Allegan County News & Union Enterprise Commercial Record Courier-Leader & Flashes

Life as Performance Art

A retired parish priest told me he always prayed no one would pass away on Christ-mas Eve or Day. He didn’t want family or friends to connect the most joyous day of the year with a loved one’s death.
Perhaps we should add In-dependence Day to that list. Every year a few people are seriously injured, and one or two die, as a result of fire-works. This year add the mass shooting at a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Ill., which killed seven and wounded more than 30.
The Chicago suburb had outlawed large-capacity magazines for assault-style semi-automatic weapons, a law ignored by the shooter. A grandfather was killed. A daughter watched her moth-er die. A two-year-old child lost her parents and will nev-er know them …
But at least this gun nut got to exercise his rights.
Park was only one of many places across the country where Independence Day was forever marred by guns and death. At least 200 peo-ple were killed that weekend by shooters, and that does not include the wounded or hurt by stray bullets.
Five people were shot and wounded by stray bullets after an Oakland A’s base-ball game. The list goes on and will be repeated between the writing of this column and its publication.
If the sum total of Ameri-cans killed by guns over the holiday weekend had been an airplane crash, train wreck or a natural disaster, we would have been horri-fied.
We are learning to live in fear as daily, weekly and monthly body counts come in. If we keep this up, Stalin’s words will come true, albeit on a smaller scale: “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
Trauma clings to us like black mold. When I was quite young about a decade after World War II end-ed, my mother hired part-time house-hold help. The women were either British war brides who had endured the blitz, or refugees from Germany and parts of Nazi-occupied Europe.
They never stayed long be-cause our home was on a hill about a mile from the air-port. As the Braniff pilots lined up their DC-3s for their final approach, they feath-ered back their engines.
For these women 10 years after the war, it was the same sound as a heavy bomber or a German V-2 rocket. They would freeze in place for a second, then scream and dive under a table or pull a couch over on top of them. Many quit after a few days and we under-stood it.
That’s us today. We don’t walk out the door without checking to make sure our street is safe. We don’t pull into a parking lot without scanning the area around us for an active shooter. Or send our children to school, go to work or enjoy a shopping mall or a movie.
We wonder if we will be safe at a convenience store, gas station or church. We hire “resource officers” for our schools; some churches imitate the airlines with pew marshals. How many Little League ballplayers will be told by their parents, coaches and others they have to hit the deck if they hear any-thing that sounds like a gun-shot?
Is that the way you want to live? I don’t.
We are trying to balance the right of gun owners to carry their weapons with them anywhere they go against our right to go any-where or do anything without fear.
Right now, it looks like the gun owners are well in the lead because statisticians tell us there are more firearms in our country than people. That includes everything from a single-shot derringer to a muzzle loader to an as-sault-style weapon with in-dustrial-sized magazines. The latter type of firearm is the crisis.
This past Independence Day we celebrated freedom and a rejection of tyran-ny, only to have it tainted by gun violence.
When a person is hit by one of the high-powered bullets, emergency room physicians note, it literally vaporizes those parts of the body. It shatters bone and sends splinters through the body, puncturing blood vessels and scarring vital organs. Who wants to go out that way?
Remember when one wan-nabe terrorist tried making a shoe bomb to blow up the plane on which he was fly-ing? Now all of us get to take off our shoes when we want to get on a plane.
One fellow got into a do-mestic dispute, took out his frustration on the world and drove his car through a Wis-consin Christmas parade. Now authorities re putting up barricades on cross streets to keep people who want to have a good time safe from terrorists. In other words we took action. With mass shootings we solemnly speak of “our thoughts and pray-ers.”
Next Independence Day? If body counts contin-ue, will cities decide to cancel July 4 parades, fireworks and band concerts? Perhaps we will see surveillance drones flying overhead or facial-recognition street cameras.
“We live in America,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney after hearing two of his police officers had been wounded, “have the Second Amendment and Supreme Court telling everyone they can carry a gun anywhere they want. That’s what we have to live with.”
I know there are gun own-ers who are scrupulously careful. They enjoy hunting and target shooting, worthy sports. They spend money on trigger guards, gunlocks, secure gun safes and do all they can to keep everyone safe.
I used to do target shooting and hunted for a few years until I sighted in on an ani-mal and realized I didn’t want to pull the trigger. That was the end of it for me, but why should my decision de-prive others of a sport they enjoy?
My beef is with assaults style weapons, high-powered ammunition and big-capacity magazines. They are not for big game hunting; they are for hunting and kill-ing people.
As I wrote last week, some assault-style rifle owners claim they are our true friends, protecting us from a tyrannical state or federal government. I am sure they are sincere but have no idea on which parallel universe they have double-parked their brains.
There is no way they and their comrades can take on the world’s finest, best-armed and most-disciplined military force and win. Compared to the firepower of our armed forces, their assault rifles are pea shoot-ers.
If it ever comes to some sort of civil war or shoot out at high noon, someone will have to use a broom, mop and scoop shovel to clean up what is left of their perforat-ed and partially-vaporized bodies.

Leave a Reply