Amurika, God, and Guns

“So what is your thoughts on gun control?” was his question… but before I could respond, my friend launched into his own thoughts about how all guns need to be banned because there is no reason for them. He rambled with almost a foamed mouth from the stupidity of assault rifles, to target shooting, to hunting, to suicide, to how there is no valid reason for anyone owning a gun… he was convinced his opinion was fact. My friend really didn’t want me to respond, what my friend wanted was for me to sit there and listen to him espouse his ideas and views. I continued to sip my bourbon and nod my head. My view on the issue was unimportant at that moment. Right then my friend wanted what he considered an informed listener… he wanted affirmation. I just listened and kept my thoughts to myself. It was truly a moment when I realized the maturing process I had undergone in my life… keeping my mouth shut and my opinions to myself has never been my strong suit.

Honestly, I have no answer… at least not a fully formed or well-thought out answer. Like a lot a people, I am kind of stuck thinking about all I have heard… how we have heard people speak with the utmost conviction and knowledge.Seems there are multiple viewpoints on gun control and gun violence and everyone is rocksteady in their opinion… there is no doubt in their minds about how fucking right they are.

To many it is the prolific amount of gun ownership in America, others it is the lack of God in schools, to others it the treatment of mental illness, and to others it is about constitutionally guaranteed rights. To me… well I just don’t know.

I come from a home and upbringing that included shotguns and rifles, skeet and target shooting… and hunting. My family and guns are mixed in tradition and profession. My brother-in-law and nephew have an annual tradition of going to Arkansas every year around Thanksgiving for a father/son duck hunting trip… how do I tell them that there is no valid reason for their gun ownership? My dad raised me with guns in the house, he taught me how to use guns at an early age… I have fond memories of the two of cleaning our shotguns after a day of skeet shooting… how do I discount this sort of memory that is nothing but warm and fuzzy. It is almost as if these family traditions of recreational gun use are less about guns and more about a masculine bonding among us.

I don’t, however, hunt any longer. The last time I “hunted” was when I was visiting my family in Tennessee and sat in the woods with my preteen nephew who was deer hunting. Both of us are talkers, so more time was spent laughing and jabbering than actual hunting… I did inform him though that if he killed a deer, his ass was dragging it out of the woods and he would be the one who would get his hands bloody by field stripping it. I am a firm believer that the hunter who makes the kill is responsible for the final disposition of the prey. A few hours later a deer came into his sights… he didn’t shoot… at his age and size, I am sure that the thought of dragging the deer that outweighed him and the blood that would follow settled into his mind. Since then he has killed a deer, but at that moment the hunting and gun were secondary to the time an uncle and nephew spent in the woods. I can’t discount these moments when I think about gun ownership.

There has never been any type of assault rifle ownership in my family… except for the SKS (a Russian carbine) that I once owned. See, I have… at times… been a gun owner. How do I reconcile my own gun ownership and the horrific crimes that others have committed with guns… hypocrisy is strong and deep in the world of gun ownership and gun violence.

I have been astounded, however, by the amount of good Christian thought on how the recent gun crimes are because of the lack of “God” in our schools. There is almost a blind belief that because we, as a society, have exercised God from our schools that violence has taken its place. For those, I have to ask… when did we have God in our schools… and is this mythical time some pleasant era of peace and love… and harmony within society? Was it when our schools were segregated… when minorities were kept separate but “equal?” Was it when I was in school… because we did have a moment of silence and prayer every morning… and yet we still had violence… and like most schools (statistically) that violence was nothing more than your typical physical confrontation that was settled with insults and fists… yet it was still violent. There was also drugs, alcohol, and sex in my school… lots of it… yet there was prayer and church groups… we had high school athletes who called themselves Christian and prayed before sporting events… sporting events that included Christian athletes that were using drugs and having sex… I’m sorry but the argument that God has been banned from our schools is the reason for recent gun violence is about as valid as saying that the end of using rotary telephones is the reason for gun violence in our school. There are no facts that support this cause and effect relationship.

However… if the lack of God in our schools did result in a lone gunman entering Sandy Hook Elementary school and killing innocent children… well keep your jealous and wrathful god to yourself because I have no need or desire to worship any deity that is so angry and vengeful that it would punish a bunch of little kids for my sinful ways. I believe this is more of a human desire to attribute human characteristics to a supposed god. It is human to lash out on the innocent when feeling spite and anger than anything godlike… omnipotent gods don’t give a shit whether we invite them in or not… they are omnipotent… and punishing innocents just seems lazy.

I get the myth of Amurika, God, and Guns… I do. I get the 2nd Amendment and the fear of a standing army and a government that attempts to use martial law to reestablish control of a rebellious colony… I’ve read history… I understand how nation-states exert its monopoly on violence to maintain control and I also understand how civilians turn to violence to claim independence. The ideal of our independence then led to a period where settlers marched forth from the Eastern Seaboard and infested the interior of North America. The myth of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone are strong… and we like to throw a Bible in the left hand while the right is holding a Kentucky rifle aloft. Feeding one’s family… and then defending it provided a need for the gun. This long tradition of self-reliance has perpetrated the notion of the independent American myth… yet we are a society of institutions and groups. We do join organizations, we do believe in community… the same people who will talk about the free and solitary character of the American spirit are also the ones who will tell you about the time that there was no need for federal government assistance… because “communities took care of their own.” On one hand we want to believe that we are independent people with the ability to survive on our own hard work, and yet, on the other we want to talk about the interlocking of our communities and family. I get that we have developed… or at least some of us, have developed this idea of a Christian god waving the American flag with one hand and holding a .223 Bushmaster assault rifle in the other… but this is fiction.

