Taking A Life


Yesterday I had an ongoing Facebook conversation with some guys about Gun control. We went back and forth with our ideas, they had their opinions and I had mine. For the most part it was futile because neither side was going to budge on how we felt. But it did help me to remember other conversations I’ve had about the issue and brought to mind some things I think are important. Some of the things I’m going to write about may disturb some of you, so be warned.

I know a few people who have conceal and carry permits. Some are women, some are men. Those that I have talked to about it have said they do it for protection. If you live in a state where conceal and carry is legal the thing to remember about this is that anytime you are in public, there could be someone right next to you who has a gun on them. In a purse or pocket, or in a holster. Now, when people say they carry for protection I often wonder what they mean by that. Do they mean that they would be willing to use that gun to shoot someone when they feel threatened? And what do they mean by feeling threatened? The whole idea is if someone attacks you or otherwise puts you in grave danger you have the option of using the handgun to stop them. On the one hand, that seems pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? If you are about to be raped, you could use the gun to stop the person from raping you. There are many other instances of “grave danger” but I really don’t need to list them all. It seems reasonable to want to protect yourself. It does, and I totally get that. But I wonder how many people have ever thought about what it would be like to shoot, and possibly kill someone? And what about the aftermath? Has anyone given much thought to any of this?

Most Americans can thankfully say that they’ve never been involved in an active shooter event. Unfortunately that number is dwindling. However, never having been in that situation before, how do you know how you will react? Most of us have never even been in a situation where our lives are in danger. So truthfully we don’t know how we would do. I watched a video of a conceal and carry class where the class was in a room having their last day of training. Everyone in the class had their handguns in holsters and the teacher was up front. Suddenly a man burst in through the door and started shouting and spraying the room with bullets. What the students (all adults) didn’t know is that everyone had blanks in their guns and it was all staged. Of the three videos I watched with classes of ten to fifteen students each, only one student tried firing at the intruder. All the rest of them either tried to run or hid beneath the desks even though each of them had just been fully trained on how to shoot a weapon.

Have you every thought about what it would be like to shoot and possibly kill someone? In an active shooter event, most people panic. You can see that every time you watch a news report about one. People running wildly everywhere. And it makes sense. You don’t want to get shot so you run. The fight or flight reaction in humans is very real. But what would it be like to shoot someone? Let’s say you’re in the grocery store. Suddenly you see rapid movement to your right. You turn and find a person wielding an assault rifle and they start pulling the trigger. It’s one of the loudest noises you’ve ever heard. And loud noises are disorienting. And the “wrongness” of the situation, the complete shock of someone firing a weapon in a grocery store is also very disorienting. Suddenly, people are dying. The first thing you may be surprised at is the shooter doesn’t stand still like a target at the range waiting for you to shoot. But you reach into your pocket or holster, pull out your weapon and shoot the shooter. It’s quite likely you won’t kill them with one shot. That only happens in the movies. Most likely you’ll wound them and it will take time for them to die. Not much time. But they probably won’t die immediately.

When you recover from the noise the first thing you’re going to hear is the screaming. There will be lot’s of it because bullet wounds hurt. Badly. Bullets tear up tissue, and bone. they tear up organs and veins and arteries, and that hurts, a lot. Next will be the blood. Lot’s of blood, because bullet wounds bleed. Not only will you see it but you’ll smell it and taste it. It will permeate your sinuses. If you’re not the kind of person who can handle that, you’re likely to find yourself on all fours puking your guts out. No basking in the glory of saving the day. Just puking. And then the police come. There are interrogations. You may be arrested and you’ll need a lawyer. Many other things will happen in those first minutes and hours after the shooting that I can’t even think of. And neither can you.

Then comes the aftermath. You killed someone. The situation makes no difference at all. You killed someone. You took someone’s life away. Someone’s son or daughter. Someone’s husband or wife. Possibly someone’s father or mother. Yes, you may in fact have saved a lot of lives, but you still killed someone. Many police officers and veterans suffer from PTSD because of killing in the line of duty. And they’re the ones who are supposed to be doing it. They are trained to do it. How does the average person kill someone and then live with it afterward? Probably not very well. Not to mention your family. Families of those who have PTSD suffer right along with their loved ones.

I’m not going to state my views on this blog. What I think is important is for people to think about living with the fact that you killed someone. The reason so many suffer from PTSD after they’ve killed is that we are not equipped to handle that. Not at all. I’m not saying people should or shouldn’t protect themselves. I just think it’s vitally important to understand what you’re in for if you do and it’s probably not one of the things that are taught in conceal and carry classes. You will have to live the rest of your life knowing you killed someone. Can you do that? Could you pull the trigger in the first place? End someone’s life? Some people have, and they’ve saved lives because of it. It is impossible for me to say what you should do. Only you can do that. The question is, what happens when you discover that you weren’t ready for what happens afterward?

