Ending The Moment of Silence: On Guns, Grief, and Changing the Subject

Let’s begin with a moment of silence for those who died and those were wounded in the shooting.

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I’m kidding, kind of.  Unless you are Sarah Palin or think putting tea bags on your ears is a political statement, you probably didn’t read this out loud, so it was already a moment of silence.

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I want to say something about how we now grieve.  President Obama called for a moment of “silence and reflection.”  That feels right.  It’s beyond politics.  No matter how degraded we’ve become in our public discourse, you couldn’t imagine Rush Limbaugh countering by calling for a moment of “noise and shallowness”, at least not in so many words.  (A little off topic, but how can Rush Limbaugh love twinkies and oxycontin and be against other people’s health care? The whole reason that walking side of bacon exists is because Pfizer has a tube shoved up his ass, probably taking up half of their resources.  If you want to cut the cost of healthcare, you should let Rush Limbaugh die.  And Rush, as ever, if you are reading this, bone a lawnmower, you gravy-soaked mouth-breather.  It’s a good thing your mother didn’t love you or else your first affection would be from a whore.)

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Anyway, I was talking about civility in our public discourse.  I’m all for it.  And there’s something very human and touching about a moment of silence.  But tea party to key party, we are all shocked by what happened to our neighbors to the west.

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Wait a second, did I just say “to the west”?  I did because I wrote the above five months ago after the Batman shootings in Aurora, Colorado.  I meant to write a meditation on grief, on why so many people I love felt a special kinship with the victims at the theater that they wouldn’t have felt if the shootings had happened at, say, a football game.  Above all, I wanted to say that the only patriotic move President Obama could do was to exploit the tragedy to win the 2012 election.  It was, I assume, going to be brilliant.  (As an aside, I like summarizing articles I didn’t write.  It’s easier than writing them.)

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So why didn’t I finish it? Because life goes on.  I moved across state lines and started a new job.  Then the election was in full swing.  Look, it’s impossible to continuously feel grief for strangers.  After a while, it moved to the back of my mind, the way these things do.  I still feel bad for Chandra Levy, but my family didn’t mention her in our Thanksgiving prayers.

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Why say this? I seriously doubt that my editorializing could have stopped more than half of the shootings.  But what I’m interested in is the nature of how we express our grief.  This goes back to our moment of silence.

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TS Eliot ends “The Waste Land” with a chant he translates to “the peace that transcends understanding. “   The moment of silence approaches that.  We bury our dead in awe of the happening.  Reasons, explanations, and actions follow, but for now we accept the world rather than try to explain it.

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But it’s just a fucking moment.

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This is the reality we’re missing in our national discourse.  The moment of silence has taken over our conversation.  “Surely, we can’t talk about this when people are still in the hospital,” say the people with no connection to the victims who are trying to buy time.  And to be clear, when President Obama says “We must never let this happen again”, he is continuing the moment of silence.  Don’t say what we already know—repeating yourself accomplishes nothing but self indulgence (says the man who started this essay by repeating something he wrote half a year ago).

Five moths ago, we had a moment of silence.  Then we extended it for fear of offending the dead.  And now—as a tertiary result of our silence—children have been murdered.  Because what has changed from Aurora to now that could have conceivably stopped this shooting?  What has changed from the Gabby Giffords shooting?  What has changed from Columbine?

Perhaps this is a better question: What practical good have assault rifles done?  We know the evil they can do, but tell us the good they have done?

The silence you hear to that question is not an accident.  The NRA eludes responsibility because we let them run out the clock.  “To speak now is disrespectful,” they say.  And soon you’re talking about the fiscal cliff, about Romney’s tax returns, about Christmas, about the UK/UL Game.  Then we say “Wasn’t there a shooting in Oregon, or Hendersonville, or I think it was Vermont?”

