Posts Tagged ‘guns

10
Feb
22

High School Heroes

Following a longer-than-normal walk with the dogs, Joan and I decided to reward them with a trip to our neighborhood Sonic Drive-In. She ordered her customary lemonberry slush while I favored the cold brew iced coffee. The dogs, naturally, snacked on pup cups.

This Sonic is located right next to the local high school. As it happened, we arrived just as school was dismissing for the day.

While we chatted about the topic du jour, I watched the students walk by us. Some walked in pairs. Some in groups of three or four, while others walked by themselves. 

And as I watched them, my heart stirred. 

Some laughed. Some smiled. Some seemed as if they were a thousand miles away, lost in thought. All of them seemed to demonstrate joy at the fact that they were walking away from school for the day.

At first glance, it seemed like an utterly unremarkable, quotidian scene. It is a ritual repeated in towns of all sizes, every day between September and May at 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, come rain or come shine.

As I looked on, I realized that the students walking there – some wearing logoed outerwear, some in shorts in 36-degree weather, some with blue streaks in their hair and nose rings – each represented a younger, brighter, livelier version of me. 

They are probably worried about who likes them and who doesn’t. They aren’t sure how they are going to juggle everything they have on their plates right now. They absolutely cannot understand how their parents can be so lame and clueless. They wonder what kind of world they are about to enter… where it is headed, and what their place in that world is going to be. 

But for all those similarities, I also know that the kids I am watching as I sip my iced coffee face pressures 1969 Russell couldn’t conceive of in his wildest imagination.

For starters, they were born into an “always on” world of electronic voyeurism… constantly watching and being watched… measuring their worth in bytes, likes, follows, and views. This world is as prying as it is relentless, wedging its fat, judgmental eye into every waking moment of their lives.

These kids today have also been forced to consider the possibility that the hallway they travel between third period Algebra and fourth period History might suddenly erupt into random bursts of gunfire, blood, and screams. 

How in the name of God do you factor THAT into your daily psychic toolbox?

Hell, back in the day, pop-up fistfights between rival “greaser” gangs used to scare the snot out of me. But at least I knew they were fighting because they hated each other. Today there are no breadcrumbs to follow that might offer clues about the rage boiling up inside the kids who shoot up schools. 

And then, when those hopeful high schoolers lift their eyes for a moment to see how we – the mature, seasoned, arbitrator adults – handle our spats, all they see is pettiness, vitriol, and a willful blindness to any notion of “the common good.”

 And I pray; God help them. 

God, help us help them. 

But then, when my heart is almost overloaded with sadness and pity for these young adults, they make a sharp, unexpected turn. Suddenly they erupt with a joy, a generosity, a lightness, and a compassion that just blows me away. 

Abruptly and unexpectedly, they become my teachers. THEY show me how to love and include all those who were “born this way,” to flagrantly steal Lady Gaga’s phrase. THEY passionately appeal to me to take care of the ONE planet we occupy. THEY remind me that I don’t have to be enslaved to my stuff. THEY insist on learning a version of history bereft of whitewashing, coverups, or race-based distortions. THEY don’t hesitate to demand that JUSTICE serve every man, woman, and child ever born.

And so, as I keep watching, my prayer expands. 

It still asks God to help them, but now also asks God to help me LEARN from them.

God bless them…

… and YOU, too.

18
Mar
19

Freedom cancer

Cancer cellSix months ago, I didn’t know much about cancer.

If I’m being honest, I would have to tell you I didn’t really want to know anything about it. I called it “the ‘C’ word.”

But then September 21 happened. That was the date of my wife received her cancer diagnosis.

I can’t tell you that I know much more about cancer now than I did then, but I have learned a couple of things.

I learned that cancer is cell division gone haywire.

As you probably know, as human beings, we are each giant cell-producing machines. Old cells die and new ones take their place… at the rate of about 100 billion new red blood cells and over 4 million epidermal skin cells every day, just to name two types of these cells.

Cancer describes the situation in which normal, orderly cell division goes awry and cells start dividing in a non-orderly, chaotic fashion. New cells are created that have no correspondence to replacing old cells that have died.

In other words, cancer is a deadly disease process that bears a striking resemblance to a naturally ordained process of the human body. Some gene somewhere deep in the DNA sends an incorrect signal, which causes wacky, willy-nilly cell division.

As I thought about this description, I began to wonder… is it possible there is a similar kind of disease process at work inside the DNA of our culture… especially regarding the FREEDOM gene?

I absolutely believe that freedom is hard-wired into the socio-cultural DNA of human beings. Witness the lengths to which people living in totalitarian cultures will go to be free. Witness the waves of immigration into free, democratic countries. Witness Paul’s statement in Galatians 5:1 – “For freedomChrist has set us free,” or this sentiment a little later reminding us that, “… you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters.”(Galatians 5:13, NRSV).

