Monday, December 17, 2012

Far from a Wounded Home

I'll always remember where I was on Sept. 11th: first period in high school, we were in the computer lab for some reason. Same goes for when 32 people were murdered at Virginia Tech: reporting class at university. I also vividly recall Alli waking me up, sick in bed, to sadly tell me Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and other Tucsonans, had been shot and killed, only about nine miles directly north of our apartment. While I was scattered around the country (Maryland, Colorado and Arizona) for all these horrid events, one fact is constant: my feet were on U.S. soil. 

Now comes the Newtown, CT massacre. And Alli and I are far from home, around 9,000 miles roughly. I'll remember my location for this one too: we had just arrived at a guesthouse in Miri, a prospering oil boom town in Sarawak state, Malaysian Borneo. We hadn't been on the Internet for over 10 days. Soon I learned part of the story and my breaking the news to Alli showed how accustomed us Americans are to this news: "I think there was another shooting rampage" I said plainly. More info was gained and I learned the grisly facts and numbers we all know - 27 dead, including 20 first grade elementary school children. Reading that hours ago, and writing it just now, takes some air out of you. You feel helpless. Then yearn to get the full rundown on the awfulness that transpired. Then you're sad and feel for the families in Conneticut. And after that, at least for me, you're perplexed, depressed and pissed all at once.

In the end it doesn't mean squat that Alli and I are in Borneo, while our country mourns, and folks in CT try to cope with it all. For me, I'm already wondering if this blog entry is becoming too self-indulgent and I should just give the people want they want: exotic travel photos with pithy commentary. But I feel strange in this hotel room. I guess right now I'd like to be around a bunch of Americans, whether its for comfort, camaraderie or to figure out how the hell something like this can happen.

We all know these shooting rampages are becoming regular occurrences. Just since Alli and I left for Malaysia people have been gunned down in CO and OR. And we once lived less than 5 miles from the Safeway where 6 Tucsonans died and many more were shot. I've bought potato chowder and champagne from that store. Even high school and university shootings were becoming standard, but the event in Conneticut hit a new low: elementary school children. I'm not trying to downplay the other tragedies but this one stings even more. It's high time something be done about these shootings. And if all I can do to help out here is offer my damn two cents, then so be it.

Guns are entwined into our country's fabric. We all know this. I don't own one though. I have shot a few (mainly only to rid Southern AZ of those wretched, invasive Bullfrogs). I understand their power. But guns that can fire 20 to 30 rounds without reloading, with no pause at all, what do we need these for? I know hunters and that's not how they bag deer or elk. And I'm pretty sure not that many bullets are needed for those who feel the need to be strapped when hiking amongst bears or large cats. Last time I checked there was no North American equivalent to the blood ravenous gorillas of Michael Crichton's Congo. Who needs that many bullets? Are we becoming so paranoid that people think they need 30 bullets to defend themselves? 

Before and after the Tucson shooting there was a bill in the state legislature floating around that would have allowed guns on college campuses, with the idea to prevent the next Virginia Tech or Columbine. Luckily that bill never made it out of the statehouse. Is this really the tunnel we want to start going down: arming teachers, movie theatre employees, little league coaches, concert venue bouncers, maitre d's, etc? Is everyone supposed to walk around wide eyed waiting for the next gunman, feeling secure because it's legal to carry a concealed handgun? In Tucson, Jared Loughner sprayed bullets into Gabby Giffords and the nearby crowd. In Newton, Adam Lanza sprayed bullets into a room full of children. I can't stomach a future full of teachers, professors, Safeway clerks and the general public armed to the teeth. Where is the room for error in these scenarios? Is this what the inevitable solution is, to prevent these shootings by firing bullets to prevent more? For the sake of us all, I hope not.

I also really hope the gun lobby, which make no mistake is a massive K street bulldog, finally can come to grip with what has just occurred and please check their insincere bullshit paranoia at the door. No politician in their right mind is going to propose an outright ban on guns in the U.S. But I think a few things could start to change. Banning assault weapons. Reducing the number of bullets in a magazine. Restricting who can buy guns and bullets. Working on the numerous loopholes, which are gargantuan-sized, involved in gun shows. Improving mental health services in our country (I realize these are five huge issues to work on).

Let's actually do something positive for once after these tragedies, instead of insisting that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Or stating that an armed populace is a safer one. I'm not calling for everything in the above paragraph to happen at once or even relatively soon, but considering the pace American politics runs at, it would be nice for the dominoes to at least start falling. I'm 28-years-old now. I was in high school when Columbine happened; at university when Virginia Tech occurred; sick in bed when fellow Tucsonans of mine died last year; and now I'm sitting in Borneo mulling Newtown over, and trying to think of something poignant to say about how the future will be different, or at least better. But it's tough. 

Columbine happened in 1999 and it feels like shooting rampages have become all too familiar since then. I like to be optimistic though. That's why I hope in this age of bitter politics and log-jammed brinkmanship, where each side is an endless pissing match with the other, we can move forward. It would be such a relief. In case you didn't notice, I failed to find something poignant to say. So I'll leave it at this. I send everyone in Newtown my condolences. My heart goes out to them. Hopefully by the time Alli and I get home for Christmas next year, I won't have sent another round of condolences to another town that will be branded in our nation's memory for all the wrong, tragic reasons.

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