The Tragedy in Orlando

When I was a boy I acted like a boy. I loved playing with guns. Cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers. It was the era of the cowboy movie, and cowboy movies had a great influence on our lives. The more realistic a toy gun, the more it promoted a boy’s romance with it; the weight of it, the feel of it in your hand. I remember taking it to bed with me when I went to sleep and laying it next to me on the pillow. We were always making up plays and scenarios to fit our love affair with the guns. The influence of our soldier-play in the thirties was the First World War. But there was a psychological barrier that kids understood and didn’t go beyond. I remember finding my dad’s 32 Smith and Wesson short barreled pistol in the closet and carefully putting it back and not touching it again. It was unheard of for a kid to bring a gun to school, much less shoot someone with it. Long before I grew up, I let go of that childish play and followed more mature pursuits. Too many never grow out of it.

It is not hard to see how grown men are easily seduced by the gun industry and its front, the NRA, to cherish such ugly and beautiful weapons. The beauty of ugliness. The trademark, Glock, brings forth an image of someone whose throat is filled with blood, taking their last breath. The mystique can be fascinating; holding in your hand the power over life and death. The arms industry since the end of World War Two has swelled to enormous proportions and its insidious and corrupting influence on our society is hardly questioned. Both children and adults are subject to continuous ‘round the clock free advertising for mayhem on television, not to mention the obscene brutal video games. How could this not influence behavior?

Sometime between the 70’s and the 80’s the line between playing with toy guns and real gun-play on our streets was crossed, and continues to escalate at the alarming rate we see today. There is an old saying that when the rulers are kind, generous, and benevolent, the populace follows this role model and there is peace in the land. When the opposite is true, there is untold suffering. One significant result of our offensive mistake in violently upsetting the Middle East has been the emergence of the suicide bomber. If you hit a hornet’s nest with a stick, watch out. Just as we called forth Ben Laden through our careless aggression, we have been a contributing cause to the new phenomenon known as the suicide bomber. Pushed up against the wall, in a seemingly helpless situation, you sacrifice your life with honor. The suicide bomber does not simply kill people. The suicide bomber must also kill him/herself as well.

I don’t think we should underestimate the influence of the suicide bomber on those in our society who perpetrate mass murder/suicides. Suicide bombings happen every day and are so common that it is now the norm in some parts of the world. There are of course different reasons for mass murder, but this pattern of suicidal behavior could be a kind of self-justification or twisted atonement or an escape. For some this can be a kind of role model. The leadership of government should provide a role model for the populace. The mayhem in the streets is a reflection of what goes on at the top. The stranglehold of the NRA on the Congress and its influence on our children must be addressed. This is a difficult time we are in right now. People kill people with guns, which are an extension of our hand, and a bullet is a messenger of our intentions. Our emotions must be under the control of our reasoning.

Alienation, criticism without compassion, feelings of ostracism and marginalization are a basis for destabilizing people to indiscriminately take it out on the public by getting even. (Now you know how I feel!)

In addressing this situation I realize how overwhelmed we all are given the latest tragic event of the murder of twenty children and six teachers in a public school. Given our collective and personal feelings of helplessness and frustration, what can be done? A not-crazy person when provoked can, in an unguarded emotional moment, reach for the most convenient response: a nearby gun. Gun control can be addressed. Emotional control is more difficult. It is not an either- or- situation, but making firearms unavailable and out of reach is a good and possible beginning. When one wheel is addressed the other wheel will also be turning.

At this time as our world is being turned upside down, we are feeling what is hard to feel and must bear the unbearable and the uncertainty for what is next. Let us find and maintain our composure so that we can remain open and compassionate while helping to stabilize our surroundings.