It seems that we, as Americans, have developed a template to follow each time we hear about acts of gun violence, manic individual attacks, as well as an increase in Domestic Terrorism, White Supremacy and Hate Crimes. It has become a metanarrative – our overarching story to the world and our children. It has become our national brand and we have learned to live with the fact that we are a damaged society and culture.
We have normalized the language. We know the visible and invisible protagonists and actors. We know the producers and directors and it all plays out on our social-cultural stage called America. We can watch it on our social media devices with rose colored glasses. A few gasps and we move on.
Therefore, let’s not act surprised when it happens. Let’s be honest and admit that we wrote and continue to write the scripts – complicitly with our silence.
But there has always been another choice – another core belief, and that is to nurture and mentor compassion, empathy and love. For that matter, even learn to be loved. We have always had the choice to teach and learn to see our reflection in every ‘other’ human being.
This has been, given our legacy, our greatest challenge as a society that continues to haunt us. The language has always been there to guide, unfortunately, the mentors known as family, school and politicians have not. But the language has always been there.
It was in 1850 when the sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning were published. It was a time when women who dared to be poets had to think long and hard before publicly publishing and therefore did so by way of translations or pseudonyms.
This was particularly the case when the writing was passionate, intimate and filled with selfless love. The following sonnet, of just 14 lines, speaks of a love that I posit remains illusive in American culture.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
I have to admit that I have not read sonnets that promote the opposite. In other words, “How do I hate thee. Let me count the ways.” But I have read a few horrific hateful Domestic Terrorist and White Supremacist manifestos and tweets written by gun lovers.
Some of those “patriot wannabes” happen to walk through the chamber of Statuary Hall in Washington wearing assault weapon pins as a badge of honor. They also live in the shadows supporting Domestic Terrorists, White Supremacists and Hate Groups.
So where does that bitter hate come from? There is historical hard data that both “love and hate” are developed and taught by our social-cultural curriculum. That is, family, home environment, modeling, language, region, schooling, friends, colleagues, place of work, political affiliations, dealing with personal grievances and our fickle and ever present mania – social media.
Sorry to report – but it’s us! We are talking about a “home grown” politicized and radicalized gun loving culture that has become ingrained. It is a mythological belief/mania that evolved during our glorified frontier days when fear of unknowns ruled. Guns were at the center of protecting self, family, land, stock, as well as used to plunder. The rule of law was often settled by guns rather than by judge and jury.
We made progress exponentially in medicine, life-expectancy, education, manufacturing, infrastructure and nutrition. But we regrettably have regressed in respect to overcoming our mania with guns that has left us an uncivilized civilization.
And, in a convoluted manner, we tend to deal with the terror of ‘hate’ quite well. We know the calloused drill.
First comes the breaking news across all cable networks and social media. Horrific details capture our attention – for at least several days. We grudgingly get past the funerals – some with closed caskets because of bullets tearing facial recognition. Politicians pander providing conventional ironic and hypocritical “thoughts and prayers.” “Freedom Caucus” members remain illusively unavailable, safely behind closed doors.
We listen to the names of the victims, see their photos, learn perhaps about new geographical locations and demographics unknown to us.
We learn that each victim, just like we do daily, innocently left their homes with plans, hopes and dreams not knowing that it would be their last trip to a school, church, temple, grocery store, park, party, wedding, concert or mall.
We briefly meet family, friends, coworkers and witnesses describing the unimaginable horror and emptiness. We get a glimpse of what it meant for each victim to be alive – to be there as a mother, father, daughter, son, friend, partner, neighbor and colleague.
It’s that presence no more that tends to gnaw at us.
At times we even hear about the meaning and purpose of their lives. Do we dare to personalize – to reflect deep inside as if they were of our blood?
“No, no, no!
It’s all too inconceivable – too horrific – the needlessness – the inhumanity – the raw living nightmare. This can’t be us! No, no, no! . . . Flip the channel, go to TikTok or Facebook – some posting about the marvelous world of cats, dogs and horses.
Please . . . it’s just too inhumane too insane! Please . . . please . . . this can’t be us‼️”
The focus then shifts to the murderer(s), the guns used, amount of ammunition, body armor, how it was all too simple and easy to purchase. We hear sketchy details about the murderer’s background. Maybe they left a manifesto of hate, bitterness, dysfunction and grievances.
Quickly gun advocates come to the rescue of gun manufacturers. It was not the gun but the mental dysfunction of the gun owner . . . never the artifact and its ammunition.
We continue to deny the fact that guns are part of the connected problem – as if all those guns did not need a human finger to pull the trigger. All those guns pointed at victims on their own, and they went off all by themselves – right?
It’s never the guns. It must surely be a case of mental illness – even though it was never noticed nor was the therapy available.
