When I was fifteen I was awakened in the middle of the night by my Mother and Step-father having a horrible screaming fight. I heard violent words and a smacking sound that caused me to run from my bedroom and yell outside their door; "if you hurt my Mother...I will kill you!"
My parents had been having difficulties for a couple of years and it was hard to not hear the things that were said. My Mother complained of my step-fathers drinking and the violence toward us children, especially my brother.
After my mother came to the door and told me to go back to bed, "it would be alright" I heard a loud bang. I had only heard a gun one other time in my life when my Father had taught me to shoot a single-bolt action 22 at the age of 8. My heart pounding, imagining my Mother in a pool of blood, not even knowing there was a gun in the house I crept out into the hallway. My mind raced as I tried to think of what to do, where to run with my younger sisters and brother. My Mother wasn't dead and we hovered outside the bathroom door scared to death. My step dad had gone in the bathroom to kill himself in response to my mom wanting a divorce. My Mom said in exhaustion; “ I am not going in till the morning.“ at that moment she couldn’t deal with it and told me to go back to bed for the second time that night. A few minutes later she came flying out of the room and said; "get everyone...we are leaving" and she called the police. My step father had come out and in a drunken slur said; "I missed!"
She decided we would go to a neighbors and let his brother and the police deal with it. I never saw Chuck again. (footnote: My step father was brain injured. His father had beat him into a coma at the age of 9 or so for "playing with himself". Chuck was also a football player. After his coma he was functionally illiterate, and self medicated with beer. He died from the complications of Parkinson’s as we now know is the marker disorder of the brain injured)
Although you might think that this incident was traumatizing the worst part of this was realizing how many people die of gun related violence then and since. Before this gun violence occurred feet from me my mind was already primed for violence with images of Vietnam, and assassinations that came one right after the other.
Just over a month ago, a young man walked into a midnight showing of Batman and started shooting. Killing 12 and wounding 58, traumatizing a community and a nation once again. Mr. Holmes had difficulties and had tried to get himself some mental health, such as it is, to no avail. We spend billions on war and so called homeland security and no one was sent a "red flag" regarding this man arming himself to the teeth with six thousand dollars worth of personal arsenal fit for all out combat. People can't control themselves so we need gun control. Mr. Holmes sits in a court photo the media shows over and over, obviously medicated and in shock by his own actions. We know so little about the brain, where such actions come from yet the media uses words like "nut job", "maniac" and "insane" to make it harder for those with emotional and mental problems to find help. Shaming works on so many levels.
Two weeks later another gunman, ex-military (discharged for drunkenness ten years ago) and a known racist goes into a place of worship and guns down Sikh's. Again, billions of dollars to protect our country from terror to no avail. The Southern Poverty Law Center had been watching and reporting on this person for a decade and no one in a position of authority listened.
A few weeks ago a local, running for county Commissioner had signs all over town including a church near me. It stated Herndon for County Commissioner, "clinging to our guns and bibles" Perhaps this was a dig at our Presidents comment about the ilk who think those two words go in the same sentence, but I posted on his face book and to the local papers and the sign was removed. It is interesting to note that I have seen his signs come down all over town well ahead of the election. After some "free speech" comments from those who couldn't see the problem with this it looks as if I wasn't the only one who was offended. When adbusters called for Occupy, I wrote ” Occupy Everything Follow the Money” on my American flag and hung it on the porch. I was shaking and nervous about doing this. I half expected to find a bullet through my front window or my cars damaged. As it turned out a marine who lives near me actually stopped and we discussed the issues amicably. Overcoming my fear of being "bullied" or harmed helped open dialogue. Empowerment comes when each of us does what is right in spite of our fear or at least expresses a view, whether Occupy or political signs. We all have the right to say "no" as well.
