Friday, October 2, 2015

We Blew It- Guns, Violence, and America

One movie I enjoyed a great deal from my youth was “Easy Rider” by Peter Fonda. Two guys go out in search of Freedom, connection, and a better understanding of their own country and people.

In the end, they realize they have been nothing but a pair of selfish drug dealers, and they missed the whole point all along.

“We blew it",  Peter Fonda’s Captain America says to his riding partner Dennis Hopper.

They thought the problem was with America, or “society” or whatever convenient “them” we all use to rail against in these moments of righteousness.

But in the end, it was them. THEY blew it. 

And in America. It was us.

We blew it.

Yesterday in Oregon was the 297th mass shooting in America this year. That’s more than one a day. 

And what happens? The same stupid head shaking.  The same stupid speeches by presidents and congressmen and politicians, whose speeches do nothing, say nothing, mean nothing.

We can’t have an intelligent dialogue anymore. We have two sides that have lost the ability to listen, to compromise, to reason. We’ve lost the ability to solve our own problems. We’re too invested in being right. All of us. For some taking guns is the most obvious solution in the world. And for every one of those there’s probably someone on the “From my cold dead hands crowd” on the other side. Watch these people talk on Facebook. They usually can’t even get past a couple sentences before their conversation devolves into personal attacks, name-calling, and disrespect.  

We blew it. 

But let me back up a second.

In the early 90’s, I myself was a young community college student in the sate of Oregon. I’d dropped out of school once already. I was pretty good at chugging beer and playing Nintendo, but otherwise didn’t have much of a clue as to what I wanted to do with my life.

I did like being in school though. It gave me a chance to begin to answer that question. Sometimes it takes a while.

Yesterday ten people who were probably at a similar stage of their lives got up in the morning, stuffed some books in a backpack, and went to school to try and figure it all out. 

They had no idea it would be the last day of their lives.

Why would they know that?

I think back and wonder if that could have been me. I would have never eventually grown up, traveled the world, and become a psychologist, an occupation that has allowed me to influence thousands of lives. My family would have been heartbotken, and who knows how this heartbreak may have influenced their lives.

Yesterday all that potential died in those ten students. The world will never know what they might have become, who they might have fallen in love with, or how they may have changed the world.

I’m not going to go into all the arguments about gun control, mental health, and the 2nd amendment here. What’s the point really?

All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.

I do want to make one point about the way we talk about school shooters. To do so I’ll use the chilling words of yesterday’s shooter.

I have noticed that so many people like [Flanagan] (SC shooter) are alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems like the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.

For one day, because we make these guys celebrities in their deaths, they go from being ineffectual nothings to a Kardashian all of a sudden.

It’s enough to make them shoot innocent people who wanted nothing but to go to school for the day.

Again and again and again.

When the drive for 15 minutes of false and fleeting fame has reached that level of absurdity, then we have reached the point of insanity.

And we all know the definition of insanity, right?

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

In the meantime, I’ve settled in to my new life in New Zealand. In my heart of hearts, I’d rather live in America, the place where I was born, shaped, and raised into the person I am today. It’s the only home I’ve ever known.

But I can’t live in an insane place anymore. It’s not getting any better.

We blew it.