Monthly Archives: February 2018

The President probably wouldn’t have gone blazing in at Parkland; you either.

I’d like you to think for a minute about someone shooting a gun at you. Let’s say you have a little cover–enough to hide most of your body. Let’s say that the shooter seems to be firing a lot, without stopping for a long period of time. A burst of fire here, another there. But no long, sustained gap between shots. He doesn’t seem to have to reload.

You’re safe, for the most part, because you’ve got cover. Others aren’t so lucky. You can hear that around the bursts of gunshots. You hear screams and cries of pain. At one point, you hear someone who sounds female begging almost. You can’t make out the words, but you know the tone. In the middle of one of the anguished pleas, another burst of gunfire. Then silence.

What do you do?

Most of us–particularly guys–like to imagine that we’d go handle things. Hell, this is something I’ve been training for from the first time I watched The Rockford Files, through the last time I watched Castle. That’s 40 years of “training.”

Castle pretending he can’t shoot.

One of those training videos was an episode of Simon & Simon. If you don’t remember it, it featured two brothers–AJ, a preppy pretty boy and Rick, a grizzled Vietnam vet. Together, they faced danger each week as private investigators.

Rick and AJ Simon

In one episode, AJ got pinned down by someone firing a machine gun at him and though he didn’t get hit, after the shooter was taken care of, he was a blubbering mess. His combat-veteran brother–who was typically the bad cop–went to him and held him and gently talked him down. AJ was decidedly unheroic that episode, but it felt real enough for me to remember it more than 30 years later.

TV and movies and video games aren’t training. Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, and Tom Selleck would probably do poorly in a real-life active shooter event. To assume anything different is to insult real first responders who go through real training so they’re positioned to be able to be more than a blubbering mess.

If you were in Parkland, there’s a chance you’d have done something, even if you were unarmed. There’s a far bigger chance that you’d freeze–that coherent though would elude you. Absent training, that doesn’t make you a coward. It makes you human.

The people who don’t freeze have almost definitely been trained. They’re special people and odds are that you aren’t one of them.

(An aside: I’m talking about going after the shooter, not shielding other people. In no way am I demeaning those heroic sacrifices, but running toward the danger is different than being in it.)

I have no idea what I’d do, and no desire to find out. Should it ever happen, I pray to God now that I would pray then and that He’d give me the grace and courage to do the right thing–whatever that might be.

I pray for God to give me that courage and wisdom, because I’m pretty sure I don’t have it myself. And whether you like the President or not, odds are he doesn’t either.

My only hope for myself is that I realize that truth and can maybe adjust for it. Our President doesn’t seem to have the same realization.

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The hard, vapid, stupid answer

My children weren’t shot, or shot at, this week. I don’t have an empty position at the table where that smiling, maddening, ball of teenaged chaos once sat. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child.

I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child to someone whose sole mission was to rip gaping holes in as many lives as possible. I imagine it might make me echo with the kind of rage that comes with unimaginable hurt. Rage at God. Rage at those who seemed to allow what happened, who seem–from my point of view–not to care.

I don’t know what it’s like to be in high school today. Most of the kids in high school today weren’t alive when September 11 happened. In their lifetimes, there would seem to be infinitely more danger to themselves from people with guns than from Islamic terrorists. And I wouldn’t presume to argue that point. Especially not now.

I had a discussion with a guy who owns an AR-15 yesterday. This is a genuinely good person, a person with teenaged daughters. His main concern wasn’t his ability to make up for some insufficiency in his manhood. It wasn’t a love of a piece of steel over the lives of children.

His concern was for his family, and his ability to protect his family. He was put off by the personal blame that seemed to be aimed at him as a stereotypical gun-humping rightwingnut. (A rightwingnut who also reads Merton and Richard Rohr and takes his faith very seriously.)

All of the people I just described have several things in common. The most basic of those things is that they are all God’s children. They are all included in Jesus’s most basic command to love our neighbors.

Jesus specifically points out that there’s nothing special about loving your teenager or your parent or the people you agree with. He goes on to specifically command–not suggest, not recommend, but command that we (the use of first person plural is intentional, as I include myself in this) love the other.

We love the frigging snowflake millennial teenagers. We love the parent with a bullhorn damning gun owners and anyone who disagrees with him. We love the loudmouth with the MAGA hat.

There’s too many people making too many problems and not much love to go round. There’s always something breaking us in two.

It’s easy to be angry right now when everything is going to hell. But hell is a place of anger and hate. As hard and vapid as it seems to be, the answer doesn’t come in yelling louder and more forcefully than the jackass on the other side.

The answer is in a whisper. It’s in disagreeing, vehemently, but never loosing sight of our mutual connection to each other.