NPOs that are trying to make change happen. A few of these are
    * Every Town for Gun Safety
    * Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America

    Write, talk. Talk about it. I recently read a friend on Facebook write about how he doesn’t comment about politics very often, as if that is how polite people behave. It is how *complicit* people behave. Citizens have responsibilities.

    • Your comment is making me think deep, multilayered thoughts. Tess is right, there are things we can and should do, apathy is complicity. But I’m also concerned about creating intractability in the opposition. Or perhaps I should say, motivating any more stubbornness because if there’s one thing that characterizes the gun lobby in Washington it’s their standardized inflexible response to any challenge.

      I know where I stand on this issue. What I want to live to see a future where I and my family are safe. Where we can do any number of innocuous activities without needing to look out for the nut case setting up an ambush. I want to drink my coffee without having to worry about sitting with my back to a wall. But my end game isn’t a shared goal, there are a lot of people out there who believe that their gun ownership “protects” them from these situations. That, in the off chance that they’ll be involved in a mass shooting, they’ll be able to pull a weapon and beat the bad guys to the punch.

      I guess what I’m saying is that without a rational response to gun violence spearheaded by the same people who advocate wide and unregulated gun distribution nothing is likely to change. I could be wrong, but I doubt that anyone, even Wayne LaPierre, wants to see more kids mowed down with assault weapons. But it’s incumbent on these same minds to realize that their advocacy for free-for-all distribution of these weapons enables these kinds of mass shootings. They need to redefine the threshold of what is reasonable, and until a hero in that camp steps up and does just this, the whole camp will remain unreasonable.

      Can Every Town eliminate guns? Who knows, but their track record isn’t great. The anti-gun lobby needs to rethink how they approach changing the hearts and minds of their irrational but well funded counter-lobby.

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