America, Where Are You?

America is supposed to be better than this.

Where is the country, young, scrappy, and hungry, that stood up to a mad king and against all odds, won its independence? The country which has a statue at one of its busiest ports challenging the world to give us its tired and poor, its huddled masses yearning to be free? Where is the country of my great-grandparents, which took those immigrant lives and pushed them through a sieve of red white and blue until they bled apple pie? Where is the country which hails itself as a beacon of democracy and freedom, as bright as Liberty’s torch shining over New York harbor?

We are supposed to be better than this.

Where is the hunger to fix the problems pulling the country apart at the seams? Where is the drive to do better, to take care of our own whether they’re in Puerto Rico or Houston or Las Vegas? Or Iowa, Mississippi or Maine. Where is the innovative thinking we need to overcome problems like gun violence and systemic racism? Where is the scrappiness to face those challenges, the conviction to overcome them?

At what point will this great American experiment be deemed a failure? At what point will the absolute right of the individual citizen be responsible for the downfall of a nation?

I say this as an American who loves my country: I think we are very close to that point. I think we have championed the right of the individual over the rights of the whole for too long, and we are paying the price. Or rather the people in Las Vegas are paying the price, and the citizens of Puerto Rico, the families who bury their black sons and daughters are paying the price. Children who shoot themselves with unsecured guns, women who are killed by abusive partners, transgender citizens who are murdered by fellow citizens. People without healthcare. Citizens in the wealthiest nation in the world going hungry, going without.

We are all paying the price because we are all worse off.

Maybe some of us take nicer vacations or have more square footage. Maybe some have a nice chunk of retirement change. But this idea that our rights as individuals, to speech or guns or bigotry in the name of religious freedom comes before our unity as a whole, as a nation?

That idea is going to kill us as sure as a stake through the country’s heart.

We now accept mass shootings as a way of  life, especially those carried out by white male terrorists. We find neat little ways of compartmentalizing the actions of those men by giving them titles like ‘lone wolf’. By humanizing them in the narrative with occupations and family stories. And so it’s easier to think it’s yet again a one-off thing. There was nothing to stop it, it won’t happen again.

Until it does.

And does.

And does.

And does.

Mass shootings are now as American as baseball and McDonald’s. We expect them. We’re unsurprised by them. We pray and we send thoughts and push aside the fact that it is not going to go away right out of our minds.

Where is the problem solving? Where’s the courage to fix this? Where are the goddamn bootstraps I hear so much about? Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, but give me young, scrappy and hungry too.

In the aftermath which will follow Las Vegas, the same tired, old arguments will be trotted out. But the real tragedy, beyond the lives of the fifty-eight people lost is this:

Too many Americans have become immune. Inoculated against the bloodshed. Caring too much about the imagined individual restrictions than about the life of a nation. We’ve finally managed the neat, little trick of turning so far inward that we’ve ceased to see outward.

 

We have our own mad king now, who likes gold thrones just as much as George III. But Las Vegas did not happen because of the Trump administration. NFL protests are not happening because of it. I am not laying blame for any of this at the feet of the Trump administration.

Nor do I think the administration is capable of doing a damn thing about staunching the blood either.

So we will continue our descent. Our empathy will continue to atrophy. Our belief in the individual over all else, even the life of our neighbor, our lover, our child. Until there is nothing left but an island full of individuals who come up with ever new Hunger Games style ways of killing one another because ….somehow, someone somewhere will convince those remaining Americans it’s within their rights to do so.

Or we can channel those early founding fathers and stand up.

America, don’t throw away your shot.

 

Advertisements

It’s Only a Matter of Time

stars-stripes-flag-represent_7e945d6ec7b70513 From Business Day, October 28, 2015:

A big name greeting card company today announced a launch date for its highly anticipated new range of greeting cards. The “Second to None” line was designed in response to the increase of gun-related casualties, and specifically targets consumers looking for a way to reach out to friends or relatives affected by gun-violence.

The range differentiates itself from normal sympathy cards, the company says, by addressing the tragic un-avoidability of gun-violence rather than focusing on grief or loss.

“We noticed the words ‘tragic’ and ‘unavoidable’ had reached a saturation point in the media, particularly among politicians and media outlets,” says the company’s spokesperson S. Wesson. “Our thinking was there was enough of a gap in the market to warrant some research into how such a range would go over.”

“Our research showed that a large percentage of Americans view gun violence as an unavoidable fact of life in the United States. We wanted to give the public a way to express their feelings about gun-violence in a non-confrontational, non-denominational, non-threatening way,” Wesson continues.

A limited test run, featuring a tasteful black and white copy of 2nd Amendment text with the message Our thoughts and prayers go out to you proved to be successful enough that the company expanded the line to include a number of other designs.

“It’s a uniquely American problem which deserves a uniquely American line of greeting cards,” Wesson says.

eagle

The company is quick to point out its goal was not to make a statement about gun-violence, but merely to offer an alternative.

“We don’t hesitate to send a birthday card as a way to acknowledge an important day. This is no different really. With victims of gun violence on the rise,” Wesson adds, “it’s important for our customers to feel like they have a way of reaching out.”

Wesson is most proud of the company’s More Guns is the Answer line. The creators worked closely with designers to develop a range of high quality cards, each featuring red, white and blue drawings of eagles and American flags. The cards open to reveal messages such as May you find peace in knowing that had your loved one been armed, he would surely have saved lives.

Other sentiments, rendered in Comic Sans font, include Guns don’t kill people, Planned Parenthood does and This wouldn’t have happened in a concealed carry zone. And a personal favorite of Wesson’s, I hope your loved one’s death isn’t politicized. It’s too soon.

The company is exploring plans for a lighter range of cards such as the Right To Bear Arms, which features a heavily armed grizzly defending his front porch against a government militia and Stuff Happens, featuring cartoon drawings.

20122112113218“Those cards,” Wesson says, “are obviously aimed at those who have had a more light-hearted experience or accident with guns. Think destruction of property rather than death or disfigurement.”

The most controversial of the company’s planned range includes what Wesson refers to as Victim Blaming cards. “The market research we’ve done has shown us there is a significant portion of our customer base who find it difficult to blame guns under any circumstance. For many, death by shooting has become an acceptable consequence for actions we used to take for granted. Talking or texting too loudly. Driving. Going to the movies. We’re simply giving our customers a way to express those feelings.”

The company has answered its critics who raise concerns that the card range is capitalizing on the misfortune of others.

“America is a capitalist country. For over two hundred years we have rewarded those who have profited on the backs of others. This is no different. We are proud to be an American owned corporation.”

Wesson adds, “A greeting card has always been a safe and acceptable way to express your feelings to another human being. Right now posting or delivering a greeting card doesn’t often result in getting shot. Though as recent events show, we can’t rule that eventuality out. If and when that time comes, we’ll revisit the line.”

The company is partnering with big-box retailers who have open carry policies in place. Cards will range from .99 to 3.95 and will be available as of December 1 in time for the holidays.