The Greatest American Hero

3cc7b7ce27e9afd3a92df0889df83d9fThere was a time not that long ago when stories about America were stories of discovery, of  exploration, of destiny. There was a time when stories about America were of the land: the rich, fertile soil of the Great Plains, the snow-capped peaks of mountain ranges in the west, the sun-kissed steel of skyscraper girders rising in the East. There was a time when stories about America were filled with characters who tilled and toiled, not just the land, but the ideals that grew alongside those amber waves of grain. There was a time when stories about America were filled with great American heroes: heroes who nurtured those ideals, who watched over them, let them lay fallow when they needed time to replenish, recognized when they were ripe for harvesting.

What stories do we tell now?

Yesterday the story was of a high school near Portland, Oregon. A few days before the story was of a Wal-Mart in Las Vegas. Two weeks ago the story was about a university in Santa Barbara. The stories are of shopping malls, of office buildings, of schools. The stories are of the dead, of the injured, of the scarred. The stories are of communities devastated, yet divided. The stories have the same refrain: it is inevitable, it is the norm, it is the new way of life.

We, the people. We, Americans. We have been duped. We have been lulled and shushed and lied to. We have been bamboozled into believing in the impenetrability of a long ago written sentence. By forgoing all else in order to perpetuate that sentence, we have been systematically and quietly tricked into surrendering the keystone of the American Dream. We have been swindled into giving up hope.

Blame who you like. The gun lobby, the NRA, the Christian right, the Tea Party. Blame homosexuals, or Muslims or aliens. The time is long past for blame. When schools are being shot up on a regular basis, it is too late for blame. The truth is, no lobby, no association, no one fraction of a political party or percentage of religious group is that strong. We have been made to think they are. We have been made to think there is nothing to be done, no compromise to be reached. We have been made to give up hope, accept things as they are, adjust to the new status quo. We have stopped seeking a solution because it is too hard, too improbable, too impossible. But the truth is, there is nothing strong enough to stand up to the sound of 365 million voices. But only if they want to be heard.

We are a country at war. Not with another country, not even with each other. We are not at war with terrorists or drugs or the economy. We are not at war over a health care system or gay rights or a welfare state. We are at war with our own ideals; our ideals of a bucolic American life where it is possible for each and every citizen to achieve the American Dream if only they work hard enough.We have been tricked into protecting that ideal at any cost, even if that cost is the lives of our children, our fathers, our mothers, our teachers. We have been led astray, told that those ideals are worth dying for, worth watching our children die for.

They are wrong.

If school children in a country across the globe were being routinely slaughtered, if the citizens of that country looked on in helplessness and said “it is inevitable”, we would demand action. Yet it is happening on our doorstep, time and time again. In our schools, in our shops, in our places of business, on our streets and in our homes.

Guns don’t kill people. It’s not guns that are the problem, it’s mental illness. The only way to protect yourself from gun violence is to arm yourself with a gun. Arm your teacher, arm your principal. Arm your guards. Bullet proof blankets for school children. And yet we do not see ourselves as a country at war?

This is not a way of life to be protected. This is a way of death: death of a dream, of that great ideal. It is the death of hope.

Every man, woman and child needs to stand up and shout. Every mother and father and teacher and social worker needs to stand up and shout. Every, single citizen who believes that this lie, this lie that we need to sacrifice our citizens to an outdated and misconstrued ideal must stand up and shout.

We can sleep at night because it won’t happen to us. It won’t happen in our town, in our school, in our shopping mall or church or mosque. Perhaps they thought that in Oregon a few days ago, or in Sandy Hook eighteen months ago. Do not be placated, patted on the head and sent to bed. Stand up. Scream. Shout. Demand a change.

Gun control, gun regulations, the banning of assault weapons is not the magic answer. But it is a start. It is a tourniquet to staunch the flow of blood until you find and fix the wound.

The time has come for stories about America to once again be about dreams, about destiny, about hope. The time has come for a Great American heroes. You do not need a cape to be a hero, or a letter on your chest. You only need to make sure you are loud enough to be are heard. The greatest American hero is you.

And you.

And you.

But only if you stand up for what is right.

 

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11 thoughts on “The Greatest American Hero

  1. ehs0612 June 12, 2014 / 7:16 pm

    I will stand up. Regardless of which continent I stand on and Lily will follow in her mother’s footsteps.

    Excellent writing my friend.

    Hope to see you Saturday.

    Sent from my iPod

    Liked by 1 person

  2. scottishmomus June 15, 2014 / 6:57 am

    I could weep at your words. As a UK citizen I have wondered at the power of the gun lobby. Wondered why it has not been drowned in a sea of voices seeking another way. I hope every person who reads this raises their voice to redress the balance.