As I write, the reports on the news are yet another gunman near the Empire State building. Three weeks ago my husband and I decided to go mushroom hunting in the Pike National Forest an hour from Colorado Springs. This was the most enervating and saddening outing we have ever gone on. Not minutes onto the gravel jeep road we could hear gunfire ringing out. For the next four hours as we wended our way along a very washed out and torn up road (atv's and dirt bikes destroy forest roads) we listened to and heard automatic, semi-automatic and assault weapon fire. Ever since Pres. Obama announced that guns are allowed in our national forests (not just for hunting season) the forests have exploded literally. At first we thought it was a gun club or group, but it turned out that there were many people set up along the way shooting at targets, leaving Bud light cans, bottles and anything else that suited their fancy. Every sign in the forest is shot up and toward the end of the sojourn we discovered downed trees. What kind of wind shreds trees three to four feet off the ground? Some gun-rights-flag-waving patriot supported by the seeming right of the Constitution had used an assault weapon to shoot down trees. Leaving shell casings, and trash in a macabre sacrifice to patriotism. Probably good church goers all, NRA members, hard working. Why is it that to many gun owners are so inconsiderate and destructive? Rangers don't patrol the forests like they used to because of the cuts during the Bush administration. If I hear a gun in town I am to call the police, but there is nothing I can do in the public lands.
After the mental hospitals were closed by Reagan in the eighties I had an Uncle Ted who was released in Baltimore and never seen or heard of again. The streets began to fill with homeless men and women and then blamed for not doing well. This atrocity has never been addressed in ways that could make a difference. Since the continued cuts in mental health (which has never been fully funded in this country) the take over of big pharma., along with guns pouring into the streets the blood bath has grown a pace while anyone with mental issues from mild to severe is exhorted to go to church. Psychology is "secular humanism" and being self healing is not seen as good as getting religion and being a rugged individual.
Two editorials in The Nation Jul27/Sept. 3 2012 are about two thing that should never mix, mental illness and guns.
Katha Pollitt's "gun Control? Dream On". and Patricia J. Williams' "Tragedies in Waiting" both speak to personal and cultural insanity that refused to do anything meaningful about either. Mayor Bloomberg controls soda consumption but there are also strict gun laws in the city and state. Here in Colorado it is against the state constitution for any city or municipality to pass gun restrictions of any kind. Yet there is a "make my day law" that basically says its okay to shoot anyone who comes on my property uninvited. We fear "terrorists" from abroad while our citizens terrorize each other. People can't control themselves so we need gun control. (as an addendum the Mayor of Denver recently came out in support of control of assault weapons)
Marked by its absence, the instances of gun violence in and around the Occupy events stands out. As our heavily militarized over- kill of the police increasingly became apparent, each day was a hold- your-breath moment waiting for gun fire to ring out. As it turns out, one suicide by a veteran (which is the largest cause of death among Vets. more than the casualties of war) and one gun death that may or may not have been associated with Occupy Oakland. The right wing owned media went on a tear about how violent Occupy is of course and in a virtual black out have announced the movement dead.
In recent days the President has stated we should remove weapons of war from the streets of our cities, with support from police across the country backing him. The National Action Network promoted by Rev. Al Sharpton has called for a "take back the corners" campaign to make witness to the violence on our streets. Chicago deaths by gun violence has outstripped war dead in the gulf this summer, for the first time in ten states, gun deaths (including Colorado) have outstripped traffic deaths. The U.S. sells more arms to the world than all the world combined, we have a larger military than the rest of the world combined. Are we safer? Is the world more peaceful? Am I frightened and on guard every time I go to the store or for a walk? Do I worry about my child at school in an area that is loaded for bear?
The bravery of those who cry out, put their bodies on the line to fight gun violence and the lack of control, the lack of meaningful regulations in banking, the run away hydrocarbon industry and all the social and economic ills is heartening. For my part, I feel vindicated and empowered by Occupy in the fact that for all my adult life I have talked about the two faced nature of the right since Reagan. (Nixon was a disappointment but I was 12 when he was elected) The right wing tea party ideologues that have been backed by the likes of the Koch brothers, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation etal. no longer speak in code; they are in our faces daring us to stand up to them so they can blame and shame each of us for not being on the "winning side". In this age of gray winners and losers, of the thin lines between success and greed we are growing up as a nation of "thugs" as someone said recently, and of victims. We struggle to teach our kids not to bully or be bullies yet the economic reality is the greedy win.
Tough love and self respect are expressing themselves in Occupy providing a banner for each of us to find our power as a peoples. Once we all get over the shame of having been tricked we will "not be fooled again" when The Who sang about the new evolution.