Finding courage

A couple of seasons ago in an episode of the British sci-fi series “Doctor Who” the Doctor is faced with a harsh choice: Either terminate the brain functions of a Star Whale or allow space-bound Britain to explode.
While this is science fiction and those in fact were not the only choices, I thought of the Doctor’s response a week ago while absorbing the details of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
After listening to the jabbering humans, the Doctor cuts them off by saying, “No human has anything to say to me today.”
That was my response that day to gun owners, delivered in much more obscene and harsh version: I don’t care about your stupid gun rights. No one gets to talk today about the right to own a gun.
A week later, all that has changed is the tone.
I still don’t care about your gun rights. I respect them, because we live in a country that respects a great variety of opinions, but your right to own a gun does not supersede everyone else’s right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
And I know that I’m mixing the documents written by the Founding Fathers, but I wonder why if other articles in those documents have been amended in the 230 odd years since they were written, why interpretation of the Second Amendment remains so thoroughly stuck in the 18th Century.
When it was written, the new nation was wary about war and its army was small, underfed and unpaid. The idea that a citizen might need a musket to hunt for food or repel an attack from any perceived enemy of the nation was justified.
When those documents were written black citizens were counted as three-fifths of a person, and women could not vote. We as a nation changed that.
Since then, the U.S. military was invented and we spend billions defending ourselves. And while Canada won’t be invading anytime soon – although if they did, the U.S. might get universal health care – your gun, locked carefully away for safety, and your ammunition, also locked away and in a separate location, was not much use on Sept. 11, was it?
This notion that all the citizen gun owners will rise up and defend us from foreign invaders is just nonsense. Today those groups are known as the National Guard and military reserves.
I’m not a hunter, but I have known hunters my whole life. I had the greatest respect for my neighbor in Albion, Maine who annually planned hunting trips in the northern great woods, or other exotic, remote places. But he never hunted in our section of the town, an area of large farms and hay fields, because it was not safe. He, like other neighbors, often chased out-of-state hunters off the farms because cows and buildings had been shot.
He basically had no patience with careless gun owners.
Yes, and we as humans can be careless with nearly everything we own at some point, but while you might lose a finger if you are careless with a chain saw, if you are careless with a gun, someone often dies.
Ask the father who because he didn’t properly clear the weapon, shot his young son to death through the seat of their car, or the father who rushed into their yard and shot an intruder only to find out it was his son.
Is there an answer for what happened inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School a week ago? We may not find one. Just as we may not ever find a reason for the shootings at Virginia Tech, Arizona, Colorado and Wisconsin.
The human mind is a deep well and when one of us makes up their mind to do something, can we stop it?
That is an eternal question.
But I suspect that if the Newtown shooter did not have an assault rifle, some of those killed might have survived their wounds. And if he did not have access to his mother’s weapons, would he have even tried it?
Again, who knows.
I wasn’t going to write anything about the shooting because I was so angry and horrified. The thought of all those small kids being killed and the adults who died while trying to protect them was too large a topic.
Maybe this is something of a post-9/11 pychosis, and the fear and suspicion that event seared on our hearts and minds will never fade.
But at a school board meeting in a small New Jersey town this week, the giant tangle of unanswered fears hung in the air as the school officials tried to reassure the parents in the audience that their children were safe while at school.
While their answers were correct and sounded reassuring, what they could not displace was the suspicion that everything is about to spin out of control.
Lock down the school, add doors, armed security guards, police; spy on all visitors, all students, trust no one.
After Sept. 11, my son, who was 10 at the time, while on a trip to Boston, refused to ride the elevator to the top of the Prudential tower.
“They fly airplanes into buildings,” he said.
And now they walk into schools and shoot 6-year-olds.
In the Doctor Who episode the humans faced a choice of two buttons to push. One said “Forget,” which would mean everything would remain the same, and the other said basically though I forget the exact word, “Remember.”
Pushing that button would change all their fates, end one level of the horror they faced and admit they had done terrible things in the name of human pride. The Doctor’s companion Amy Pond pushed the “remember” button.
We need to push that remember button so we can stare honestly into the pile of mistakes and misjudgements we have made that brought us to this point.
Today we are all that 10-year-old kid staring up at the tall flat walls of a skyscraper and seeing terror.
We need to find the courage to change what needs to be changed and step again onto that elevator.

About michaelstephendaigle

I have been writing most of my life. I am the author of the award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery series. "The Swamps of Jersey (2014); "A Game Called Dead" (2016) -- a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Author Contest; and "The Weight of Living" (2017) -- First Place winner for Mysteries in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards Contest.
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