Eventually, we witness the wall and curbside memorials laden with flowers, photos, and at times, teddy bears when the youngest and most innocent among us were not spared.
The number of victims don’t seem to matter anymore – 24, 17, 18 . . . neither do their ages . . . numbers turned into a collective noun.
Silent night marches and vigils follow – another numbed community holding lit candles – flickering – soon die out. Maybe some flags are lowered for a few days. For some, to do so is a sign of weakness.
So we continue to deny that our violent gun culture, Domestic Terrorism, White Supremacy and Hate Groups are deeply ingrained in our history and that “the violence” is connected to guns.
We also tend to look the other way avoiding the same crucial critical questions that always remain unanswered:
- Why would automatic weapons, meant to be used by police and military be made available to the general public?
- Why don’t we have federal-national-common-sense background checks made available to all law enforcement agencies nationally?
- Why are magazines holding countless rounds of ammunition made available to the general public?
- Are there national federal regulations on gun shows? What about internet gun sales?
- Is it all about the 2nd amendment, gun collectors, hobbyists, just country folk hunting pheasant and deer? Is an AR-15, AR-10 and AK47 necessary to hunt rabbits? What’s left of the rabbit?
- Does it matter that as a society, living in the 21st century, there are conservatively 393,347 million privately owned firearms in the US? Is it socially and culturally sane that there are 120 guns for every American – more than any country in the world?
- Shouldn’t gun manufacturers be responsible for leading the discourse on gun research, safety and legislation? Why do CEOs and Board of Trustees of gun companies remain silent?
- Why are gun manufacturers not held legally responsible for producing the instruments that maim and kill physically and psychologically generation, after generation, after generation?
- How predisposed were the shooters to being domestically recruited, politicized and radicalized?
- To what degree do local police chiefs and unions pro-actively investigate extremist groups?
- Why block local and federal legislators from researching, sharing data and findings on gun violence? Who is afraid of such data and knowledge?
So what is the answer? Several past generations have failed to deal with the problem and are stuck on being stuck.
Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation had their chances and are exponentially dwindling demographically and culturally being replaced by Millennials and Gen Zers who are unapologetically moving forward . . . and by the way . . . they vote! Oh do they VOTE!
Keep in mind the number of high school seniors that graduate yearly (roughly 3,326,280) and college graduates (roughly 2.038 million). Both numbers are growing in respect to all affinity groups. They are not deniers of the future, but embrace it. Listen to a newly elected Gen Zer . . .
Gen Zers don’t fear issues and major problems or working collaboratively to solve them. They hear the spiels – the Big Lies – the deniers . . . but they ain’t buying it. Sorry Tucker . . . “See ya – don’t want to be ya!”
Gen Zers grew up together, had play dates together – and are part of the bi-racial-bi-lingual-bi-cultural-bi-ethnic-bi-pronouns 21st Century. Unlike other generations, they tend to have each other’s backs. They do not fear change and understand that there is power in numbers.
They understand that they must become their own advocates, run for local, state and national offices, organize, mobilize and focus on an agenda that will free America from its constructed -isms, phobias and obstructionism.
Zoomers view Alt-Right conspiracy dung, fear mongering, “confirmation biased” platforms and cable FOX TV
News Rumors hosts as soulless mannequins.
The absolute, echo chambers of extreme conservatism, divisionism and the constant spewing of contrived grievance politics is unlettered noise to Zoomers.
Because of their growing numbers, power and 21st century agenda, there are attempts to dismiss and delegitimize their narrative and causes as altruistically unrealistic, unconventional, anti-conservative, unpatriotic and unAmerican.
They have been labeled too pragmatic, blatantly direct, over communicative, too technologically literate, too concerned with authenticity and relevance, overly concerned with universal health care, and protecting the environment.
They have been characterized as young hip-hoppers always eclectically sub-referencing and asking disturbing critical questions regarding rule of law applying to everyone, privileged authority, antiquated dogma and researching collaboratively. My critical question being, are these negative characteristics or are they to be admired and followed?
Are Gen Zers perfect? They would be the first to tell us NO! They know imperfection up close and personal, given the “sins of their fathers”, “good old boy clubs” and “strong men.” They grew up listening and watching Republican Trumpism in HD and Surround Sound. They know what dysfunctionality, chaos and inhumanity looks like and the ashes it leaves behind.
They can no longer wait for past generations to catch up. They can’t because global issues are now impacting their futures – literally. They can’t wait because past generations have lost credibility and trust and the disingenuousness continues to play out on a daily basis, regardless of shameless – heretical “thoughts and prayers.”
It’s now up to the Zoomers to begin the challenge of changing, not only America, but the world . . . and I believe they will – unapologetically without fear and hate.
Audaciously dare to become the first authentic Great Generation – leaving the -est to those who follow. Let this be your calling, destiny and legacy.”