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Newtown: I Can Take Some Blame Too

by John on 12/17/2012


It’s too easy to just blame the NRA.  I am not saying they should be let off the hook.  But the NRA and gun rights advocates are merely the symptoms; they’re not the cause.

I am the cause. You are the cause.  We are the cause.

No, this is not an Irish Catholic guilt moment.

For me, it was a John Donne moment played out in the desert southwest at the height of the economic crisis.

Let me explain.

Most of you know John Donne’s famous meditation.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…

Donne tells us centuries ago when another man dies, we die also.  We are part of humanity; losing another human being diminishes us.

Remember, though, Donne was talking about natural death – not senseless deaths.

Let me further Donne’s argument to today.  I believe a “senseless death” not only diminishes me, but it is also is part of my humanity and my ability to try to stop it or to even realize my indirect complicity in that senseless death.

I think some of you might be feeling something like that right now.  Or maybe you are feeling something, but can’t articulate it.

Here’s my revelation.

My sense of self-blame was rooted in my thinking three years ago.  It was April, 2009.  I visited a friend who lived in the vast desert area somewhere in Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.  I won’t say where to protect my friend’s privacy.

And privacy is what he has.  His house was surrounded by a gated compound.  The walls keep everyone and every animal, such as coyote and rattle snakes, out.  You can’t even see his neighbors’ homes.  That’s how desolate it is.

My friend wanted to get out of the city and live in the desert.  He is a jovial and giving man with a family he loves.  About the only other things he loves are the desert outdoors and his guns.

In one of his buildings on the compound, he has what I call an arsenal.  He had Glocks and AK-47s.  He also had plenty of ammunition.

My wife and I even went out with my friend and his wife into the desert with the guns.  We shot into desert mounds and abandoned old wheel barrows.  It was a ton of fun.  My wife and I were rookies, but it was an adrenaline rush for both of us.  Our friends enjoyed it since they showed us something we were not accustomed to.

No, I am not blaming myself for shooting high powered guns in the desert.

Instead, I am more concerned about my thinking at the time.  You see, it was at the height of the financial crisis.  My free-lance work was non-existent.  A news anchor job was highly unlikely since newsrooms were dumping personnel.  TV shows weren’t looking for 50-something TV hosts who shaved and had perfectly coiffed hair.  No matter what I could do for work, no one was interested in hiring.  Savings were dwindling; the house was losing value; things were bleak.

I saw how others were suffering.  I thought about people older than me with fewer resources or talents.  “How are they surviving?  They’re probably not.  What if the whole system failed and the government could not … well… govern?”

I thought about Armageddon or at least the end of America, as we know it.

I also looked around at my friend’s house and said, “Well, I know where I am coming when the country goes under for good.”  My friend, of course, said he would gladly hunker down with us – and laughed.

But I wasn’t kidding.  I actually meant it.  I thought of how long it would take for my wife and me to get from our house to his place.  I wondered if I could handle those guns and how to protect her.

That’s where I am to blame.  This revelation from three years ago hit me just three days after Newtown.

I actually lost faith in America.

I gave up on our ideals, the American spirit, the belief that my neighbors would pull together with me and we could handle anything.  Without realizing it, I had diminished American Exceptionalism.

That’s what the extremist gun advocates do.  I am not saying all gun advocates do this.  But look at the stockpiling of guns after Obama was elected in 2008.

People actually believed a black man in the White House would lead to a round-up of white folks and the cessation of their rights.

The number of families owning guns has dropped, but the number of guns owned by a smaller portion of people has risen dramatically.  There were some reports that so much ammo was bought, the police had a hard time finding rounds.

I was, in my mind, just as bad.

I am sure many of you have lost faith in America too.  You might not have outwardly manifested it.  But if we are a nation of like-minded people, maybe that lack of faith spilled over to too many of our fellow Americans.

Maybe that’s what we’re feeling.

T.S. Eliot wrote: “What could have been, what might have been, are merely abstractions.”  In other words, “if only” or “would have, could have” don’t exist since they never happened.  They’re abstractions in our minds.

But the lessons of Newtown are real.  We need to understand them.

The NRA and gun owners are not the causes; they’re the symptoms.  Our lack of faith in America – to solve our problems and help others — is the problem.

I think we’re understanding something like that.

Give me your take.


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