Addressed to chill
Landing in Frankfurt airport one summer during high school, we suddenly realized we had dropped into the midst of menacing signs and barked warnings about terror threats and hijackings. That was my first brush with extreme force. Later, visiting Brazil, I ran into it again as military police, in full regalia, seemed to be posted on every corner. Then, Geoffrey and I went on what was supposed to be a romantic trip to Greece. It was one of the most beautiful countries I had ever seen on approach. Emerging in Athens, however, we entered a completely different world. Everywhere we looked, there were tall, green-eyed soldiers in uniform, with formidable machine guns slung over their shoulders. It was frightening and even though I loved Greece, I couldn’t wait to leave, just to get away from those terrifying weapons and the demeanor of the men who wore them.
Earlier this week, I got an email from the group that is working on behalf of a parent who lost his only child in the Santa Barbara massacre in May. Essentially it asked me to sign a petition with the words “Not One More” on it and the group would send a postcard on my behalf to Senators Boxer and Feinstein, as well as my local Representative, Buck McKeon. After I filled it out and sent it back, the site asked me if I would post it on Facebook and Twitter, so I thought, why not? and did it.
Now, as some of you who follow me may recall, I am rarely on FB any more. Last year, when I launched this blog, I had had enough of a particular group of fanatics there that seemed to be posting virtually non-stop. These were not strangers, these were a good portion of my so-called FB “friends”.
At first, I had been a rather reluctant social media participant because I was concerned about so much personal information being public and available to anyone who cared to use it for good or otherwise. But Geoffrey’s entire family joined FB early on because one of my BILs always gets to any new internet phenomenon first and the whole enormous group followed his lead. For once I had beaten him to a different site and I had a Twitter account one week before he did. Thus, no one in his family connected with us via Twitter, because they even had to control the family social platform effort [that’s why I jokingly refer to them as The Firm] and were not about to concede it to me. Geoffrey wants nothing to do with either. He considers all of it a waste of time. Fair enough.
When it came to FB however, I joined when my own cousin started posting pictures of her baby there. From the very start I felt Twitter would be a safer bet, being restricted to 144 characters – how bad could any post be, right? Who can spit too much venom in so few words, so I jumped in and over the past however many years, developed a following (I have no idea why, since I may Tweet once a month if that). I have never had a bit of trouble with Twitter.
Facebook has been a different story, however. I immediately received (and sent) the usual invitations among all past acquaintances, and as you know, when you connect with school, family, and work “friends”, your peeps quickly jump up into the hundreds. Then you get their stream everyday and in some cases, it seems people are on FB all day, ready to engage. I would only get on from time to time and tended to post about my causes. I didn’t think it was necessary to use it as a vanity site where I touted every new acquisition or every time I took a new and flattering picture. So instead, my page was about scientific advances, new research on child development, psychological and psychiatric issues, animal welfare, environmental concerns, food science and the like.
Apparently, that was a mistake. The first person to unfriend me was a guy in Germany, distantly related to my side of the family. He is a fierce far right winger and a champion of meat eating — live, if possible. He couldn’t accept the idea that vegans enjoy a healthy diet and delicious meals, and after a few months of tolerating his rage, he up and left me. There were a few other defections but since we all have so many FB Friends, it is hard to see who leaves unless you make a list and keep checking — uh, I don’t think I have time nor interest. Geoff’s brother left me because he only wants to be friends with “happy” people. Geoffrey eventually clarified what that means: people who make the BIL happy, i.e., do not discuss anything that disturbs his bubble and certainly nothing He might construe as bragging or taking pride in anything I have accomplished, as I am outside of the approved family super-stars group (as is Geoffrey). No worries there. It actually freed me to post more honestly, knowing that he was not watching.
Soon enough I found out that a couple of people I went to HS with, and their kids and friends, as well as Geoffrey’s extended family members, were militant gun rights activists and sought any opportunity to take me on whenever I suggested in a post that I believe in gun control. If I put up a link to an idea for health, education, nutrition, household management, or anything to do with scientific discoveries, I would get a few good friends faving and commenting, little more. But when I shared any progressive idea, campaign or opinion, the response I got was immediate and extremely insulting. Most of all when the issue had anything to do with curbing gun violence or ensuring gun safety.