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And The Killing Continues

dead bodies
Killing each other seems to be the thing that humans turn to, to solve their problems. Americans tend to see the U.S. as a virtuous nation. A nation built on the premise that all people are created equal and all deserve a chance at the American dream, to wealth and health, freedom and security. And yet in reality, our nation was built on the killing of millions of Native Americans and on the slavery and killing of millions of Africans. We tend to overlook these things because they happened in the past, and we can’t change that after all. We look to the future and tell ourselves that we will make our country a better place. While making our country a better place is a virtuous thought, we’re really not doing that. Our country today has become a place of suspicion, fear and hatred. Maybe that doesn’t apply to your personal life, but overall it is what’s happening and it’s being fueled by our politicians and our media. A constant barrage of news about terrorism, and refugees and radical Islam awaits the TV watcher. The people running for president are a group of spiteful, hateful, fear mongering men and women who will have you believe that we should be killing Muslims and abortion doctors and gays. The question is, how did we get to this place?

People fear change. Not the kind you find in the bottom of your pocket but change as in, ‘things changing’. We cannot handle change very well, It makes us worry. It makes us fearful. We are creatures of habit. We like to know that our toothbrush is the second one from the end of the holder. We like our newspaper on time. We want our cup of coffee in the morning. We like to know that our job is the same as when we left it yesterday. We like sameness and habit. When these things are disrupted we worry. A lot of the problems we face today have been brought about by rapid change.

In the U.S. the majority race has been White for a very long time. Before that it was Native American, but killing millions of them took care of that problem. Up until the Industrial Revolution, things progressed rather slowly. And then progress took off like a rocket. White industrialists and scientists were mostly responsible for the changes. There are people of color who played important roles but mostly it was White people. The changes benefited everyone but as Whites were the majority, they reaped the most from it. And the changes were acceptable because they were good changes. Industry meant money. It meant progress and growth which meant more money. It meant families like the Rockefeller’s would become billionaires, and the American Dream was born.

What made White people comfortable with these changes was being in charge. They ran everything and made the rules. Men married women and women stayed home and raised the kids, cooked the meals and if you believe the advertising, they adored their husbands. White people married White people and Black people married Black people. White people were in charge and felt a sense of entitlement, a sense of belonging. Even if you lived in a broken down shack in the poorest county in Arkansas, you were still White and this was a White country, and White people were in charge. I should rephrase that by saying, White Men were in charge.

And things stayed this way until the late 1950’s. Rock ‘n’ Roll music, born out of American Black Blues music started to get popular. The Vietnam War began in the late 50’s. The Pill was introduced to America in 1960. The Hippie generation followed with it’s message of peace and love and Pot and Acid and parents thought their children were going crazy. Never before had Americans acted in the ways they were acting then. Women suddenly had a choice about getting pregnant. Teens were rejecting the society that their parents had built. Of course teens grow up and society mellowed somewhat but these changes simmered in the background. The rights of people of color started to be a conversation and White people were still in charge. A lot has happened in the years to follow that writing about would make this article very long. So I’m going to skip to today.
Donald Trump
Here we are at the end of 2015. As Jimmy Buffett once said, “If I knew I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Today we have White politicians (except for one) spewing hatred for anyone who isn’t them. They want to “Take back their country.” Which in political speak means they want to go back to the place where White men were in charge and women and Blacks knew their place. And they want a Christian country. Although most people do not adhere to what Christianity was meant to be, it is their rallying cry. They don’t understand “Black Lives Matter,” they don’t understand Gay marriage rights and they don’t understand why a women would want the right to make her own health care choices. All these things scare the hell out of White people who are in charge because it means they just might be losing their grip. It is projected that by 2040, the White race may not be the majority any longer.

And now we have mass shootings. (back to the killing) According to Mother Jones magazine, 64% of mass shootings have been carried out by White men almost exclusively. And they have been middle class or affluent Christian Americans. This form of terrorism is on the rise. So is this a symptom of White men feeling their reign of power slipping away? Statistics show that Christianity is on the decline. If you listen to Christian preachers today you will find they are getting more radical all the time. The more decline, the harder they will fight to hang on. Is that what’s happening with these mass shooting? Are white men seeing the end coming and fighting hard to resist it? Even if White people won’t admit it, we know how horrible we have treated people of color and to someday be the minority must really be a nightmare for some.

So what are the answers? How do we come to understand that killing people won’t solve our problems? Our government certainly doesn’t understand this because it actively promotes killing throughout the world. We need to think about this. It needs to be on our minds.