From the Pulse to El Paso

August 6, 2019|Posted in: Uncategorized

I’m feeling especially pensive today. Bear with me.

So, I live in San Francisco. And I love this town, I really do. But even I admit that its reputation for being a hippy-dippy sort of place … well, let’s just say that those ideas are rooted in reality. One of the best parts of this community is its open-mindedness … but a few folks have taken that concept to extremes: it’s possible to be so open-minded that your brain falls out.

But I have lived in places where I was feared, hated, snubbed, and literally spat on for the stupidest of reasons, from being a white guy to having a different sexual orientation. I—as an individual and as part of a group—have gotten blamed for everything from AIDS to the sinking of the Titanic. Meanwhile, I’m just over here earning a paycheck, trying to contribute to society and the betterment of the planet, and occasionally taking in a craft beer festival. How am I a threat?

Well, I’m different. People don’t like different. “Different” is scary. And while all of us are different in some ways, my way is a little hard for folks to understand … plus, I don’t have the common decency (insert eye-roll here) to hide what I am. I mean, it’s not like I’m flaunting it: I haven’t been on a date—let alone been in a relationship—for quite literally years. But that doesn’t make some people any more comfortable with the idea.

Having said that, had I lived on the east coast, I might easily have been in The Pulse three years ago, when some brain-dead narcissist burst in with an assault rifle and opened fire. Such random acts of hate are senseless and terrifying.

Unfortunately, they’re also becoming more and more common.

This past weekend, it wasn’t gays the whacko was targeting, it was Latinos. The principle is the same however. I should be outraged, and in fact, I am. But …

OK, look, anyone who knows me knows that I am not one to sugar-coat my opinions: if I don’t like something (Amazon, I’m looking at you), readers know it. Political-correctness ain’t my wheelhouse.

But maybe I’ve lived in SanFran long enough to have picked up on the empathy a little. Because even though I am outraged at the stupidity of the gunman … I can kinda follow his rationale.

Before you go all billy on me, there is no way in hell I would or could ever condone killing another person or person(s) unless by doing so I would save lives (like my own). And maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the whacko du jour first and foremost as a murderer. Or perhaps more accurately, I don’t think THEY think of THEMSELVES as first and foremost murderers.

Look, even if you DID convince yourself that there is an “invasion” of Mexicans streaming across the Rio Grande and destroying your way of life, why would you walk into Sprawl Mart with a (legally purchased) automatic weapon and start firing at will? You think you might get lucky and hit a few? “There’s millions coming over the border, but I got three of ‘em!” Unless these guys are complete head cases—and doctors are saying that is NOT the case—that makes absolutely no sense.

Or maybe this trigger-happy putz thinks he’s sending a message. That now maybe those pesky brown people will think twice? OK, Rambo, but you’re being pretty indiscriminate with that message, ‘cause you’re mowing down people of every age, race, gender, and nationality. We finally have equality, curtesy of Remington.

No. That’s not why these people do this. They do it for a very simple reason: to be heard.

Today, we are more connected than at any point in human history. We’re connected to the world, we’re connected to each other… hell, we’re connected to our damn refrigerators through the so-called Internet of Things. So it’s pretty ironic that with all that, we’re lonelier than we’ve ever been.

The connectivity of the internet has led us to believe that we can step up on our own particular soapbox, spout a message, and change the world…and maybe we can. But the unspoken caveat to that promise is but so can everybody else. So when it turns out that humanity at large isn’t dropping in its tracks to thank you for helping them see the light…well, our little missionaries get desperate. They need to be heard.

Don’t get me wrong: some people are just holes. But we’ve also established a culture that says a gun trumps everything. Want to be famous? Shoot someone. Better yet, shoot a lot of someones at random. Will you get caught? Always. Will you die? Good chance. But you’ll be heard. Flags will be half-staffed in your honor. You will have made your mark in history.

Infamy is better than no fame at all, right?

So what is the answer? I dunno, but I can’t even envision a problem that has ever been solved by giving the government MORE power. I’m no gun nut, and I don’t necessarily think that reining in the requirements on what type of gun can be owned are inherently unconstitutional. But that slope is especially slippery.

Because at the heart of things, guns aren’t the problem. Sorry, they’re not. The problem is our ATTITUDE about guns. It permeates our everyday life. When was the last time you watched a drama on TV that didn’t involve guns? It’s in our music, our movies, our psyche. It’s our life.

And until we stop preaching—directly or by implication—that guns are the answer, until we stop worshiping at the altar of Smith and Wesson, until we stop turning mass murderers into celebrity superstars …

… things aren’t going to change.