Now is the time to talk about gun control.  Not because of Sandy Hook, but because of the next one.  The time is before, not after, a shooting.  Don’t worry about the Newtown shooting, worry about the Lexington shooting that will happen next March—what did you do to prevent it?  If you’re still saying it’s a matter of personal freedom as you’re picturing your kids hiding in their lockers to dodge gunfire, then I don’t know what to say except, “Senator Paul, I didn’t vote for you, but I respect your office”.  But know there will be more.  The shooters are getting smarter and more strategic.  Let’s call this by its proper name: terrorism.  And let’s deal with terrorism in the exact opposite way that Ronald Reagan did—let’s stop arming them.

So yes, let’s start with an assault rifle ban.  You could go farther than this, but that is the minimum.  Let me state my biases on this: I’ve never fired a gun.  Guns never appealed to me, but then again NBA basketball and college football appeal to me, and a lot of my friends think those are ridiculous indulgences, so I get it.

So let’s talk about it.  (Let me say that I have great friends and family who call themselves Libertarian and I genuinely love them, while thinking their opinion is fucking idiotic, so I want to represent their POV as honestly as I can.)   The libertarian argument, as I understand it, breaks up into the following five points.

1. Do we trust the government to take our guns from us?

Take our guns?  Who? Seriously who said that?  No one is going into your house and taking what you’ve already bought.  When McDonalds discontinues the McRib or the Shamrock Shake, you don’t think they are going after your weirdly-named Irish Heart Attack Foods, do you? What’s yours is yours.  No one is taking your guns.  What I’m talking about is discontinuing a certain type of weapon that serves no purpose except to kill multiple people in very little time.  That’s different than entering your house and seizing all of your guns.

2. It’s a matter of mental health, not gun control

This is kind of true and very beside the point.  Sure, we want to take care of the mentally ill. (Even if Republicans don’t want to take care of the physically ill).  What does that have to do with guns?  It also doesn’t help that the NRA will still block mental testing for people buying assault weapons.  So it’s not about guns, it’s about mental illness, and it’s our job to arm the sane and insane alike.  Also, have you noticed how no one says, “It would be wrong to exploit this tragedy to talk about mental illness.”  It’s only guns we can’t talk about.  Because of respect for families. Obviously.

3. It’s not a matter of need; it’s a matter of want.

This one is true.  If people want them, and the market can maintain them, then we have the right to have them.  Gun owners don’t have to justify themselves to the government for what they want.  Fair enough.  But again, when there is tangible harm done by assault weapons and—as far as I can tell—absolutely zero positive benefit, then why should they be legal?  When you say words like “rights” or “liberty” you have to understand those are abstract.  Dead children in Connecticut are concrete.  Does it infringe on your rights that you’re not able to own a SCUD missile or a grenade launcher?  Some things are made illegal for the greater community’s safety.  Aren’t assault weapons demonstrably dangerous enough to be labeled as such?

4. If everyone had assault rifles then it wouldn’t have happened.

Seriously? Fuck you.

4. If everyone had assault rifles then it wouldn’t have happened

Oh, you are being serious?  Who is that supposed to dissuade from shooting up a school?  The shooters who always kill themselves?  Your idea is to introduce assault weapons to schools, where people can’t hold their liquor, are constantly bullying each other, and think suicide is a cool phase you go through?  You don’t see any problems with that?  Is my increasingly condescending string of questions making my answer obvious enough?  It’s not?  My answer is “Seriously? Fuck you.”

5. It’s crass to use this tragedy for your political advantage

Okay, so we’re back to the moment of silence.  Just know that the people who say “we can’t talk politics during this time” fear the politics of this time. This is a winning issue for liberals.  Assault rifles have never been less popular.  If a school shooter attacked an elementary school, and a crack-shot teacher shot the gun from his hand and apprehended him, and suddenly assault weapons were insanely popular, would the NRA say “Now’s not the time for politics.”  The NRA isn’t stupid: they know what side public opinion is on, and they’re the ones clamoring to change the subject. Do it for politics or do it to save children: it’s still the right thing to do.

The moment of silence is over, and with ever day that passes we become less likely to do anything of substance.  Except, of course, waiting for the next one.  We’re a pretty practiced nation of weepers.  We’ve been told it’s the only valid response.  But we all know that’s a lie—let’s be both brave and impolite enough to remind people of that.

