I enjoy my position of neutrality in all things larger than the four walls of my life. I have a tendency to see politics, world affairs, environmental issues and the like as the dubious luxury of other, more capable (or more compassionate) people. I find comfort in my quiet, simple life. I’m happy with my limited amount of willful ignorance. However, no matter what language I use to describe it, complacence has a very distinct look and an even more distinct taste. I don’t engage in political arguments. I have my opinions, but they are little more than that. Experience and action are the currencies I like to deal more in and without those my opinions are simply words strung together in a certain order. I was really good, at one point, at stinging those words together. I made them sing for me. A chorus of complete disdain with the world and the people in it.
I have, very recently due to the events in Orlando and the continuing savagery on both sides of the political spectrum, found myself hitting a wall constructed out of confusion. This tends to leave me disturbed and, for me, the question then becomes: how do I become undisturbed? Sometimes it’s as simple as asking to be made so. My mother used to tell me when I’d get worried about something to “just release it out to the universe” and I always laughed at the simplistic idiocy of such a statement. Right, mom. Wouldn’t it be lovely if it was just that simple?! Turns out it IS. Silly me. Imagine how shocked I am twenty years later as I find that I am, many times in the course of the day, releasing my instability “out to the universe” Other times though, not for the lack of comfort turning it over to a power greater than myself provides, I find that I am left wanting more. More what? More truth about the matter I suppose. So, I talk. I talk to friends who know me. I talk to those who have helped teach me and, most importantly, I talk to myself. It is usually then that I can make some sense out of that barrier. I can see past the confusion and get a glimpse at the absolute truth of my disturbance. It’s frustrating, but in this case it simply leads me to another question:
Why are we so afraid of each other?
I wish I was intelligent enough to have an equation so that things like what happened in Florida don’t regularly happen. I don’t know if the answer is that we have too many guns. I don’t know if it’s that we don’t have enough guns. Are we just horrible at our core? Violent video games? Violent movies? Moral absolutism? Moral relativism? Are there too many of us? So many people and not enough vital roles for them all to fill. The only thing I know for sure is that there is a problem with gun violence in the United States. If you don’t think that there is, that’s fine. We are all going to go on living our lives.
LIke I said, I have my opinions. My opinion is pretty simple: I don’t think that a mentally ill, wife beating man that has been investigated by the FBI and aligned himself with an extremist sect of a largely peaceful world religion should be able to get his hands on an automatic weapon. If you think this guy is entitled to access to guns, okay. If you believe that unfettered access to firearms will somehow automatically fix the problem, okay. I’m not arguing with you. I’m simply stating my opinion. I don’t think we need guns. I just don’t. Hell, I even like guns. No. No. I love guns. I think they’re cool as hell and I believe that’s the problem. For me, anyway. I think they’re cool and I want them, but I’m smart enough to know that I shouldn’t have one. So, yeah, I am ACTUALLY part of that small population that truly does want to take away your guns. I don’t think automatic weapons should be owned by private citizens and fully support Congress reinstating a ban on assault weapons.
I have heard the voices crying their slogans since Saturday night, ones I agree with and ones I don’t, and it’s starting to turn my stomach. I have seen us do what we all do to make ourselves less afraid. Wrap ourselves in our ideologies and perpetuate the idea that it’s “us versus them” or that “we are right” and “they are wrong”. Human beings rely so heavily on Inside Group/Outside Group mentality. Just try, for one day, to go without using words like “us” “we” or “them” and “they”. You’ll see that the “us” is typically pretty safe and easy to understand, but the “them” are different and possibly even dangerous. We are, whether we want to believe it or not, victims of our own biology. It’s this reason that I don’t believe anything about the idea that a “good guy with a gun makes the world safer”. No. No. I’m sorry, but almost every situation in which there has been a “good guy with a gun” counters that notion. Not only that, but a human is a totally imperfect being. I get tired. I make mistakes. I have lapses in my judgement. I am a victim of my natural instincts to “fight or flight”. So, adding a weapon designed to kill perfectly to an operator than cannot decide perfectly is already a losing battle. Also, anyone that actively carries a gun, whether they admit it or not, whether they understand it or not, typically enters a mode of hyper vigilance. That is, they are not only looking to protect themselves, but those around them. They cannot maintain this state for long. Their body starts to fatigue and they lose focus. They make rash decisions. They are NOT making anyone safer.
“If evil has a gun, I want one too.” Great. I’ll cheerfully be the guy who is actively not trying to keep up with evil. If I die a blubbering mess as a result of not having a gun, so be it. So, as the days move on, we will chant our slogans for or against and we will all soon forget that, ONCE AGAIN, 49 people’s lives were extinguished in hundreds of pointless explosions of lead and powder.
See. This is why I do not engage in these arguments. I tend to get anxious and righteous. I also get a little angry. Angry that the world doesn’t entirely think as I do, and that leads me to the ultimate question. The reason I point out my own complacency: if I care enough to get angry, what am I doing about it? I suppose the answer is “not very much”.
At least, not much more than I was already doing. Quite simply, I am going to continue to raise my son. He is going to know love, understanding, open-mindedness, patience and peace. Those will be his weapons in his fight. Weapons I’ll help him sharpen, as I continue to sharpen my own. If you think this the path of weakness, you are welcome to move to the side as I continue to walk it. I have known much of hell in my life, and those walls were painted in the troubles of my own making. The heaven that I have known, while short lived thus far, has come from seeing past the darkness of my own tiny corner and embracing the light that always travels with love. Jack will know love. I have faith that this will be enough for him to weather the storms of a cruel and storm filled world. I have the faith, but the intelligence to know that I’ve been wrong before. With that must come the preparation, that I could be wrong again. However, I don’t dwell there. I see it for the possibility it is and I move on. With that faith comes the hope that Jack can flip the script on the “cruel and storm filled world”. That he can see the beauty and the calm, as a result of following my own gaze for long enough. That’s really all I can do, right? Be the example. Don’t do what evil does.
So, here I sit still with no more answers than when I started. Hope and faith is not a bad trade off for lack of certainty though. I can deal with lack of certainty, if I know happiness is part of the deal. I cannot predict the future and know not what the world has in store for any of us. I have no idea when the bird is going to take flight, even if I may believe that it inevitably will. I can only walk my talk and try to do the next right thing. I can only recognize the fear of not knowing for what it is, just fear. Fear only. I can only see that and move forward, not worrying if the bird will take flight or when it will and not counting on the bird for fulfilling my own experience.
If I can instill the joy that comes with adoption of this attitude in Jack, even for a little bit, I think he’ll not only understand that he cannot fly alongside the bird. He’ll be okay with the idea that he gets to walk instead. In essence, he’ll be okay with who he is. An ideal I believe few of us truly hold, or even seek to discover. Rather than distract himself with the ramblings of demagogues or find false comfort in violence or pretend bravado, Jack may end up being comfortable just standing still talking to another human being.
There is little that I do know in this life. I’m only really good at a few things. There is a lot that I suck at. One thing I know is that if I can raise my son to be a fraction of a percent more healthy than I was, I am ahead of the game.
I’m a recovered alcoholic. I’m a husband. I’m a friend. I’m a father. I’m an artist. I’m really good at being all of those things. I’m George, and I am not afraid of you. I care about you. I might not like you all, but I do love you.