We Let Them Pull the Trigger


From sea to grieving sea. Reuters photo.

Another one. This time on Tuesday in Benton, Kentucky. Two teenagers killed, 18 injured - three shot in the head, and in critical condition. So much ghastly same old same old: Small close-knit town, people shocked and grieving, good kids and "sweet souls" who will be missed, police still searching for a reason for a 15-year-old to open fire, residents coming together in their pain to plan prayer vigils, politicians sending - yes, really - more thoughts and prayers. It was the 11th school shooting of the year, and it's still January. It was barely a blip in the heedless news.

Maybe because the day before the Benton shooting at Marshall County High School, there was a shooting at Italy High School in Texas. Or because, the same day, someone in a pickup shot at a group of students in New Orleans. Or because, also on Tuesday, there were at least 81 other shootings around the country; they killed 28 more people and wounded 40 more. Or because, in the gruesome new normal, a quarter of U.S. parents fear for their children’s safety while they're at school, which, by all grim accounts, they should. Or because, in the bloody wake of Benton, local pols could only talk up armed guards, not gun control, which would "politicize" the horror, and the NRA-backed Enabler-In-Chief had to be shamed before he even offered his own crappy bogus thoughts and prayers.

Moms and other gun control advocates are still demanding action. What, we wonder, will it take, besides Preston Cope and Bailey Holt? We need to say their names. "In our time," writes Sandy Solomon in her "Little Letter to the Future", published in Vox Populi, "we reckoned our dead in firearms" and "grew ill/from (our) excuses for poor, innocent guns." In the end, she writes, "About death,/ you know. We knew too much."

Little Letter to the Future 1


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In our time we reckoned our dead in firearms—
handguns, rifles, automatic weapons;
in much-parsed constitutional clauses;
in politicians bought by lobbyists
and salesmen. In our time, we objected
most of us, but we couldn’t stop those guns.
They squatted beside the desperate, the guy
who craved suicide; they incited
wild-eyed murder, mass murder.
In our time, we just hoped we wouldn’t
be unlucky, that a sick boy toting
what we called an AR-15-style
Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle,
wouldn’t burst into another first-grade
classroom where our kids studied addition,
subtraction; or into another night club
where we celebrated Saturday night;
we just hoped that a stray bullet wouldn’t
cross Central Park to reach the shady
bench on which we sat talking with a friend,
that no cop would imagine our hand reaching
for a pistol instead of a wallet or a phone.
We had to calibrate for guns. And those
with darker skin had to calibrate
more (no talking back, no attitude,
no running away, no looking tough or strange
or hard, no looking like yourself most days).
We knew the slogans: people, not guns,
kill people, a gun in the hands of a good
guy trumps a gun in the hands of a bad
guy, and on and on. We grew ill
from those excuses for poor, innocent guns.
They were everywhere—inside the jacket
of a man at the next table, in the glove compartment
of the car beside us at the light. Ubiquitous
and lethal, they entered our wild logic
awake or asleep. In those days, we let
our toddlers discover a parent’s gun, safety
off, badly hidden under a pillow
or jammed, for our own protection, inside a bag
under a restaurant table, and when our sweet,
curious children wrapped their little fingers
around the gun’s shape so they could gaze
into its empty maw, while we looked
away or dozed, we let them pull the trigger,
we let them kill themselves. About death,
you know. We knew too much.

Sandy Solomon


American still life

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