I’ll end with two quick observations. One: You know those commercials that they run during basketball games where there’s this yuppie couple who surprise each other with cars for Christmas.  And the narrator is like “You dumbass, why didn’t you just buy her a car? That will make her happy.” And we’re supposed to be like “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? I forgot that people like new cars.  Why didn’t I just buy everyone a car?”  Those used to drive me up a fucking wall.  In fact, I thought they were the worst part of the Christmas season.  Then the school shooting happened.  I offer that as a reminder to keep perspective this year.

Secondly: On Saturday, the day after the shooting, my cousin collapsed of a heart attack while jogging.  The first responder who saved my cousin’s life was Adam Lanza’s uncle (His mother’s brother).  It’s a strange and almost comforting feeling to know that someone associated with the most hated man in America can save your family member’s life.  I offer that as a reminder that life is strange, and that’s as it should be.



19 comments for “Ending The Moment of Silence: On Guns, Grief, and Changing the Subject

  1. Wyatt_Earl
    December 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I note that the state legislatures that are so eager to let Americans take guns into parks, restaurants, etc.,etc. have metal detectors in the capital buildings.

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  2. Chris Miller
    December 20, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Very compelling arguments, Mister Cottonpants. I wouldn’t necessarily draw the line at assault weapons though. I’m not sure there’s a huge need for 9 mm or .45 cal semi-autos or .50 cal sniper rifles or 12 gauge shotguns even.

    But what makes us Americans is the same thing that’s never going to come between us and our firearms. We love to kill. We’ve been at war at one time or another with practically everyone, including ourselves. We’ve never not been at war with anyone (usage?). We’re involved in 5 wars (that we know of) right now. Our assassin-and-chief has drone hits sanctioned all over the globe. Remember the American Indian? Who dropped the first (and only) nukes on populated cities? Who’s got so many serial killers, they now have their own trading cards and video games? Who spends more on military than the rest of the world combined? Switzerland is actually the most highly armed country per capita, but who sports more shootings than everyone else combined? It’s true what they say: Guns don’t kill people; Americans kill people. It’s in our blood (along with copious amounts of mood managing pharmaceuticals).

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  3. Ole Scout
    December 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    This is salacious.
    There’s little else to say in the face of the fanaticism expressed here, since fanaticism never responded affirmatively to reason.
    Dealing with terrorism at its source is as reasonable as eliminating assault weapons, large bore pistols and revolvers, and any rifle with the caliber to maim, if the shot isn’t deadly.
    The seriousness of its argument is its use of the NRA’s slogan, “Guns don’t kill; people do!”.

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  4. Chris Miller
    December 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Salacious? Huh? Fanatical, okay, maybe, though it wasn’t my intent. I am in total agreement with Ronnie Cottonpants, and with you as well from what I can tell. Although your “and any rifle with the caliber to maim, if the shot isn’t deadly,” made me scratch my head. One would assume muzzle velocity as well. And really, children are so easily maimed, it’s hard to imagine a firearm that would not qualify. Which is fine, ban them all! I wish we would. But we won’t. That’s all I was trying to say.

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  5. Not Steve Beshear
    December 24, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    And this, sadly, is what is supposed to pass for enlightened, intelligent commentary from the left.

    When you can make a salient, valid point without repeatedly using the word “fuck,” then you can come sit at the adult table. Until then, eat your Christmas dinner with the rest of your fellow adolescents.

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  6. Ricky Ravioli
    December 27, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Ted Kennedy’s car has still killed more people than any of my guns, and I’ve owned guns for a long, long time.

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  7. Ronnie Cottonpants
    December 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Ravioli, I keep hearing that argument, and it keeps being stupid. Yes, Ted Kennedy’s car has killed more people than your gun. Congratulations. Magic Johnson’s cock has killed more people than my car, but that doesn’t change anything. A car, if used properly, is transports people from one place to another. If used improperly, it can kill people. A Magic Johnson cock, if used properly, is there for reproduction, pleasure, and having something to tell Larry Bird to suck. If used improperly, it can be fatal. A gun, if used properly, kills people. If it is used improperly it kills people. That is what separates a gun from another tool. You could own a bomb, and intelligent and responsible bomb owner you are, never use it to kill anyone. But I wouldn’t want everyone to have a bomb.

