A few weeks ago, my daughter and her dad had a conversation about guns on the way to school. I was not privy to this conversation, but I’m told it went along the lines of whether or not having guns is okay. And questions about why people hurt each other with them. And why we have them at all. And her dad, he said a really good thing–he said that people who have guns need to also have a great respect for life. And he added that being a praying person can help that.
To which the girl child said, “Well…Papa is a praying person. And he has guns.”
Her Papa, my father, is one of her great heroes in this life. She knows that he has guns, and she knows he uses them solely for hunting deer or ducks or whatever. She also knows that he is, yes, a praying person. In her 8 years of life, she’s seen Papa pray more times than she could even begin to count.
And so the thing is, she’s on to something. I know no one who has a greater respect for life than my father. And so his guns, they don’t bother me one bit. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw them, actually.
Since I’ve heard what M said about her Papa and guns, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the truth of her words. And what they might mean for our nation. Because every damn day, statistics tell us, citizens of the United States of America die from gun shots.
I have nothing else to say or write about gun control. I have nothing else to say or write about those who suffer mental illness in this country. I have nothing else to say or write about the ways we split hairs between what’s defined as terrorism and what’s defined as a “mass shooting,” most of it an effort to define and confine the “other” we’re so afraid of. And I have nothing else to say or write about the 2nd Amendment. We’ve polarized and politicized the conversations about all these things to the point that we can’t even hear each other over the sound and fury of our arguing.
And I swear to the baby Jesus I wait on this Advent season, if I hear one more person refer to a gun violence episode as “shocking,” I may lose it entirely. It ceased to be “shocking” a very long time ago.
Meanwhile, men, women and children die at gunpoint. Every. Damn. Day. And it sickens, terrifies and enrages me.
At some point, we the people of these United States are going to have to make a decision. And as I see it, the decision is this: Do we hold life sacred, or do we not?
Do we hold life–all life–sacred…or do we not?
Do we treasure our children–all our children–as the beautiful and full of glorious potential beings that they are? Do we acknowledge and live into the words of our founding documents that all men are created equal? Do we see the contributions that women have made to the sometimes greatness of our country and continue to support them in their efforts?
Do we welcome the stranger? Do we care for the poor? Do we offer shelter to those who need it?
Do we understand that my heart, your heart, their hearts–they’re all the same? Every single one of us, created with the same organ that gives us life?
Do we value all life as sacred? And if we do (and I’d argue these days we really don’t), do we teach our children this same value?
If I’m wrong (and how I’d love to be!), and the answer is yes, then we’ve got work to do to prove it. If the answer is yes, then we’ve got:
- Phone calls to make, emails and letters to write, and visits to schedule to our lawmakers, so that they might hear us finally and mightily screaming, “ENOUGH!”…
- Conversations to have about how we treat the marginalized and disenfranchised in this country and how that might contribute to the madness we’re in…
- Honest and valiant efforts to be made at reconciliation among varying skin colors and ethnicities and faith traditions…
- Humility to find. Hospitality to reclaim. Voices that insist on safety and security for ALL to engage.
- Serious soul-searching to do…and maybe this is where M’s acknowledgement about her Papa comes in. Real soul-searching involves prayer of some sort–be it to God or Allah or Buddha or the Universe.
Do we really want to be known as the country where every day, we wake up and hope we don’t get shot? Is THAT what it means to be the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Not in my book. Not even a little.
Do we hold all life as sacred in this country?
And do we really want to be known for answering that question with…”No.” ?