The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

How many more lives will it take? Well that’s a damn good question. Answers? Anybody? Helloooo!

To the surprise of absolutely no one, another American town has adopted the slogan “_______(fill in the town name) strong.”

This time it’s Highland Park, Illinois, where, to the surprise of absolutely no one, a mass shooting occurred. In America, mass shootings occur to the surprise of absolutely no one. The only surprise is the actual location.

Hey a mass shooting! Coming soon to a town near you!

Are you, the reader, surprised to hear the news of another mass shooting?

Are you, the reader, surprised to see that I’m writing another post on another mass shooting?

You know, I sort of promised that I wouldn’t do this gun shit anymore.

But the gun shit in America keeps happening.

And so, here I am writing about the gun shit in America – again.

Damn, I’m just incorrigible. That’s what my wife tells me.

Why? Why keep writing shit about gun shit?

That’s a good question. These gun posts really must be off putting to the readers who prefer family stories, travel pieces and photo essays. Those folks are abandoning my ship.

And still I persist.
I persist because I’m pissed.
And I’m lost.
Lost in questions.
Questions, questions, questions.
And very few answers.

For instance, to the gun owners out there.
After yet another mass shooting, are there no acceptable limitations? None whatsoever?
Does the Second Amendment trump my “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” as enumerated in The Declaration of Independence?”
What is your tipping point?
Do you have a tipping point?
Straight to the point, tipping or not, is the right to own a gun absolute and non-cancellable?
Outdated maybe?
After all, it was written in 1789 by men, flawed men, yes – flawed.
It’s been reported that the founders were forward thinking men. When they came up with the Second Amendment were they forward thinking enough to imagine the killing power of the weapons being packed around by the citizenry?
Would they have approved of this carnage?
What would they think about the now popular deflection to the issue of mental health?
I think they would have thought that sort of deflection would be, well – mental.

I have questions for the guy who was wearing a t-shirt that pictured an assault style rifle and emblazoned with the slogan, “My rights don’t stop where your feelings begin.”
I wanted to ask him, whether or not that shirt might be in bad taste?
I had other questions I wanted to ask the man.
Is there some degree of feelings that might have you rethinking those rights?
Are you talking about the touchy feely, mamby pamby ‘Ewww, I don’t like guns,’ feelings?
What about the painful feelings that will last forever?
Do those count?
In Highland Park, a two year old boy was found wandering around looking for his parents. His legs were covered with blood, presumably his father’s, who died while shielding the boy. His mother died also.
Do that little boy’s feelings finally provide your perceived “right” with a stop sign?
One can only imagine that boy’s lifetime of feelings and questions.
What were my parents like?
What would life have been if I’d been raised by my parents?
Why was someone’s “right” to own a killing machine more important than the lives of my parents who I’ll never really know?

I have questions for the owner of the pickup truck I was stopped behind the other day. You’ve all seen that truck in one iteration or another. It was one of those behemoths with the dualies in the back, and an anthology of right wing anger in the form of bumper stickers in the rear window. This guy was celebrating Trump, guns, and god (Because Trump, guns and god belong together in one sentence?).
One bumper sticker read, This vehicle is protected by GOD and a GUN. Enter uninvited and you’ll meet them both! 

My questions to the owner of that truck.
Damn, why so angry?
Is god really a gun guy?
If he is, what kind of guns does he own? A Glock? An AR? A lever action? Is he an old school black powder guy? Maybe god owns them all, an arsenal. I mean, he can afford it. After all he’s uh, richer than god.
Does he like to just plink at tin cans or does god like to hunt god’s creatures?
Can you tell me exactly where guns are mentioned in the Bible? I’ll wait.
Doesn’t god and guns represent some sort of contradiction?
Or do you just embrace some warped form of Christianity?

To the members of Congress who are on the payroll of the National Rifle Association.
Do you really believe that crap you tell your constituents about _________(fill in the Democrat) wanting to confiscate your guns?
What is your tipping point?
Do you have a tipping point?
How do you sleep at night? (Probably quite well, knowing that NRA money is flowing in).
Why do you ignore the will of the majority of the American people who want some form of reasonable gun legislation?

