Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Light




When I was a freshman at Michigan State, I got a message to call my best friend back home. When I got in touch with him, he told me that a classmate of ours – a guy I had known since I was four, whose father had helped build the house I grew up in and who had grown up in a house my father helped build – had died that afternoon. The university he attended was on spring break, and he was working at a construction site on campus to earn some extra cash. It was the end of the work day and work week. He had gone down into a pit they were digging to finish a task before heading home. The sandy side of the pit collapsed, burying him up to his neck. Sand packed in around him so tightly that it knocked the breath out of him and he was unable to get a breath. Almost everyone had gone home and only a few people were there to try to rescue him. The more they dug at the sand that was suffocating him, the more sand slid down to press against him. By the time they finally dug him out, he was gone. He was nineteen years old, very bright and a star athlete. He had been a member of my closest circle of friends.

When I heard the news, everything went black. Literally. I did not faint, but the light in the telephone booth disappeared and I sat there stunned. I had experienced the death of people before – grandparents, even classmates who died in automobile accidents or who took their own lives. But this one hit hard. Very hard. I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me, too.

I thought of that today as I reflected on the Orlando tragedy. None of the victims were people I knew. But they were someone’s children, friends, boyfriends, classmates, co-workers, an engaged couple. Lives ended and other lives changed forever. The light went out of the room for way too many people this past weekend.

What saddens me about my own reaction is that the light did not even dim for me this time. I am no longer stunned into darkness by senseless death and violence. My classmate died in a freak accident, a random shifting of sand granules on a late April afternoon. The Orlando victims died because someone hated them, actually hated what he thought they represented. [Joy? Love? Laughter?] Someone who felt the way he felt and thought the way he thought in part because of what he believed about God, what he had been taught about God. [My first thought, I am ashamed to say, when I heard the story was that it had been a Christian who had done it, for the very same reasons that motivated the actual killer.] Apparently someone who was afraid of something within himself that he had been taught to hate. Someone who was able to buy a gun, a weapon of mass destruction, if you will, because that is so easy to do in America, loaded it and walked into the middle of a partying crowd and opened fire.

Yet the light did not dim around me when I heard about it. I was angry, sad, horrified, resentful. But I was not stunned, not shocked, not surprised. This is the country we (and I say we, not they) have created, in which we live. In which someone can walk into a schoolroom in Connecticut and gun down six- and seven-year-olds, and our political leaders will offer meaningless “thoughts and prayers” but do nothing -- nothing! -- to make sure this never, never, never happens again. Instead, there is a mass shooting (defined as one involving four or more victims) each day in the United States.

Every. Single. Day.

Because the Higher Power that too many worship here is money walking hand in hand with guns. Churches and political candidates hold raffles and give guns away as prizes. Churches explain to their members that it is okay to bring guns into the sanctuary of the Prince of Peace to make themselves feel safe. Because their Higher Power is a gun. The NRA spews the same lies and distortions it always does. I don't know why it usually takes them two days after these incidents to issue a statement. They always say the same thing. And of course, they only issue statements when the latest atrocity sets a record or at least approaches it.

Something is terribly wrong.

As I read over what I have written, I realize that I misspoke, as the politicians say. Perhaps the light did dim for me. In grief for those who cannot or will not let what happened in Orlando and Newtown and so many other places change things in America. People who could offer something beyond pitiful thoughts [What thoughts could they possibly be thinking?] and prayers [to what God?], people who could offer solutions. Who think the death of a child, of a roomful of children, less important than a questionable interpretation of a legal right.

But of course, money talks and the NRA's money talks loudly.
I realize that not all NRA members are crazy. But until those who are sane rise up and replace their hateful leadership with responsible people, they bear part of the blame. Sorry, friends and family (I have both who are in the NRA), but them's the facts.
Oh, the same people are terribly pro-life, of course, when it suits their purposes, gathering votes. Not so much when it might hurt business.
 
And for what it's worth, arming everyone in the room  at Newtown or Orlando would not have been a solution, although I know that has already been suggested because it always is. It's part of the press release template. They don't even have to write it, just fill in the blank with the name of the relevant tragedy. Just sayin'. 

Idiots!

After that conversation with my best friend about our classmate's death, I felt powerless. Although not a Catholic, not a believer of any kind in those days, I walked up the road to a variety store and bought a glass votive holder and a votive candle. I brought them back to the dorm and lit the candle for my friend. I needed at least a little light to burn through that night.
 
May each of us find a way to be light in the world. There is darkness enough. May I live in the light and not in the shadow of my anger and frustration. Only love, I am told, conquers hate. Only light overcomes the darkness.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

xo
K

Thomas Withers said...

Only love, Michael. Only light.

Sunny said...

I also am horrified at the senseless murders of so many.

Contrary to popular belief tho Michael, The weapons that these CRIMINALS so often use(AKs specifically seem to be the ones) are NOT weapons that one can just walk into a gun shop and buy. You have to have a special permit and jump thru all kinds of Federal hoops if you try to buy one thru legal channels-usually military related- and they are RARELY granted.....especially not to people who have been or are being investigated by the Feds with possible terrorist links. Those weapons are usually bought thru the Black market...by Criminals- FROM criminals who have connections-usually in other countries that also get them thru illegal means.

As I have said many, many, many times, placing stricter regulations on weapons sold in gun shops by citizens only would make it harder for law abiding citizens to be able to buy to defend themselves against the criminals.

Criminals will get weapons- and bigger and better than the average citizen could EVER hope to get -no matter what. If they cant buy weapons- they steal them...or failing that they use fertilizer(Oklahoma City) Or they use Box-cutters and planes(9/11) or cyanide (Holocaust).

Evil IS out there- and if EVIL has a gun- I want one too...I refuse to die curled in a ball blubbering and pleading for the live of me and my loved ones. I will die in the middle of a pile of shell casings trying my darnedest to take them out before they hurt me and mine.

Maybe, if more of the people in PULSE had had weapons on them less would have died or been injured.
But having said that, I am praying for the victims, their family and friends, and all the others involved in the rescue, be it police, medics, firemen, doctors, bystanders, and blood donors who came together to stand against the evil that came amongst them that night. Some of the sweetest people I know are amongst the LGBT community and I am proud to call them friends and family. My heart cries for all the hurt that everyone connected is feeling after that vicious attack.

Michael, you dont have to publish this comment on the blog, I know how you feel about debates, but I just wanted to let you know how strongly I feel about the right to bear arms, and as an ex police officer I know how hard it is to buy those AKs. Blame the criminals who sold the things to other criminals...
(((Hugs )))) and no hard feelings?


anne marie in philly said...

RAMEN, michael!

Michael Dodd said...

Sunny,
To the best of my knowledge you have been reading my blogs (in their various iterations) longer than anyone. And I have recently posted about the need to expose myself to points of view different from my own. So I do not mind publishing you comment.

Mitchell is Moving said...

I agree with your post completely, Michael, although I have a hard time at this point respecting ANY membership in the NRA... even of my own friends and family members.

As for Sunny's very polite comment, I can't help but respond: Only 13 states require a background check to be performed no matter how a gun is sold or what kind of gun it is. And in most states, guns can be sold between private parties (friends, acquaintances), but more often than not these background-check-free gun sales occur at gun shows. These are facts.

Lavada said...

Yes Sir Mitchell, you are correct- but those "friend/Acquaintance sells are what the black market is all about..... Those sales have no part of the "required licensing/ background checks" I was talking about. Black market.