    Like

    • dhonour June 15, 2014 / 8:02 pm

      My husband is English and we have had many conversations about this. As a logical, thinking human being who values life, I too am flummoxed as to why the obvious–more control, a ban on assault weapons–are not ‘obvious’ to everyone else. As an American, I have a little bit more insight as to just how ingrained Constitutional beliefs are in the American psyche. You are raised in it, it is part of the soil and the land, part of an entire nation’s belief in itself. It’s powerful stuff for sure. Doesn’t make it right, but it is definitely part of the heartbeat of the nation. But enough is enough. There has to be a tipping point. I pray it is coming soon.

      Like

  3. Rhonda June 15, 2014 / 4:44 pm

    I think the only place we can find comfort is to hope it doesn’t happen in our town and to our children, but the longer we are quiet, the greater the chance of it happening here – wherever here is for us.

    I love that you were able to write this. Thank you.

    Like

    • dhonour June 15, 2014 / 7:58 pm

      That’s it. As much as the very idea of this happening disturbs me to no end, the idea that people have given up fighting against it and are just accepting it as the new normal–well, that just about breaks my heart.

      Like

  4. Elyse June 15, 2014 / 10:47 pm

    Well said. We are fast becoming a cartoon society, filled with foolishness. As an ex-pat, I was often asked to explain America’s gun laws. Ummmm, there is no explanation. It is especially crazy given that the people actually do support stricter gun laws by a wide majority.

    Like

    • dhonour June 16, 2014 / 12:54 pm

      It’s ironic you mention the cartoon-ishness aspect, Elyse. The starting point for this piece was thinking of the old stereotype of the American–chubby, Bermuda short wearing, loud tourist with a camera strap and how completely innocuous that caricature was compared to the one you would see today.

      Like

  5. ElizabethWolf June 19, 2014 / 7:37 am

    I ‘liked’ this post. But I don’t ‘like’ it. I wish you didn’t have to take the time to even write it.

    Like

    • dhonour June 19, 2014 / 12:19 pm

      I hear you. I would much rather be writing about something else myself.

      Like

  6. speaknowthinklater October 3, 2017 / 8:36 am

    I, as a UK citizen, have always wondered why the right to bare arms is in place. If no one had guns, would you need to protect yourself with guns.
    As a police officer here, around 99% of us do not want guns because it gives the person on the streets causes damage to our society the need to up the level to match. Yes, we do have guns, but not to the level of America. I guess comparatively to our small size, guns incidents prove this to be counterintuitive. But it is rare in highly populated areas and cities to come across weapons. Capable of doing such damage. And when they do happen, shock resonates.
    I think seeing such devastating atrocities over the pond to yourselves has this concreted in our minds. If there were not guns so readily available, would this be able to happen?

    We too, suffer terrorism. Manchester not so long ago shows that the determination of the few is to cause harm. How do we stop that? How can we bring harmony, or has there ever been harmony? Is this an idealistic view that we all crave that people can be tolerant and kind? And why are these killings at places where moments before, there were happy smiling people and that was cruelly taken away by an individual. I have travelled to your beautiful land, and the only thing that shocked me in a bad way, was that gins could be picked up with shopping at WalMart. I actually did not understand.

    Very good article. I wish you all the best America. Keep the pride of the many and not the sadness and bitterness of the few.

    Like

    • Dina Honour October 3, 2017 / 11:58 am

      Thank you. I live a bit of what you’re talking about. I’m American but have lived in Europe for 9 years and am married to a Brit :-). We talk a lot about the gun culture (and in my mind, fetishization) because I think the vast majority of people outside the US can’t wrap their heads around it. I don’t blame them, I can hardly wrap my head around it either. I think, when it comes down to it, that Americans wrap themselves in a cloak of ‘rights’ so tightly as protection. We are raised on the idea of exceptionalism. We are raised to think we are responsible for being a beacon of democratic ideals for the rest of the world. Of course, this is bullshit. But it is how we are raised. Part of that is the idea of individual freedom–or ‘rights’: speech, protest, and unfortunately, guns. And so many fear the idea of those individual freedoms being taken away, and so cling to them, even in the face of contradictory evidence, even in the face of terrorism, even when they, sometimes literally, have a gun to their head. Somehow the idea of ‘freedom’ has been twisted into the idea of the individual protecting his/her freedom at all costs. Add to this heavy lobbying by the NRA, politicians who do not enact the will of the people who elect them (Americans by and large support sensible gun laws, yet their elected officials refuse to act) and the whole thing is a mess which is going to take a long time to contain and even longer to fix.

      So for now, I’ll happily stay in Europe. There are dangers here of course, but at least those I am able to make sense of. For the most part.

      Like

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