And what’s up with the court formerly known as Supreme?
Recently, the extreme court overturned a New York state law that required John or Jane to show proper cause for carrying a concealed weapon; you know walking around the city streets, strapped.
In his majority opinion Clarence Thomas ruled that a law can only remain on the books if it “is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
“…historical tradition of firearm regulation.” He must’ve been well into his cups when he wrote that shit.
Which “historical tradition of firearm regulation” is he talking about?
From where I sit, the closest thing to firearm regulation that I see is summed up in the immortal question posed by Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine fame; “What, me worry?”
Thomas also wrote, “[T]he Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
This of course tells you all you need to know about life in America.
Think about it. In America it is widely believed that citizens should be able to walk the streets armed and potentially dangerous in order to insure their own survival.
In what universe, besides the American one, does that make any reasonable damn sense?
Can’t these (in) justices read the room?
Americans want some reasonable form of gun legislation and the court is going 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
Can’t those six (in) justices interpret The Constitution AND respect the will of the majority?
Why do six ideologues on the court get to upset the balance of the three branches of government?

I know the people in Highland Park have questions. Angry ones, all boiled into one word.
Every July the survivors will all have the same question.
How am I going to cope with the Fourth?

All across the nation people will ask that same question. Same question – different holiday.
That’s because in America, there is no holiday from mass shootings. On the contrary, holidays provide target rich environments; festivals, family gatherings, concerts and of course, parades. Like shooting tin ducks at the carnival.
Thanksgiving 2015: In Jupiter, Florida, Paul Merhige shot and killed four family members including a six year old girl who’d just been tucked into bed.
Memorial Day weekend 2022: Killed – 179. Injured – 463. Mass Shootings – 15.
Halloween weekend 2021: Twelve people killed and fifty-two injured in mass shootings.
Easter weekend 2022: Ten mass shootings, eight dead, dozens injured.

All of the survivors, relatives and friends, will live their lives in dread of the approaching holidays that mark the anniversary of their own personal terror. Whatever the day, Christmas, Memorial Day, July 4th, the survivors will always feel like they’re standing outside of the party, disinvited, looking forlornly through the window, kept company by ghosts and bad memories.

And so, every year when Cora and I mull over going to San Francisco’s annual Chinese New Year Parade we’ll be asking our own questions.
Will it be safe?
What if there’s a shooter?

Questions, questions, questions.

Just questions and no answers.
And those people in position to provide meaningful solutions and answers?
Well, they always resort to thoughts, prayers, ass preserving deflection, cowardice and bullshit.

Do you have questions?

Do you have answers?

My answer to the call for reasonable gun legislation?
Unreasonable gun legislation. The more unreasonable the better. Repeal the Second Amendment because it’s the thing that’s at the root of the problem. After that, confiscate the guns, melt them down and build a memorial to the dead.
I proposed that to a friend and he protested that he has an acquaintance who likes to hunt. I have another friend who likes shooting her AR at the target range. I have a relative who likes his job as a hunting guide.
What about them?
My answer?
At this point, I have no fucks left to give for what they like. Find something else to like. You’ll all survive the loss of your hobby.

And more importantly, so will more of your fellow citizens.

15 thoughts on “Questions

  1. Hettie D. says:

    If you can imagine how close (physically close!) to my home it happened…
    That’s not “yet another”
    That’s possibly the most affluent neighborhood here.
    That’s why it gets so much coverage.
    Earlier the same day, there was a shooting on the South Side, with 5 people shot, not fatally, but still. There are 10 people shot dead in my city over the weekend.
    It’s sad that only this one gets that much coverage, but if this will help ANYTHING, I do not mind.
    Apologies for yelling.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Hettie,
      First of all no apologies necessary. There needs to be more yelling. I saw an interview in which the mayor of Highland Park did some yelling. I wish our president had done more yelling. There’s no shortage of other Democrats looking for the president to start actually playing hardball. I understand that to a large extent his hands are tied, but my god just show outrage.

      I had not heard of the South Side shooting. I don’t disbelieve you when you say that the more affluent area got the coverage to the detriment of the South Side. That’s how things work in America sometimes.

      I’ve been hoping for anything that will help. For decades the hope has been fleeting.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Hettie D. says:

    My older son’s pictures from there:
    These abandoned chairs give me chills…

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you for sharing Hettie.

      Sad and haunting.

      Scenes that have played out in cities, towns and communities across the country and sadly will continue to play out.


  3. Damn right, Paul. About all of it. A monument to the dead from melted-down weapons of war is the least the victims deserve. Passing legislation with real teeth would be the next least. Another mass shooting every day and I am sick, so sick of it all, and so sad.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Martin,
      Between all of the extreme court’s recent rulings and the shootings, and the general hard right that state governments are taking and the January 6th revelations we can only hope that Democrats and Independents will show up in November and vote out the Republicans.

