I’ve been keeping my head down a bit, lately.
My recent essay on guns and dead kids, cheerfully captioned Make America Grieve Again, wasn’t likely to generate much in the way of warm and fuzzies, I suppose. I’ve taken a few shots since I blasted that dark bit of satire onto my blog. Two shots, to be precise. Which represents two-thirds of my usual audience - the other third being moi.
Since it’s been rather nice to have a following, no matter how tiny, after decades of muttering only to myself, I'd raise my head above the parapet to respond to my critics. Maybe they’ll (please) come back.
“You should mind your own damn business,” was the gist of volley number one, courtesy of an American reader. (I took a stab at reproducing his comments verbatim but my keyboard caught fire in protest.)
Fair enough, I say. My talents are few, and minding my own business isn’t one of them. But I didn’t mean by any stretch to suggest that he and his countrymen are nothing but a gang of murderous nutcases, or that every street corner in the U.S. is bristling with weapons. I know perfectly well that’s not true – I lived peaceably and pleasantly in America for years. That piece I wrote was satire, people.
I’m disturbed, as a Northerner, that I’ve given offense. Canadians are, above all else, polite - it’s the first thing we’re taught, before igloo-building - before puck-chasing, even. And we’re pretty submissive, usually. Even our dogs are disproportionately docile: the slightest edge to my tone sends my little mutt immediately onto her back, all four legs in the air. That’s just how we are, up here in the tundra.
So allow me, my American friend, to borrow from the classic mea culpa voiced by John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda and to say, “I apologize, unreservedly.” Heck, let me use his entire oration of contrition: “I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.”
I offer that freely - no need to suspend me, like Mr. Cleese, far above the ground upside down by my ankles from an open window. And I mean it - except for the malice bit: I intended no meanness. I was simply trying to make a point.
I shall strive, henceforth, to confine my nose to my own affairs - for a few hours at least. (Although it seems to me that the business of serial slaughter of children should be, and is, the general concern of all humanity, across all borders.)
But before I go, permit me to speak briefly to my other critic. That fine fellow, under the bold tagline of “GUNS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM,” linked me to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s comments on school violence. His thoughtful words struck a chord with Americans: the eight-minute clip has attracted more than thirteen million views.
Speaking a few weeks after a terrible school shooting in his own state, his remarks infused by unimaginable personal pain (he lost his eldest daughter in a tragic car crash when she was a high school senior), Governor Bevin pointed to modern culture, rather than guns, as responsible for the perpetual violence afflicting America: “If we think that a part of what we are seeing is not a cultural problem, we are kidding ourselves.” The idea that the problem can be “fixed with a single law or rule or change is naive and delusional, and so we shouldn’t allow ourselves to entertain naive and delusional thoughts.”
Americans are killing each other because they’ve become desensitized to the value of life, he argued correctly. The blame for that he pinned on a host of evils: degradation of women by endemic pornography; the casual termination of millions of pregnancies; wilful erasure of lives by medically-assisted suicide; broken and dysfunctional homes; rampant disrespect for moral authority; addiction of millions to the dehumanizing pull of social media; murderous video games like Bulletstorm, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse.
It sums up to a deadly stew of hate, anger, disconnectedness, and despair, seasoned by loneliness, resentment, brokenness and desperation. This is what lies at the root of all the bloodshed, pronounced the governor - not guns. And “shame on us if we don’t sound the alarm.”
I mean no disrespect to Mr. Bevin, but the alarm bells are already ringing: loudly, urgently, incessantly.
Because Americans are killing each other in horrific numbers - WITH GUNS.
Wide-spread gun ownership is by no means a new thing in America. Decades ago, as Mr. Bevin himself pointed out, guns were present in a greater percentage of American homes than they are today, without all the carnage.
What is new, by the governor’s own depressing summation, is the poisonous cauldron of cultural evils that has come to full boil, spitting off a murderous splattering of psychos, malcontents, and homicidal maniacs. Guns may not have been “a problem” fifty years ago in the absence of that hellish harvest, but they are most certainly a problem today. Changing nothing, leaving lethal weapons within easy reach of the lunatics, is open invitation to paroxysms of mass murder. And America’s children will continue to die.
Many other countries wrestle with the pestilent issues of pornography, dysfunctional homes, violent video games, social media addictions, and so on – these battles are not unique to America. But Americans kill each other with guns at a rate twenty-five times higher than in other rich countries – because they have easy access to almost any weapon they choose. We might just as well put squadrons of pit bulls at the ready disposal of rampaging gangs of Nazi skinheads, and then, after the predictable result, after their victims have been torn limb from limb, pronounce that DOGS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM.
The cancers eroding the pillars of American culture will never, in Governor Bevin’s words, be “fixed with a single law or rule or change.” Of course not. But until there are effective solutions (if they can ever be found), tightening gun laws - at minimum, banning assault weapons - is bound to save hundreds and hundreds of lives.
So pardon me, if you will, for meddling, for tendering my uninvited opinions. I write because I care: my intentions are good, my concern sincere.
The evil that stalks America, the malevolence that deposits scores of dead schoolchildren in its wake, has been enabled for too long by her leaders.
And that, my friends, deserves no pardon.