DIFFERENT DAY, DIFFERENT SHOOTING, SAME RESULTS

 9 November 2018

 We had another mass murder recently - well, actually, we had several mass murders recently, but it's getting hard to keep track of them, so I'll just kind of lump them together in this essay. So far, the aftermath of each of them has been the same: prayers, lit candles, stuffed animals, praise god from whom all blessings flow...

   Did you see "Capricorn One?" The premise of that 1978 movie was that Americans never landed on the moon - that the whole thing was faked to cover up mistakes, and to make certain people look better than they should look. It was presented very plausibly, and I don't doubt that even today - considering our nutty American attitudes, and despite a wealth of proof to the contrary - there are some conspiracy theorists among us who may still really believe the moon landing never happened.

   Hard to believe? Well, what about climate change? It seems like about half the country (and maybe two-thirds of our elected decision makers) have convinced themselves that - despite daily evidence otherwise - climate change is fake news - a hoax. And I'm beginning to think that maybe gun violence is perceived the same way: if you weren't there, it never happened. I mean, if it was REAL - if people were being needlessly slaughtered almost every day in almost every state in the Union - wouldn't somebody want to do something more about it that stand in a circle and light candles?

   I don't feel like wasting more of my time on the topic. If you're interested in what I've said in the past, click on any of these links, above: Massacres with Firearms; The New Normal; Kumbaya; It's Just Collateral Damage; Collateral Damage II; Bring Your Town Together; A Reason to Vomit. But here, on the first anniversary of the 2017 Texas killing, let me reprise...

 KUMBAYA (BANG BANG), KUMBAYA

 First written in November 2017

(On this First Anniversary, November 2018, there are quite a few more people dancing in Heaven.)

How about that? We had another mass murder here in the U. S. of A. In some ways, I'm surprised I heard about it, because it was 2,000 miles away in Texas; besides, we just had one a month or so ago, so you wouldn't think another one so soon would qualify as "national news." Well, maybe it's been a slow news week, because it seems like all the media are talking about it like it was something special.

   It's good to see, now that the actual mayhem is done with, that The Public has once again banded together to pray, sing songs, light candles, make piles of flowers and stuffed animals, and pledge their solidarity, togetherness, and zeal to keep such a thing from ever happening again. Wow, everything's going to be okay.

   Oh, wait; didn't we do that last time, and the time before, and the time before that? Did it help? (I mean, did it help anybody but the florists, the candle makers, and the stuffed animal sellers?) Are the dead less dead? Are the wounded less wounded? Are those grieving now grieving less because a bunch of people stood around together - like they were at a rock concert - and told them not to grieve because "they are not alone?" Will the mass murders now stop?

   Look, these after-the-fact demonstrations may be well intentioned and maybe (I'm not convinced) they do some good, but they seem a lot more about self-righteousness than righteousness. After all the rallies and marches and pledges of eternal solidarity are over for this round, what are we left with? We're left with some people who will never fully recover from the tragedy of senselessly losing loved ones or their own good health. Everybody else is back to watching the news for the next chance to band together and cast prayers toward heaven.

*   *   *

The first meeting at the Texas church since the murders was attended by about 500 people, instead of the usual dozen or so who normally show up for Sunday services. The newspaper said they came from as far away as South Carolina to show their support. The pastor, whose daughter was one of the fatalities, told the congregation that "victory has a price...You cannot be victorious without being wounded in battle." I didn't immediately understand what "victory"  he was talking about. (Nor do I agree with his premise about wounds and victory). He went on to state what I guess was what he meant about victory: "I guarantee without any shadow of a doubt they (the victims) are dancing with Jesus today. God gets the glory." Senator John Cornyn was impressed by the pastor's remarks. He said: "It's clear they are people of deep faith... and that's what sustains them and gives them hope, even during dark times like this."

   So, that's it: there's joy in Heaven, and all's right with the world? I'm offended, saddened, depressed, and disappointed. What if the pastor had given a message something like the following?

*   *   *

   "As I was getting ready to come out here today,  I was standing before my mirror, shaving, feeling terribly heartbroken and nowhere near up to the task of saying what was expected of me. I've used the lines dozen of times before when things were bad or sad: hang on to God, and you have the Victory. But something in me was rebelling this time. This was my own teenage daughter dead, shot down with many other dear friends. I knew the words - God Will Provide - but they sounded very, very wrong.

   "And then I heard the voice of God. I mean, I really,  really heard him. It was like he was right there in the room with me. And what he said was, 'What is fucking wrong with you people?' I swear, that is what he said to me. 'What is fucking wrong with you people?' For a moment,  I thought it wasn't God, at all, but the Devil trying to deceive me. God wouldn't use foul language to talk to me. But then the voice came again. 'Listen to me, you panty-waist! Your daughter is lying dead; a quarter of your town is lying dead. And all you can think to say is that they're all happier in Heaven? You hope that's true, but you don't really know. And, even if it is, it wasn't their time to go. And what about the people - yourself and your wife, included - who are left to mourn? Is "God will provide" enough for you? And what about the people who get gunned down next week, or the week after; will their deaths be okay as long as you can think of them up dancing in Heaven? What are all these prayers about. It seems like all you want from me to help you feel better about doing nothing.'

   "He was obviously very angry, but I couldn't tell what about. After all, what could I do about it? He seemed to read my thoughts. 'If I really exist, and if I'm anything like you say I am, then presumably I made you humans smarter than any of my other creations. If that's true, it doesn't seem like you should need me to tell you what to do. But since you asked, here's some basic, no-brainer information for you to consider. First, your shooting - and a growing list of others - are gun crimes. But they aren't just murders - they are mass murders because the people committing the crimes gain access to assault weapons that can kill twenty-five people in twenty-five seconds. Second, no non-crazy civilian needs one of these weapons. One of your neighbors told the Press that he had to carry an AK-47 with him in case he was attacked by a raging herd of wild pigs. Really? And you're the smartest creatures in the world? Third, this is not about background checks, or mental health tests. This is about AVAILABILITY. More availability of assault weapons equals more chance of mass murder; less availability... well,  you should be able to complete that sentence.'

   "'Oh, one more thing. You can have all the Togetherness parties you want, but I'm not coming to any more of them. You're just wasting my time, and making me angry. Find some other god to send your worthless prayers to.'

   "As you can imagine, I was stunned, and I started to consider what he had said. But then it dawned on me: this hadn't been God speaking. No matter how rational and constructive he had sounded, it clearly was not God. God would never have come out against the Second Amendment.

   "Come on, folks, let's dance to the victory we have just endured."


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© Sanford Wilbur 2018