Well, back to the tragedy in Santa Barbara and the Not One More campaign. Within one minute of posting on FB and encouraging others to get on board, the following thread began [click on each “page” separately to enlarge them for legibility, there are three in all]:
This experience was so unpleasant, and made me feel so defeated in my attempt to do something useful and not self-aggrandizing or trivial on Facebook, that I took it down after a few of my friends left a couple of supportive comments. Several of Geoff’s tea party cousins faved the commenter who was giving me a hard time. No surprise there — these are a group of people who believe in guns, do not think gun violence is a problem, probably do not own guns themselves and so have no appreciation of how dangerous it is to keep them in the house, especially with children or troubled teens, and are not disturbed seeing the Open Carry movement here gain steam. I unfriended the so-called “friend” (a resident of my district, who is actually running for state assemblyman) who pounced on my post in the beginning and that will likely be my last post about this issue, if not my last post altogether, on FB.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid, a Harvard-educated mother of teenage boys, had an interesting editorial comment at the close of one of her shows this week, addressing the Open Carry and Not One More movements. It was intelligent, calm, and touched on the same points that most of us who are not gun enthusiasts hold as givens. She cited, among other things, a Huffington Post survey that suggests 55% of Americans do not want guns in restaurants, movie theaters, the mall, the post office, college campuses, elementary schools, theme parks, and the like. She also pointed out that, were the Open Carry movement to be African-American, there would be a hue and cry from the far right that these were “thugs” and that we need to “take back America” from them.
Another point she made is that “wearing” a gun, conveys a threat that all of us react to viscerally, without even thinking about it. Hence the photos I have shared here. The wearing of long (and large) guns, is not just a manner of conveying almost blatant phallic imagery and thus a potency that these men may not truly feel they have and must feign through these “prostheses”, but is meant to message intimidation, a threat of “or else”. They have gone beyond just sartorial intimidation, in Texas they have massed at Moms Demand Action rallies and attempted to harass and intimidate the women by various means, including rushing up to them and spitting in their faces. That is the only motive, however occult, I can think of, to explain the ferocity with which they demand the right to bear arms of any size and power, in any location. While we are on that subject, I am very clear that the Founders meant to arm a local militia (with muskets, a far cry from a Kalashnikov) in the event that the Crown might return and try to retrieve the colonies. They in no way meant for citizens to have dozens of semi-automatic weapons or worse in their homes and to imperil everyone around them with actual or perceived threats of harm or death.
Even the NRA is coming to realize that their frankensteins have run amok and are no longer under their control. After years of extremist rhetoric pandering to the fear and paranoia of a fringe element on the Right, their golden goose has come home to roost.
So, what’s the solution? What can we citizens do?
Let’s start by goosing our gutless Congress to pass sane legislation that defangs these marauding gangs of cowardly bullies, and get our so-called “lawmakers” out from under the grip of ALEC.
Send those Not One More postcards to the people in Washington we are paying to protect us from anarchy. Furthermore, we can refrain from putting more money in the pockets of those politicians, gun lobbies and gun manufacturers in two ways. Never purchasing a firearm ourselves and divesting our 401Ks of gun-related stocks. This latter tactic helped bring about the end of apartheid in the 1980s, brought the tobacco industry to its knees in the 1990s and can do the same today for gun sanity. Jennifer Fiore, the founder of UnloadYour401k.com, has provided a way to find out what you own and divest yourself of it. While politicians currently have few disincentives to support the gun industry, the corporate world responds to reduced revenues, and those who put profits before lives need to be held accountable; here is where you can make a difference by refusing to subsidize gun violence. Seven major corporations have already taken the lead and had the courage to say no to guns in their establishments.
In the meantime, I want no part of anything the primary purpose of which is to instill fear, maim, and kill. Long and semi-automatic, large-capacity-magazine guns are for soldiers, not citizens — if they are scary on a trained law enforcement officer, they are many times as frightening in the hands of an unskilled, undisciplined, unstable, trigger-happy fanatic. Again this week, another mass shooting of innocent people on the campus of Seattle Pacific University. When will it end?
What else can we do to protect ourselves? Everyone packing a gun would be chaos and shoot-outs in the street, with countless collateral casualties, that should be obvious to any reasonable person. Be vigilant: “see something, say something”. Take self-defense classes, don’t walk in dangerous areas, don’t be out late at night, put a good security system in your house, and let law enforcement administer the law, not vigilantes.
Immediate push-back when someone posts any kind of comment on social media, addressing or inferring that gun violence must be curbed or eliminated triggers verbal abuse that is meant to quash the discussion and intimidate the poster, no different than brandishing a long gun in public places would be. They are meant to stifle dissent, to commandeer the public will, and to force guns on us “or else”.
I am unapologetic in throwing my support behind rational men and women who care above all about the safety of our children. Obscene blood money and false bravado be damned.
Images: airtransat.ca, dailymail.uk, everytown.org, wikimedia commons, austinchronicle.com, nbcnews.com, politic365.com, ourtowntoday.ca, momsdemandaction.org