It’s winter, a time when — at least if you aren’t into skiing or snowboarding or tobagganing — people like me tend to hole up, make lots of soups and stews, try to stay warm, and — as Susan Cooper’s poem The Shortest Day says, “Light candles to drive the dark away.” Sometimes it feels like there’s cold not only in the air but in my bones as well, and these days, the cold seems to extend to our hearts and minds, too.
Today, one month after the horror of Newtown, CT, where we had to watch the faces of beautiful first graders flash on television as commentators announced their massacre, the National Rifle Association has taken aim at the President of the United States’ daughters, doing their best to lodge an argument that Obama is a hypocrite for wanting gun control when his daughter go to school in a protected environment.
The same organization argues that, in order for us to be safe, we shouldn’t restrict the sale or use of assault weapons, but instead get armed guards into every school and show our teachers how to handle firearms. Rambo goes to school is the image that floats in my head, and it’s not one I’d want to share with the children I know.
Paranoia has permeated the minds of the NRA and those Second Amendment defenders who have now decided that a proposal to conduct background checks and perhaps even restrict assault-style weapons will take away our hard-fought civil rights. I truly believe they have lost their perspective on reality and become the Paranoia People…folks who are caught up in thinking that government is out to get us, and that the right to bear arms is so essential that it can not be modified with any restrictions or conditions.
Several years ago I recalled the era of McCarthyism, including its own brush with my family when I was a very young child. And I decried the fact that it seemed as though the government was permeated with such gutless leaders as those who – like Rush Limbaugh and his cronies – want to denounce all who disagree with them, scare and intimidate everyone into agreeing with their beliefs. Funny, but things just haven’t changed much since I wrote that piece. If the NRA’s current ad is any indicator, it’s all slid further downhill into a pile of very bad smelling stuff.
I remember, as a child, visiting my grandparents and my aunt, uncle, and cousins in a rural part of New York State. My uncle Fred — a really nice guy who farmed for a living, worked hard, and occasionally went hunting — went out and shot a deer. My cousin, Linda, posed with it, and I suppose (although I do not recall) that our family ate it for dinner and for quite a while thereafter. I don’t question my uncle wanting to hunt, and recognize that there are many people in this country who like to shoot rifles at targets, go skeet shooting, or kill game to put on the dinner table. I also recognize that there are some people who feel that they want, or need, to keep a gun in their home for protection. My own husband has had one at times, although it’s a musket that shoots black powder, used for his colonial MinuteMan activities.
But that is a far cry from the purchase and sale and possession of assault-style weapons by people like you and me. I can think of absolutely NO reason why any private individual needs to own such a weapon…none. And the argument that any restriction on gun licensing or change to the review that individuals might undergo in order to purchase a gun constitutes infringement of second amendment rights, is hogwash.
When people get caught up in the idea that the government is there to work against them, not for them; when individuals start arguing that this president, or any president, is going to take away their rights and so they have to stock an arsenal of weaponry to defend their homes, we’re into dangerous territory. A month ago, in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, there was a lot of talk going on about the need to be kind to one another…to embrace good will and the pure wonder and joy that those slaughtered first graders had, and bring it into our lives. That didn’t last very long, at least if the NRA’s current media campaign is to be taken as an example.
Yes, there are a few little glimmers of hope. Yesterday, parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary School children announced the creation of Sandy Hook Promise, which calls on people to “choose love, belief, and hope instead of anger” and to believe that “this time, things will be different.” What would happen if the paranoia people let go of the fear that’s driving them and decided, instead, to sit down at the table and have an honest conversation with these heartbroken parents about violence and its impact on their lives and our society? What a radical thought that seems to be.
I continue to hold to the belief that our country can do better, be better, than it is now. Evidently the parents who began Sandy Hook Promise believe the same…that we have an opportunity to turn tragedy “into transformation.” But first, the paranoia has to be set aside. Even for just a few moments…long enough, perhaps, to bring us all to the table to look into one anothers’ eyes and search for the compassion that we all hold, somewhere deep in the too-cold heart that waits to thaw with the promise of love, trust, and healing.