    As for Mr. Salacious and Mr. Adult Table, I’m sorry if the language offends you. But I notice you didn’t offer any counterargument. Does that mean that the use of foul language has literally shocked the logic from your oh-so-delicate brains? Or that you can’t possibly deign to argue with someone who uses bad words? Salty language is a rhetorical choice. I use it because I think it creates a conversational and occasionally humorous effect. I really don’t think it contradicts anything I’ve said. I can’t help but think you are trying very hard to change the subject.

    And thank you, Chris Miller. I stopped short of calling for gun ban, because guns are so completely not my experience that I don’t feel qualified to talk about it. If I loved guns, and I really understood the appeal, but thought a gun ban was still warranted, then I’d feel more qualified because I’d know what I’m fighting against. But as a tip of the hat to my own non-qualifications, I figured I’d hold off from going too radical.

    • jmichael
      January 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Why are libs so obsessed by cocks and gay sex?

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      • Limpbaugh
        January 11, 2013 at 10:46 pm

        Why? You getting hungry?

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  8. Ricky Ravioli
    December 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Seriously, who told you about my bomb, Mr. Cottonpants? As for Magic Johnson’s Glock, I’m sure that it is properly registered, as are all the guns carried by his bodyguards. I’d also bet that Ted Kennedy’s car was properly registered, but a lot of good that did Mary Jo Kopechne. Hell, my guns have even killed fewer people than John Kennedy Junior’s airplane.

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  9. Chris Miller
    December 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I’m wondering… is it possible to be semi-literate in the sense that one has learned to write, but never to read?

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    • Ricky Ravioli
      December 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Chris, last year 50,000 Brazilians were murdered. Mexico had almost 26,000 murders with perhaps the strictest gun control laws in the world. The US, just over 13,000. (See population of Mexico and Brazil combined and compare to US) The South American homicide rate per one hundred thousand population was 20. The US 4. It’s a big ol’ violent world out there…South Africa 15,940, Nigeria 18,422, Russia 14,574 Make research your friend. PS The white American homicide rate starts getting real close to those white countries American gun controllers so want to emulate. Just sayin’.

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      • Wyatt_Earl
        January 23, 2013 at 9:38 pm

        This isn’t research,it’s crap.

        While the facts are more or less true,you’re comparing the US to country’s whose laws and enforecment thereof are a joke. How about you compare the US to the European countries, or Japan, or Canada. I await your research.

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        • Ricky Ravioli
          January 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

          Let’s skip the world tour, Wyatt. Have you ever been to Chicago or Washington DC, not on a tour bus or to ball games, but really experienced those cities (or parts of them)? TOTAL GUN BANS and both have twelve year olds carrying and using high powered hand guns. Now the liberal mantra is that their laws don’t work because other American cities and states need the same laws and that’s the real fight…..FEDERALISM… the original and continuing American political debate. The federal government has largely stayed out of this debate and now it is involved and that’s the fight. I really don’t give a shit because this issue doesn’t make my Top 20 problems facing this country but a lot of Americans are quite passionate about it and riled passions always make me nervous, especially when guns are laying around
          and a fucktard like Michael Bloomturd says that maybe we need another Waco to “get things done”. Yea, Mike, that’ll work. you bedwetting mofo.

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          • Wyatt_Earl
            January 24, 2013 at 8:48 pm

            So, the research didn’t go so well?

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          • Ricky Ravioli
            January 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm

            Well, Wyatt, it’s more the case that since I’m not European or Japanese or Canadian that I’m not that concerned about picking and choosing comparisons between us and them on any matter of subjects.

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  10. Chris
    December 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for the info, Ricky. I guess (mis-)remembering a 20-yr-old 60 Minutes episode didn’t cut it research-wise. Hell, we might not even be the most medicated nation either. But we are the most warlike? Gimme that, okay?

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  11. Buck Fen
    January 7, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Screwed up and clicked on “Like” for two of RR’s comments. What I REALLY wanted to “Like” is the purty and intelligent piece of writing Ronnie Cottonpants posted on December 27th.

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