What Can We Do?

Three mass shootings in two weeks. Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. All by angry white men with assault weapons. The media reports on it, the country grieves, flags are at half staff. We go about our lives wondering what the hell is happening, wondering what can be done, and no one does a goddamn thing. Words get tossed around: mental health, anger, fear, white supremacy, terrorism. Solutions are suggested, protests are staged, blame all around. And no one does a goddamn thing. We will go back to our lives, our jobs, saddened by our current state of affairs. And nothing will change.

The question of the hour: What can we do? I’ve heard plenty of ideas but almost no one is suggesting that we vote legislators out of congress who allow these shootings to continue. The ones who take money from the NRA as bribes for not voting for stricter gun laws. Our president uses fear and hate to divide us and surely this is part of the problem. Looking at the killers social media more than suggests that it is. Racism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry contribute as well. Toxic masculinity from hundreds of years of raising boys to believe they should hide and fear their emotions. Hundreds of years of not talking about mental illness, of treating it as a taboo subject. You want to know what’s wrong? These things. These things right here.

“Don’t cry Bobby. Crying is for girls. Are you are girl? Well then, stop crying. Boys don’t cry.” Toxic masculinity. Countless millions of boys have been raised this way. To be tough, to be strong. To be stoic. Don’t let anyone know you feel terrible inside and whatever you do, don’t cry. Like adding pressure to an airtight bottle. Eventually it’s going to blow.

Fear. What are you afraid of? Well, if you’re American, you’re afraid of almost everything. Brown people, coming to take your jobs. Muslims, coming to take your God. LGBTQ people turning your children gay. Socialists coming to take your freedom. And when these fears are fed a steady diet of Trump and Fox News well, any thinking person can see what happens. And when our Congress refuses to act, refuses to do their jobs, it adds fuel to the fire. Like adding pressure to an airtight bottle. And when we refuse to demand that Congress does its job, that our president does his job, we are complicit. We are at fault.

There’s no point making a list, a “What can be done list.” There’s no point. We know what to do. We know what needs to be fixed. We were once a Democracy. Our country has become what we have allowed it to become. When you turn on the news and see another mass shooting, that’s your fault, and my fault. We have allowed this to happen. Through direct action or inaction, we have allowed our country to become what it is. No one I know of is suggesting this. No news agency, no individual writers that I have read are saying this is our own fault. Through our own action or inaction, it is. And we know how to fix it.

Advertisements

Breakthrough Story


I made spaghetti today. When I finished, it looked like a bomb had exploded on the stove. Sauce sprayed in a blood splatter pattern, noodles and bits of hamburger like scenes from a horror movie. Unfortunately, it often looks like this when I cook. I think of children in countries where they don’t have enough to eat and feel guilty writing about my food exploits. But I do it anyway. We do a lot of things we shouldn’t, and justify them in various ways to feel better about ourselves. Just another day in the life.

What if being human is a mental illness? What if all of us so called “normal” people who go to our jobs, raise families, and cook our dinners are mentally ill? Maybe we were shipped here from some distant planet, some place where they decided to rid their society of their less than desirable people. Like the British did when they sent boat loads of people to Australia. Maybe we are the descendants of the worst of an alien society that now enjoys life without people who routinely blow up their stoves at mealtime. Are they watching us, do you suppose? Are they wondering how long it will be before they have to intervene to keep their refuse from infecting the universe?

I scanned the radio dial this morning. I heard conservatives screaming about liberals. I heard Nirvana songs. Lots of talk about the environment and children in cages. I heard Hip-Hop music. I turned the radio off and went out and stood in the rain. But the radio still played. Lots of sounds and voices and screams. And music. Country and Rock and Rap. And more voices telling me what I didn’t want to hear. I longed for the sweet sounds of water lapping at a shore and the calls of loons across the lake. Life is like a radio that never shuts off. And half the time there’s too much static to discern what I’m hearing.

So I cleaned up the stove, and ate my spaghetti. I used fresh Basil from my little herb garden. Turned out pretty good. As all these words started swirling around in my mind I knew I was on the edge of a breakthrough book or at least a prize winning article. I sat down at the keyboard, electricity tingling my fingertips. I felt like Edward R. Murrow about to break an earth shattering story and then what came out was this. A story about exploding my stove and the guilt of writing about eating. Who are we, anyway?