My first memory of gun violence was the morning of Dec. 9, 1980. We were dressing for school between a space heater and Armed Forces Network radio, hoping for snow closure in our German village house.
The man on AFN interrupted to inform us that John Lennon had been shot and killed outside the Dakota in New York.
My mother gasped for air. In the weeks to come she could no longer play the new “Double Fantasy.” “They are killing musicians now,” she said.
It was the first time –I realized America wasn’t safe. Before that the violence that captured my attention was Jonestown and Cambodia—far away places with full Time Magazine covers.During our four-year tour of then West Germany we witnessed violence: A bomb blew up one fall morning and my mother and I saw a giant mushroom cloud of smoke and fire at Ramstein Air Force Base. After that, the military guards got on our buses with their M-16s to check our IDs.
In my memory I can still hear that night when helicopters arrived in the wee hours before dawn carrying wounded US Marines from Beirut to Landstuhl hospital.
Firearms and bombs–I know what they sound like; I’ve seen what they can do.
I’ve been to that camp outside Krakow and the fields outside Phenom Penh. Violence takes away humanity on both sides of the trigger.
There is no necessity for our guns. No amount of talking at me changes my opinion. Nothing I say will matter to someone stockpiling weapons to fight a government takeover that isn’t going to happen.
The late Los Angeles poet Charles Bukowski wrote, “…problem with these people is that their cities have never been bombed…” I sometimes think that’s true.
Los Angeles writer Nathanael West wrote in 1939 in Day of the Locusts how, “Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies.”
I have a young male cousin in southern California who spends a lot of time playing video war games and dreaming of a military career he doesn’t have. He wants to go fight ‘them’—whomever ‘them’ is. I have a male cousin outside Portland who feels like women owe him something. They are angry men and withdrawn and neither has ever gone off to see the world but both have plenty of opinions.
We are a culture of invention and we invent things and people to be afraid of. We invent data that doesn’t exist to support claims that don’t add up.
Perhaps this is how we thrive.
It’s almost Christmas—the holiday that celebrates the birth of a Peacemaker—someone who told his world to turn the other cheek, someone whose parents were refugees.
The next Star Wars installment comes out Dec. 18. The films gave us the pacifist Jedi mind trick.
We hang with the messengers but overlook the message.
There will be young kids whose parents buy them guns for Christmas and take them shooting. There will be moviegoers who would rather see Jedis kill.
We all have our life style choices to make and our ironies to live with. I have chosen to live gun free.
I think of the music Lennon may have made. That more children die of gunshot wounds than disease in our country. All the painters with work in Poland’s national museum dying in Auschwitz. Pol Pot rounded up people with glasses because it meant they could read. Creative and intellectual potential lost. Hope. Is. Needed.
What if we just lost our fear, stopped participating in violence, used Jedi mind tricks and turned the other cheek?
It hit the headlines of the New York Times last week. We’ve had more shootings this year in America than we’ve had days. Most of our killers kill with legally purchased merchandise. We aren’t hunting deer, we hunt people. Most of our killers are white, male and under 30. They remind me of my cousins. Nice quiet boys that you’d never in a million years think would…
Thirty-five years ago I was getting dressed for school between a space heater and the radio in Germany when the news came that John Lennon had been shot outside the Dakota and died. American gun violence–the gift that keeps on giving. War is over. If you want it. Now.
“A very merry Christmas. And a happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one–without any fear.” –John Lennon