To be human means to crave freedom.

But here lately it seems we have seen a basic mutation of the freedom gene. “Freedom” seems to have become mutated into “license” and “unfettered self-indulgence… heedless of consequences to others.”

We want to be free to smoke tobacco products, no matter how much second-hand smoke we generate, or how much pressure we put on the nation’s health-care system. We want to be free to ride a motorcycle without crash helmets, or drive cars without seatbelts, no matter how many of us end up in the emergency room.

And of course, we want to be free to own any kind of high-powered automatic or semi-automatic firearm our little heart’s desire… no matter what kind of death and destruction they continue to cause.

I fear we may have entered a time when the cancer of personal license has deformed any idea of “common good” right out of our FREEDOM genome. And sadly, this particular form of cancer seems to be more prevalent in the United States of America than in any other place in the world.

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) wrote extensively of the intimate relationship between freedom and responsibility. He talks at length about Jesus Christ freely deciding to bind himself to the lives of those he came to serve… and then set them free as a result.

The American Libertarian writer and politician Harry Browne went a step further when he said, “Freedom and responsibility aren’t interconnected things; they are the same thing.”

If I am to insist that my freedom have no boundaries at all, I am – by definition – asking you to give up a measure of your freedom. I am saying that my freedom to inhale and exhale the smoke of burning tobacco leaves is more important than your freedom to breathe clean air.

And I call that a mutated, cancerous kind of freedom.

Today my wife is taking her last chemotherapy infusion for the cancer that invaded her body. The signs are good that the chemo – and surgery – have done their work and eradicated all signs of this demon from her.

And so we rejoice and thank God.

But I wonder… is there any kind of chemotherapy available for our nation’s “freedom cancer”?

I pray we can find that cure…

… and find it soon.

19
Mar
18

Third Rails

AR 15 pictureWalking away from my mailbox Saturday, I thought back to August 2013. That was when the United States Postal Service – as a cost-saving move – proposed doing away with the Saturday delivery of mail.

If you think back, you will recall that proposal was met with LOUD howls of protest. In fact, I am not sure a proposal to immediately abolish all reruns of Matlock would have caused a greater hue and cry across the great landscape of retired America.

Needless to say, the USPS quickly dropped the idea like the proverbial hot potato.

And so now, as I look down at the sad harvest of one flyer for a local dentist, one for a landscaping company, an invitation to a “pre-retirement seminar,” a home improvement catalog, and our monthly gas bill, I breathe a grateful sigh of relief. Glancing briefly heavenward I pray, “Thank you Lord that I didn’t have to wait until Monday to receive this gold!”

The United States Postal Service was clearly facing some financial challenges. And while raising postage rates is always a quick and easy remedy, I thought they should have been commended for also considering cost-cutting measures.

And honestly… given the fact that 99.85% of my mail these days is either junk mail or bills, (yours too?) dispensing with Saturday mail delivery seemed to make perfect, reasonable, rational sense.

But the fact that people who proposed doing away with Saturday delivery were very nearly burned at the stake should have alerted us that something else was going on here… something beyond whether the idea was reasonable or rational.

Somewhere buried beneath the surface of the issue of Saturday mail delivery lays a very live, very hot third rail of EMOTION. As the USPS executives figured out very quickly, when you touch that third rail, you get burned very badly.

And so, as we engage in the national debate around guns and gun regulation, it is very clear the same principle applies here. Advocates of stricter rules around gun ownership, tighter background checks, and the abolition of assault-style weapons (people like me, in other words) feel our ideas make perfectly reasonable, rational sense.

I mean, honestly; who besides a combat soldier really needs a gun like an AR-15?

But as soon as those reasonable, rational proposals are advanced, they are just as quickly cut down in a barrage of pushback from gun owners.

Folks over here on my side of the debate can argue until we are blue in the face that, “No… no one is coming to take your guns away from you,” and that “This is NOT the first step in a government takeover,” to absolutely no avail.

It is too late; a nerve has been hit… an emotion has been stirred… the third rail has been touched. The opportunity for calm, reasoned conversation on the topic has disappeared.

Personally, I have never owned a gun in my life… and never will. And so for me, the issue has zero emotional content.

That is clearly not the case for those who have grown up around guns. For them, this topic is LOADED with emotion… emotion I can’t even begin to fathom.

This debate is VITAL. It needs to continue and laws need to change.

But until we gun control advocates can understand and speak to the emotional side of the debate, I fear no middle ground will be found and more and more Americans will die needlessly from gun violence.




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