SEARCHING FOR SANITY
Tossing and turning this past week, so upset by the seventeen deaths in Parkland and the screams and cries of families and survivors who will never see their loved ones again. Images of smiling hopeful lives snuffed out by maximum hate, ignorance and artillery. Pictures of young men and women at the beginning of life, smiles from social media a week ago, and now only the interviews of horror as told by survivors.
I want to scream and cry too, and curse, a hundred times, a thousand times, one certainly for each of the bullets rapid-fired a week ago. Instead I listen, the words, the usual words.
People kill people, not guns. Sutherland Springs.
What can we do? Sandy Hook.
Mental illness. Virginia Tech.
The President. San Bernardino.
Do something. Charleston.
The NRA. Parkland.
He was nineteen years old and hateful, both parents gone, expelled, anti-everyone and everything, desperate, hopeless, enraged, a young man with nothing more in his mind to lose. And the absolutely worst part, heavily armed.
When….is the next one? When…will we wake up? When…will we devote the resources and manpower necessary to stop this madness and pass the long overdue gun control legislation we need to try? When…will we stop offering death threats for those willing to speak out about gun violence?
I so want to believe that those who hold onto what they believe are their constitutional rights mean well, that they sincerely believe that they are the good guys and gun control will leave guns only in the hands of the bad guys. That they and their guns will be the deterrent most often and the difference when necessary. But that is not the history in this country and certainly not the experience of every other nation on earth. Gun ownership by responsible gun owners should not mean a seemingly unlimited quantity of both weapons and rapidly fired ammunition. Common sense gun control should be common sense.
But wait, is that really a pundit just wanting to hear himself talk, wondering aloud if a Parkland teen survivor conspired with his ex-FBI dad to concoct an impassioned demand for change? Are they still blaming the elites? Mental illness? Are they still twisting the narrative, telling people that guns are freedom? That they need protection from a runaway government? That it’s all Obama’s fault?
Friends have said that if reasonable gun control didn’t get done in 2012 immediately after the tiniest of schoolchildren were massacred in Newtown, Connecticut it will never ever be accomplished in a country that has lived and died by the gun since its inception.
I don’t want to believe that. The energized eloquent shouters of Parkland, with millions of dollars and millions of sane citizens standing behind them, have given me new hope.
It is too late for all those beautiful young lives who are gone. Theirs is the silence that cries out louder than all the others for anyone listening.
It is mental illness. It is the culture. It is the stress, the alienation, the technology, the video games, the loss of community, the overseas wars, the gangs, the drugs, the lack of a safety net, the hatred, the anger. These are part of the human condition as we’ve come to know and define it. What makes them all the more uniquely frightening in this nation are the guns.
So that’s where we start, with the guns, specifically first with the rapid-firing automatic weapons that have turned yesterday’s fracas into today’s massacre. Remove them from all but law enforcement. Immediately. Did I hear you say just that last week, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel? That you’re going to stop funding politicians who accept NRA funds, significant GOP checkwriter Al Hoffmann? That you’re turning in your AR-57, longtime responsible Florida gun owner Ben Dickmann? Thank you, thank you, thank you. Did I hear you say it won’t help, National Review’s David French, and that we need to be aware, courageous and caring? I cannot imagine you being that analytical if it had been you who lost a loved one to this madness. Hunters know no one’s coming for their hunting guns. NRA Board members know it’s not really about the Second Amendment and that its millions of members aren’t about to become a militia in the face of sometimes wrongful governing. Somehow, this tiny sliver of the economy, the gun industry, has a stranglehold on the survival of our young people. So it starts with an end to all distribution of rapid-fire automatic weapons in this country except to law enforcement personnel. Now. Support it or get out of government.
