An Open Letter to America

IMG_5181I don’t understand us humans. No really, I don’t get it. Maybe I’m getting dumber in my middle age, but it could be that we really have stopped making sense. If Emile texted me while I was in a movie theater, I would totally text him back. And I would expect not to get shot just because I told my kid “hi” while I was away. Why can’t we have a respectful conversation about guns and gun control? Why don’t the rank and file NRA members stand up and say, enough is enough, there has to be a way to balance our Second Amendment rights and public safety? And why are we so unwilling to admit our mistakes and where our public policies have gone wrong? We agreed to make legal opiates available to the general public (in the form of Oxycontin and Percoset, etc.) knowing that some percentage of people would become addicted to them, and disabuse ourselves of a comprehensive program to help them out of addiction?

Why are we so willing to throw away people after they’ve made mistakes, imprisoning heroin and pot users, or devaluing individuals, like telling poor people we won’t give them food stamps, telling poor kids they should have to work for that free breakfast at school? Why didn’t we pass a background check law last year when 90 percent of Americans wanted it? Why are we okay when a natural gas company contaminates the drinking water for 300,000 people in West Virginia? Why are we not talking about the shooting of schoolchildren in Sandy Hook after Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, asked us to have a one-year moratorium which is now over? Why did we even have to entertain the notion of armed guards at every school in America?

I know these questions don’t have easy answers. And I know we are reluctant to duke it out in any national forum. And I’ll say that I like shooting a shotgun at a clay pigeon. I see the weary faces of my syringe exchangers every day. I live in a poor county in rural America and I see what guns mean for some people. I know we all want to have a sense of pride and dignity. I think there’s a way through for us all but our leaders don’t give a crap about us. We have to make these conversations happen ourselves. We have to push back with the only remaining tools we have—our voices, our words, our votes, our energy to agitate. If you’re an NRA member and you’d like to see sensible gun policy get an actual debate in Congress, please speak up. If you’re a Guns & Ammo reader and you are appalled that Dick Metcalf lost his job simply for asking that we have a conversation, speak up please.

If you’re a Christian and you’re sick of sermons about abortion and gay people and the culture wars, speak up. If you’re a teacher and you’re exhausted about teaching to a test that doesn’t help your students, speak up. If you worked in a union for 30 years and it benefitted you, speak up to those who say unions are evil. If the police in your neighborhood harass youth or poor people, speak up. If your job is a hostile work environment, speak up to someone who has the authority or responsibility to help. If you see a child being bullied at school for whatever reason, speak up.

The point is, we need to take responsibility for ourselves, but we need to take responsibility for each other, too. I guarantee you that in the days following this latest cinema shooting, news will come out that this retired police officer has been acting erratically for some time. We’ll learn that nobody said anything, or if someone did, that it didn’t get taken seriously or communicated to the right people. Because that’s the story every time. I can predict this guy’s behavior because nobody pulls out a gun the first time they get pissed off. Reasonable people would try shushing someone in the row ahead of them, or storm out, or talk to them, or ask themselves in their own head if maybe they just don’t know all the facts of those two people and they should give them a break. This was not a reasonable person. And he should not have had a gun.

Can we please talk, America? About ourselves? About starting to become better?

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Categories: ponderings

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One Comment on “An Open Letter to America”

  1. January 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Everett, thank you for your letter. As a piece of your audience, I will have more conversations about the topics critical to our humanity. I appreciate your constant speaking up.

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