Help! – The Newnan Times-Herald
It’s been a busy week. May is always a train wreck. Our calendars look like abstract art, heavy on graphics, light on negative space.
Parents, grandparents, teachers, students, college seniors, politicians, voters, and anyone planning events, summer babysitting, and the latest episodes of This Is Us, know this. .
After this particular week, however, I am reminded that our May calendars these days must also contain one or more mass shootings. My God. What’s wrong with us? Unfortunately, it’s not a TV show. It’s really us now.
Last week it was a hate crime at a grocery store in Buffalo. This week it’s an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It’s been happening everywhere, for years, and I’m so sick of it. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and so on. There have been 27 school shootings this year alone in the United States and it’s only May. Do the grizzly math and calculate the unholy average per month. Unacceptable.
Texas elementary school children and their teachers who are lost will no longer have days to count until Christmas or until graduation or until their weddings or birthdays. The only calendars they have left are the ones their loved ones keep that count the days since their assassination.
Shame on us for allowing this madness year after year after year.
An editorial cartoon this week took my breath away. A puzzled angel at the pearly gates speaks to a bewildered St. Peter: “They continue to send thoughts and prayers…and their children.” Dark. True. Shit.
So, in light of the dark and deadly chaos of this week and the general, busy schedule activities that now pale in comparison, I thought I’d keep this column simple. Ordinary. Easy to live.
I tried to be zen, to clear my mind, to make room for quiet, calm inspiration.
Simple first thought: Write about watching the paint dry. Um no. To delete.
Second Thought: Hey, Alex McRae actually interviewed a speed bump once. Maybe I should interrogate my furniture. That’s it. I have that.
No, I don’t have that.
The children, their families, classmates and teachers are too much with me and I can’t think of anything else. Small children and their teachers were massacred last Tuesday in a school, a place where they should have been safe.
No, I definitely don’t.
Nobody has that. This is the problem. This has been the problem for years.
If we really want to stop the madness, we would do something about it. Or at least try.
I remember when the speed limit was lowered on some highways because the higher speed limit turned out to be too dangerous. Can we also slow down too easy and quick access to assault weapons while preserving the 2nd Amendment? How? Are we even ready to talk about it? For the sake of our children?
Food for thought, though: When the 10-year federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004, mass shootings doubled. And here we are.
Don’t tell me it’s not the automatic weapon; that it’s just the bad guy behind the butt plate.
It takes two to tango, yo. I have yet to hear of an assault weapon that works solo without someone pulling the trigger in the most inappropriate places: schools, churches, synagogues, offices, stores, cinemas, homes and streets of the piece. No, it’s clear that anyone who would commit mass murder is mentally ill, but it’s certainly also about the gun. Guns and their shooters are literally partners in crime and cannot be separated from each other.
Could law-abiding citizens who want to defend themselves, hunt, or shoot hunt get by without assault weapons? Perhaps we could raise the age of gun purchase to 21 when the teenage amygdala is more mature. The majority of school shootings have been committed by people under the age of 21.
Could we all at least support stricter regulations, registration and licensing of firearms? We charge the same for a vehicle, and we must have a driver’s license and insurance. Don’t tell me our children’s lives aren’t worth the same.
Of course, these ideas aren’t the ultimate magic solutions, so let’s keep moving forward. Let’s not let excuses why we can’t improve something be our default response. We must not give up.
There must be more answers. Nor should these responses just up the ante and arm every teacher, school, movie theater usher, salesman, office worker, minister, and security guard with similar weapons. Then we become a Marvel movie on an endless loop, everyone building on relentless, fast-paced violence, death, destruction, and mayhem. I don’t want to foresee a dystopian future where steel blinds cover every window in every building, bulletproof doors and walls are required by building code, and Kevlar is the de rigeur fashion fabric of the age.
Our solutions should involve less violence, not more.
I also don’t believe in binary, simplistic answers to the problem. Let’s not limit our conversation to mental health versus gun laws. The solution lies in courageous collaboration and examination of everything.
As a rule, people are always good, caring and benevolent. But we have also become polarized, pessimistic and paralyzed. We are solipsistic, selfish and myopic. We completely lost sight of saving humanity as our priority. We refuse cooperative solutions, forgo give-and-take, and avoid as impossible the concept of selfless, brilliant, creative, willing minds coming together (imagine!), agreeing to talk and coming up with multi-faceted solutions (imagine, again !)?
Can these solutions – a tall order but all for the greater good – examine and address the causes of mass shootings and how we activate them to effect change? Can we take an honest look at today’s mental health issues, social media influences, societal mores, pressures and inequalities, and emotional triggers, as well as our current gun laws , or lack thereof, regarding assault weapons? Are we brave enough to blame ourselves, accept our flaws, clean up our act and do better? Can we look at the die-hard politicians, the gun lobbies and the NRA? Can we decry everyone who accepts money in exchange for looking away, pointing fingers and becoming deaf to the cries of dying children? Or worse, those who pray for problems they don’t want to solve? Are we going to continue to rationalize, to avoid responsibility and our reflections in the mirror, or are we going to grow up and understand this?
Too many innocent lives have already been taken. We all need to drop the “who me?” attitude and look carefully, respectfully and responsibly at everything, every damn thing. Everything from policies to permits; from common sense to innovative, bipartisan concessions and cooperation in every way. If we can’t all work together, if we can’t find the will to find collaborative answers on common ground, I truly fear that we are truly doomed to an eternal, horrible, and repetitive.
I sat down to write this column, completely speechless. I was about to beg, to say, “give me a week and maybe I can write something then.”
I really thought I had no words. I was wrong. Silence is not an option.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
There’s no time to lose. Let’s do this. We just have to pull ourselves together.
A longtime Newnan resident, Susie Berta enjoys many creative pursuits including music, art, writing, cooking, gardening, entertaining and decorating. She is now pursuing her passion for writing and recently published her memoir, “The Veterinarian’s Wife”, which is available now on Amazon and locally at Corner Arts Gallery and Gift Shop. It can be attached to the s[email protected].