Perhaps then we can focus on the much tougher part of building a healthier nation and a better world, the part about having a nation of greater community, less divisiveness, greater economic equality, more and better education, more available healthcare physical and mental, more resources devoted to fractured families and school warning signs, less violence and less armaments, and frankly more love. That would involve changing our mindset about who we are and where we’re going. How to bring front and center the love for each other so many of us have and how to bring as many along and into the fold as we can. Some would tell you that was the purpose of every religion’s teachings and others would tell you it’s all codified in our free nation’s best constitutional principles. But those always seem to get twisted for convenience and faction. I would tell you it’s in all of us. We saw it in 1945 when an entire world gave thanks to those who sacrificed in a battle against pure evil. We saw it in 2001 when an entire world put aside tribalism and hatred in a spirit of true gratitude (if only for an all too brief period of time) for those who showed unbelievable courage. And we saw it earlier this week as people gave their lives so that others might live in Parkland.
We have too long been a winner take all nation and not understood why so many feel lost and alienated. We have too long asked our young men and women to go to war in other lands for unclear reasons and purposes and looked the other way from the death and traumatic after-effects of survival. We have too long imprisoned too many, too long built walls, too long undereducated, underpaid and underemployed, too long substituted religious proverbs and national cheerleading for positive action, too long supplied the populace legally or illegally with drugs to anesthetize and guns to murder, and now too long hated each other from a distance via media that was supposed to bring us closer.
Sometimes an answer can be found in the tossing and turning, even if it’s the simple things, even if it’s three or four decades after the fact and even if it’s in the context of a uniquely violent sport like American football. Sometimes an answer can be found in a place like the Super Bowl. Such a truly American spectacle and only one winner on the biggest stage. A hundred million viewers and billions of dollars flowing. So all-encompassing that rarely have I thought anything about the Super Bowl outside the lines, the million-dollar ads and the halftime show.
There was Black Sunday though, that 1977 movie with Bruce Dern as bad guy Michael Lander, a Goodyear blimp pilot upset over his wartime service in Vietnam and subsequent court martial. He conspires with Palestinian terrorists to kill everyone they can at Super Bowl X because that’s what alienated, disaffected losers do in American cinema.
And then a few nights ago, there was the brighter side, on ESPN’s 30 for 30.
January 27, 1991, Tampa, Super Bowl XXV. Ten days into Desert Storm, a nation on edge, armed security precautions that have now become routine, Hollywood’s Black Sunday imagination so sadly come to life. The late Whitney Houston gives a rendition of the National Anthem that still makes people shake with emotion for the nation that we want to be and can be. The New York Giants are ahead of the Buffalo Bills 20 to 19 with just seconds to go. There, at the end, is Scott Norwood missing a not very easy 47-yard field goal that would have given the 1991 Super Bowl Championship to the Bills.
No good. Wide right.
Al Michaels on the call and the Giants win again, making fans of the behemoth metropolis winners and leaving the bedraggled, economically depressed denizens to the north losers for the first of four consecutive years.
There is no more glaring spotlight than a player not performing in the most critical moment of his or her sport. But the day after the big game Scott Norwood is greeted in Niagara Square with the other Bills losers by 25,000 screaming fans who chant his name in adulation, love and understanding, something we need to see a lot more of around this nation, like every day.
Karl Taro Greenfeld’s July 12, 2004 piece in Sports Illustrated about Norwood’s life after the kick is excellent and his words can be applied to what we need to do right now.
We are a fickle nation, quick to dismiss failure and embrace success. Prove yourself a champion, and we will love you forever, overlooking murder raps and drug busts and spousal abuse. But fall short on the field, and we may never forgive, no matter how you conduct yourself away from the game…The measure of a man should no more be his worst moments than it should be the color of his skin or the cut of his suit. It is how we deal with those moments that make us who we are, and that is the most American measure of success: to fail once, to pick yourself up and try again. We are a nation of losers made good, descendants of those who settled here in search of a second chance.
There will be no second chances for the crazed shooters of Parkland, Las Vegas, Newtown, and everywhere in this country who have brought unimaginable horror into our reality. But for those of us left behind in grief, there is another chance. We have failed in letting automatic weapons proliferate through our nation like so many signed death warrants. So let’s start there. And we have failed in forgetting that caring for and about each other is expensive, time-consuming and the only chance we have. We can work on that next. But we are Americans. It’s worth remembering that we can get things done when we want to.
All Rights Reserved © Peter Brav 2018