Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Serious Thoughts and Cuddly Animals

It's nearly impossible to think about anything other than Friday's tragic deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary and the murder of Nancy Lanza in her home.

We all know what's going on, what's being said. It's mental illness, it's guns, it's video games, it's movies, it's God, it's Satan.

I find it is the human condition to want life to be black and white. Good guys, bad guys. White hats, black hats. Heroes and villains.

As a group, we are about as simple-minded as you can get. No nuance, no shades of grey. (Goddammit, E.L. James, you've ruined the phrase forever.)

But life is shades of grey (definitely so ruined).

Life is complicated. Like a lot of you, I have been struggling this week. I have cried a lot, and I was already setting a personal record for tears.

"[Crying] is my new thing. I've become abnormally brilliant at it." - Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give.

Break: Here's a cat snuggling a stuffed animal.
I have a favor to ask all the perfect people of the Internet: Please stop criticizing the parents of the victims for doing interviews.

Admit this: You have NO idea what you would do in their situation. It is clear to me that you have never experienced a traumatic event, because otherwise you would be kinder and more understanding of those who have.

Have you ever been in shock? These parents are in shock. It has been five days since everything they knew about the world changed forever. Five short days in a lifetime. Shock is a lovely phase in which things are a bit fuzzy. I know these parents are feeling intense pain. I also know that this pain is nowhere near as intense as it's going to get when the shock wears off.

Eventually, the activity will end. Family members will go home. These parents and grandparents and siblings will be left alone and the real work of grief and suffering will begin.

For now, they are able to go through the motions. They want to talk about their children. Who are you to criticize when and where they choose to do so?

They will spend a lifetime needing to talk about their children. If they want to do that talking to a counselor, at home with their spouse, or on Katie Couric's talk show, it's certainly not up to you to pass judgement on them for it.

Break: Here's a picture of a dog snuggling up to a horse.
I am struggling because I feel like everyone wants to identify the one thing to blame for this awful situation and it's not that simple. I keep thinking about how I have spent several years grieving a person I loved, but I am also grieving a person who, when he killed himself, also destroyed the father of my children and my best friend. It is not a simple thing with which to live, to love and miss someone who irreparably wounded you.

My heart aches for the family of the shooter. They must be feeling a pain that seems unbearable. They, not the perfect people of the Internet, will be the ones who will never stop asking how this happened, and seeing over  and over the hundreds of small things that led to something so large.

It's just that this was someone's child. This was once a small baby, a little boy, a middle school student. I look at his middle school photo and I cry because I know that no one then knew what would happen.

There is something about this act of picturing people in the "before" that breaks my heart even more than seeing the "after."

When you are in the midst of tragedy, it is the "before" that rips you to shreds inside.

No one wants to imagine what seems unimaginable.

Break: Here's a picture of two bunnies.

I ask myself all the time how the unimaginable happened. What are the things that came together to create my personal trauma? I can lay it all out for you now. I can give you dates and times of events that, when put all in a row, seem like clear signs of a coming tragedy.

But we do not live that way. You know it and I know it.

We live with hope. We live with the idea that "that would never happen to me." Hell, I never once in my wildest nightmares could have come up with the thing that happened in my house, just as the parents in Sandy Hook could never imagine. If you could imagine those things, what would you do? You would shiver, you would shake your head, you would push the thought away as quickly as it came to you.

We look back and we know better. We look ahead and we know nothing of what is coming for us. And yet it is the truth of humanity that we pretend to know. We revel in pretending. We revel in the certainty of what we deserve, of what we have earned, of what life will give us, of "I would never do that" or "That would never happen to me."

Break: Here's a bunny in a dress.

I can tell you, too, that had there not been a gun in this house, that my personal trauma wouldn't have happened. And I have to wonder what if there hadn't been a gun in Nancy Lanza's house.

The gun is the thing. The gun is the ingredient that turned it from something that could have been remedied to something that is irreparable.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying to take all the guns away. I've seen enough of the arguments about how the law doesn't matter to criminals anyway.

You've won me over. Give everyone a gun that pumps out hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes. It's YOUR RIGHT.

Every single day, at least 20 people run the stop sign at the corner where my house sits. I'm really worried about the safety of the kids crossing the street there to get to the bus stop.

So I called the police and said, "Hey, you should just take down those stop signs on the busy road and make it a two-way stop. I know you think the four-way stop might help cut down on the problem.

I know you think it decreases the chances of children getting run over on the way to the bus stop and it decreases the chances of accidents, but is it really worth it when you're taking away freedoms? Plus, criminals aren't going to follow the law anyway. Take down the speed limit sign, too. It's just so pointless because a criminal is going to go as fast as he wants.

So there's really no point in trying to enact any sort of traffic control at all."

Yes, clearly America has a precedent of never setting any sort of controls on anything in an attempt to increase safety.

Break: Little buddy here has a question.
Ma'am, was that sarcasm? 

What I would like to see from the NRA, with all its power and reach, is this message: Not everyone in this country needs a gun.

Instead of screaming about rights and the 2nd Amendment and being defensive, stop for a moment and calmly send the message that a gun is a powerful weapon and it is not for everyone. (Side note: Stop sending the message that it makes you a man.)

Why would it be so bad for this powerful group to use their platform to speak about mental health, about regulations ("well-regulated" is in the amendment these people love so much, right)?

Why are so many gun owners opposed to the words "well-regulated"?

You are not a member of a well-regulated militia and you fucking know it.

Do you live in a home with an addict?

Do you live in a home with someone who is depressed?

Do you live with someone who is mentally unstable?

You do not need a gun.

We set many controls in this country to increase the safety of our citizens.

I must admit that I do not understand why anyone needs a weapon that is capable of pumping as many as 11 bullets into each of 20 first-graders in less than ten minutes. So I don't see why it would be so wrong to take these things off the streets.

