I wrote “Outlaw” almost a decade ago, and it was published in Grift Magazine #2 in 2013. Unfortunately, gun violence has only gotten worse in America since I wrote it. I’ve republished it on Medium today.
I’ve struggled to write blog entries for the past few days. Although I haven’t skipped a day, the topics have been anodyne, simply a recounting of some aspect of my daily life. I suppose that’s OK. Everything can’t be a deep, soul-searching memoir or a reaction to the latest gun idiocy.
Speaking of which… you heard about the idiot who was showing off a pistol in church and ended up shooting himself and his wife? Nothing says “responsible gun owner” like ignoring all four of the basic rules of gun safety. But I digress.
Oddly, I feel bad about the daily life posts, as if I’m not giving my best. As though my day-to-day life is not worth writing about. The inner critic whispers, No one wants to read about that. It says the same thing when I delve into memoir, too. Who cares about your past? No one wants to hear it.
I do it anyway. I want to be able to draw on the events of my life in my fiction, so it’s important to capture moments that might seem inconsequential right now. It’s also valuable to explore events in my past with an eye toward understanding how they shaped me. That will lead to more robust characters in my stories.
Mostly, what’s important to me is the discipline of writing every day, and more importantly, sharing it every day. The only way I’ll ever feel comfortable writing honestly and openly is to keep doing it, even when it feels uncomfortable.
After writing two posts that took a lot out of me, emotionally, I planned to grant myself a day or two of light-hearted topics. Then some dickhead shot up a school yesterday, and my mood took a less sanguine turn.
Mass shootings happen so often now that conservatives barely have time to draw breath between instances of screaming that it’s too soon to talk about it. After the Sutherland Springs massacre, flags were lowered to half-mast for three days. What will we do when the shootings start happening faster than we can raise the flags back up? Lower them to quarter-mast, I guess, and then to one-eights, and so on, in a Zeno’s paradox of mourning.
Were I a conspiracy theorist, I might imagine some shadowy cabal setting the cadence, so that massacres occur regularly enough that it’s always “too soon,” but not so often that the funeral industry can’t keep up with the demand for caskets.
That’s absurd, of course. Cremation is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
Seriously, though, there’s no cabal fomenting gun violence in the shadows. They’re operating right out in the open. The Republican Party perpetually blocks any attempt to enact sensible gun regulations that most Americans want. America’s largest terrorist organization, the NRA, regularly releases ads that not-so-subtly encourage political violence, and the approval of political violence (toward the left only, natch) permeates conservative culture.
A case in point is this ad, which I screen-grabbed earlier this week:
There’s your conservative mindset in a nutshell: if you can’t win an argument, shoot your opponent. And if you think this is merely hyperbole, consider this. How do you think conservatives would react if you posed Rachel Maddow holding a Super-Soaker next to the caption, “Taking Aim at Intolerance?” There wouldn’t be enough Imodium in the world to keep up with the ensuing right-wing pants-crapping.
This is why the right can only offer “thoughts and prayers” each time there’s a massacre. Because their thoughts are of murdering anyone who disagrees with them, and their prayers are that they’ll get the chance. If innocents have to die so that they can indulge their fantasy, that’s a price they’re willing for you to pay.
As you no doubt know, 26 people were shot to death, and 20 more wounded by a gunman in a Texas church on Sunday.
The response from conservatives was predictable, mostly. Thoughts and prayers. Nobody could have predicted. Blame it on the left. But one response was stunning in its callousness.
Fmr FBI agent on CNN says Americans need to have “situational awareness.” So its come to this: we need to b ready to b shot at all the time
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) November 6, 2017
Here’s what situational awareness looks like.
You go to a restaurant. You scan everyone present. Any suspicious bulges at their waistline, or under a jacket? You check the patrons, you check the wait staff. You try to get a peek into the kitchen, because you never know.
You sit, and you try to get a table where your back is to the wall. If you can’t, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder. If you can, you’re constantly scanning the room. Your food comes, but you can’t relax. You can’t really taste it, because you’re constantly on the alert. Every time the door opens, your heart beats a little faster, because it could be a gunman, and this could be your last meal.
When you’re finished, you hesitate in the doorway. You scan the parking lot, the sidewalk, the street. Don’t forget to look up. Someone could have a rifle in the parking garage across the street.
That’s only one hour of your life. But it never lets up. You can’t let down your guard when you go to work. You can’t relax if you go to a movie. To a concert. To school. To church. Relaxing your vigilance means you might be walking into a bullet. And if it happens—it seems like I should say when it happens—you’re to blame. Why didn’t you have your own gun out, ready to return fire?
This is the conservative vision for America: life in a war zone. They want us to become Mogadishu. Aleppo. Baghdad. They want us to live in terror.