      Biden isn’t help though. He needs to grow a pair to replace the ones that are sagging down to his knees.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Jane Fritz says:

    It’s all impossible to fathom. The Founding Fathers have to be turning in their graves. This is not what America is supposed to be. Keep writing, Paul; it may at least help keep you sane. 😥

    1. Paul says:

      Or alcoholic.

      The founders were so very far from perfect but as you say they couldn’t possibly be pleased with the direction their invention has taken.

      Thank you Jane.

  5. jilldennison says:

    I’ve only recently discovered your blog, but already I can see that you and I are on the same wavelength. If it were in my power, there would be NO guns in the hands of civilians and the 2nd Amendment would be scrapped. When a person’s “right” to carry a murder weapon into a school or grocery store takes precedence over ours and our children’s rights to be safe in public venues, then this nation has some seriously screwed up priorities. Good to meet you and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Jill,
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      “If it were in my power, there would be NO guns in the hands of civilians and the 2nd Amendment would be scrapped.”

      Unfortunately it is not in our power and because the amendment process is such a steep climb (two thirds of Congress and ratification by 38 states), I doubt that the Second Amendment will ever be repealed (at least not in my lifetime). In fact, this country is so ideologically divided that I can’t imagine any amendments to the Constitution being ratified.

      Thank you again,

  6. Toonsarah says:

    You’ve articulated everything I ponder when I hear discussion of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. I too don’t get how God is brought into the argument (I’m pretty sure that (s)he would prefer it if people didn’t kill each other, based on my rather patchy knowledge of the bible). And I don’t get the argument that you can’t change the Constitution when the Second Amendment was itself presumably a change – isn’t that what ‘amend’ means?! I don’t understand how anyone in a position of authority in the country wouldn’t want to take steps to prevent this happening in future. And I don’t understand how someone’s right to carry a weapon is more important than someone else’s right to be alive?

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah,
      A popular slogan on bumper stickers is God, Guts and Guns made America great.
      I can’t provide any logic to the notion of tying Christianity to guns. All that I can offer is that a perversion of Christianity, long in existence in America, has been adopted by the right wing and it is the right wing that has been driving gun ownership and gun “rights.” That perversion of Christianity has also been used to justify slavery and the genocide of Native Americans (There’s a movement in conservative states to squash any teaching of slavery and genocide in public schools and to add the teaching of Christianity).

      I suppose the perversion of Christianity can be likened to the perversion of the Muslim religion by extremists. Indeed the Evangelical Right is often referred to as the American Taliban.

      You are correct that the Constitution can be changed through amendments (Article V covers the amendment process).
      The Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, ten amendments that were added in 1791 (three years after the Constitution was ratified). The Bill of Rights was in response to concerns about federal government over reach.

      My point that the Second Amendment can’t be changed/repealed is not that the mechanism doesn’t exist. My point is grounded in the reality that the necessary consensus (two thirds of Congress approving the amendment followed by ratification by 38 states) does not exist.
      After all America is a nation that has come to blows over vaccinations and masks.

      “And I don’t understand how someone’s right to carry a weapon is more important than someone else’s right to be alive”
      You aren’t the only one Sarah.


  7. Thank you. Just. Thank you.

    1. Paul says:

      You’re quite welcome Karen.

      Thank YOU for visiting, commenting and following.

      Much appreciated.

  8. eden baylee says:

    Hi Paul,

    This is a painful post to read, even after reading it several times since you published it. You ask all the right questions but there are no answers that would make sense to someone like you or me. Or to any of your readers who’ve commented.
    I would’ve thought if there was a will to get rid of guns, it would’ve happened after Sandy Hook.
    Now Uvalde … more innocent children gunned down.

    We can only ask questions because intellectualizing the problem seems pointless. As long as your lawmakers deem a citizen’s rights to bear arms more important than his/her right to live, the issue of gun violence is not going away. In fact, I see guns as part of the American psyche , as part of the culture.

    I’d like to line up every NRA member and their supporters, to ask each of them to sacrifice one person in their immediate families as a condition to keep their guns. And if they can’t or won’t come up with an answer, then surely they won’t mind taking one for the team if gun rights are so fucking important to them.

    Yeah, wishful thinking, I know.


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