Do you use it for hunting? What the fuck are you hunting? Alien invaders? Do you need it for safety? Fuck you, no you don't. Do you need it for some war you want to start?

We set traffic controls. You cannot go so fast that you endanger others. If you do, there are consequences. Why isn't it OK to place controls on a weapon that goes too fast?

Near Jacob's school, there is a neighborhood that everyone used to cut through to avoid a traffic light. Eventually, they put up a temporary barrier. They invited citizens to come to a meeting. They listened to concerns of residents. They looked into the routes of emergency vehicles. They took the time to analyze what was best, what was safest and least disruptive, for citizens and drivers before cutting off access through the neighborhood.

And yet, we can't take the time to discuss what might be best for this country when it comes to gun control? We can't even have the conversation?

I think it's time for reasonable conversations and reasonable action. If we're going to scream about the 2nd Amendment, then why is it so wrong to make the "well-regulated" part happen?

I hate this debate. I really do. I don't want to take away freedom. But I also know I'm not free to have a nuclear weapon up in here, so why should you have a tool of horror? What? It's only how people use it that makes it horrific? Well, I just want to top it with glass and use my nuclear weapon as a dining room table.

I admit that I am biased. I don't like guns. A friend of mine posted just that comment on Facebook and was attacked for it. It is OK for people to say they don't like guns. It doesn't automatically mean they want to steal your freedom fries.

I know that I don't have the answers. I just think we should be able to ask the questions without being subjected to a barrage of simple-minded photos on FB declaring that "People, not guns, kill people." While that statement is true, so is this one: People with high-powered assault rifles kill people really quickly.

And it is OK to ask the questions: "Is this how we want it to be? Is there something we can do to save the lives of even one classroom or movie theater or mall full of people?"

Let me repeat that: It is OK to ask the questions.

I bet one day someone asked, "Hey, do you think we should require people to get their driver's licenses renewed so we can make sure they are still capable of driving? That might save some lives on the road."

Break: Cute overload.

When you post comments on Facebook about how "guns don't kill people" and you are oh-so-smug, what happens is that I remember a time when a gun killed a person I loved. I am immediately put back into my garage where I watched a gun destroy a person. And no, this would not have happened with a bottle of pills. There would have been time for things to happen differently, if only there hadn't been a gun.

I am struggling with this.

And I am glad for you that you do not know exactly what I know. You think you can imagine it, but you are incapable of truly knowing.

Do you know what it costs to clean up the aftermath? $1,500. That's just to clean up the physical aftermath of what one person with one gun can do to one body.

That is not one iota of what it costs to clean up the emotional aftermath.

So you just don't know a thing really.

Keep your guns. Keep them. Snuggle them close.

But stop deluding yourselves that you, the perfect people of the Internet, actually know what those parents are feeling, what the shooter's family did wrong, what the first responders saw when they arrived. Stop thinking that you, when faced with someone who has a gun, would be the hero of the day.

You are sitting at home on your computer, typing up responses and reveling in how YOU would do everything right.





Because only people who know nothing can be so certain about things. Only people who know nothing are opposed to asking the questions.

I need a hug.


  1. Heavy stuff. Adorable puppies. Thank you for writing the tough stuff.

    "Only people who know nothing can be so certain about things." One of the truest things ever said.

    1. Too heavy. I need more adorable animals. I think we could make a ton of money by going on tour with a menagerie of cuddly little puppies, kittens, and bunnies. People could pay to come snuggle.

      Unfortunately, it'll be like Menudo. We'll have to kick out the adorable animals as soon as they get too old.

    2. I would like to apply for that job. And who thinks of stacking husky puppies?? Give that person a raise.

  2. So many good points you've made. And I love your analogy about the stop signs. Great thoughts and questions as always. I'm the first one to say I don't have the answers, but the questions are so important.

    And if you could make those kittens and bunnies appear in my lap for a bit, that would be swell.

    1. Did you hear about the people who took dogs to Newtown so people would cuddle them? I think those dogs need to go on a national tour.

    2. I agree! Kittens and puppies for everyone to love!

  3. I didn't read the text, but the pics were adorable!

    Seriously, I think the masses revel in tragedies like this because (1) it affirms their belief in a scary world where horrible things happen to innocent people, and (2) they don't have to deal with it directly. Ironically, it's this feeling of powerlessness that makes people want guns in the first place, to protect family and "freedoms."

    Thanks for the post.

    1. I was listening to NPR yesterday and someone was talking about how humanity always finds something to get worked up about. They were discussing the 21st and the apocalypse (so dumb). The end of the world has come about a million times. We like fear. This is probably because the body doesn't know the difference between physical symptoms of fear and physical symptoms of excitement, so people love to feel that excitement, however they get it. But the thing is that it's "pretend" fear. It's all manufactured BS.
      Anyone who's experienced real fear doesn't go around making up reasons to feel it.

    2. I have 3 kids in grade school, 2 of them in 1st grade, and I caught myself briefly imagining the grief I'd fell if they been gunned down. But then I had the luxury of snapping out of it and enjoying the fact that they are healthy and happy. It's like a brief high. It sorta crosses the line from empathy to a weird voyeuristic-type thing, wanting to see the faces of those killed, to know details about their lives. Understandable, in a way, but still strange. Probably the same reason we read fiction.

  4. Tis the season for JUDGING. All around judgment on one another.

    Took in every word.

    Very well written.

  5. Damn. Took me this long to be able to comment on this post and I really don't have anything interesting to say. I will tell you, though, that out of all the media coverage on the tragedy and all the FB BS and "woe is us" blog posts that *this* entry that you wrote right here? Actually made me cry. Very powerful stuff.


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