I had no answer for my friend… my view on gun control and gun violence is all wrapped up in visceral emotions… my heart and head don’t compete because both of them are torn. I deplore gun violence… yet I know no violent gun owners… and I know a lot of them because they are family. I deplore the excuse of God’s wrath… yet I know a lot of Christians because they are family. I deplore the horrible state of how our society treats the mentally ill… because that too is in my family. I had no answer for my friend… but he really didn’t want my opinion or any answer. Like a lot of us he just wanted to express his hurting heart of the recent events in Newtown, Connecticut. The only answer I can think of… and the one I have to work on myself… is the idea of disconnecting our ideals and myths of gun ownership, Christianity, and Amurika… the road ahead, as we deal with it as a society, is going to be long and laborious… I hurt because I have no answer yet I yearn to provide one.

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How the flu kicked my ass or how I ended up with two cats

Nothing says “I enjoy a good dump” more than walking down the street with a 12pack of Scott toilet paper tucked under your arm. Even if we didn’t have a .10 cent plastic bag tax in DC, I still wouldn’t  have been able to disguise the mega roll of butt wipe. Instead of the 12pack under my arm, a giant bag of TP would have been flapping around advertising my mega dumps. The reason I had toilet paper… other than the obvious “hey I have indoor plumbing and I don’t wipe my ass with magazines” indicator that goes with TP purchases… was the fact that I finally made it to CVS after nearly a week of being sick. I had finally gotten more cough medicine, a toothbrush, and on a whim I decided not to tempt fate and got some butt wipe… when one is sick with the flu it is the Boy Scout… be prepared!… who buys more TP when the last roll is hanging by the crapper.

I hate shopping of any type… food, butt wipe, clothes, car, home… whatever… I fucking hate it. I usually have my groceries delivered because I hate the American art of offering too many choices for whole kernel corn… how many brands do we fucking need?… so I avoided CVS in the midst of my creeping coughing death this past week. Finally, I broke down and went in. The cough demanded it.

Speaking of too many choices… are you aware there are 8 shelves of cough syrup choices??? and that is just for fucking kids. In the middle of a coughing fit and looking all contagious and shit, I stared at all these cough syrups and kept wondering which happy smiling bear I should choose to fix my cough… until I realized I wasn’t in the adult section, but instead I was in the children’s medicine area. Shelf after shelf, row after row, colorful bears, pixies, and smiling little cartoonish kids promised me relief from my lung and chest busting cough. Disappointingly, the adult section was larger on a grander scale… yet not a single fucking bear or pixie promised me relief. We are raising generations of wusses…. wusses who rely on happy cartoonish kids to get them through their illness… I wanted a happy blue bear to help me… instead I get the green smiling Mucinex snot monster. Growing up sucks.

Finally, after a lot of stumbling and staring, I selected the Mucinex of my choice… chosen not by flavor but by the fact it said “maximum strength” on the label. No way was I going to settle for regular strength… I am a grown-ass man and grown-ass men need “maximum strength.” I sorta read the label… but peeling off that back label is hard to do when you are a weak after having the flu and coughing up a lung every 3 minutes… but I put on my big boy undies and selected my snot coughing inducing Mucinex… grabbed the 12 pack of butt wipe and proudly went the counter. The CVS cashier eyed my purchases and stepped back… I didn’t break his stare… dude… I am going to need to dump soon and I don’t want it interrupted by a cough… ring it up and ring it up proudly… I got some shittin’ and coughin’ to do!

A week ago I felt a tickle in my chest as I walked to work. Five hours later I was back home and curdled up in bed like a weaning baby. A high fever racked my body and I swear I heard my neighbor playing the trumpet… yet I know my neighbor does not play the trumpet… yeah it was one of those kind of fevers. So last Tuesday at 2pm I laid down with a fever and yesterday afternoon I woke up enough to realize I needed to get some air and shower… and shave… one thing is for sure… when you have the flu your facial hair continues to grow. I’m a grown-ass man with grown-ass man facial hair… flu or not… I’m gonna grow some hair. Them blue happy cough syrup bears can’t touch my hairiness with their big happy blue paws.

I have lived alone now for nearly a year and a half and this was the first time I had been sick and completely alone. It is sort of disconcerting to wake up at odd moments completely alone and not know whether you are sick or well or even what time of day… let alone what day… it was. In between soaking sheet fevers, I would mumble to the ceiling in my bedroom about how wonderful being healthy is and how it would have been nice to have something near by that cared if you were alive or dead. Thus cats it became.

Right before I got sick I had a friend who needed someone to take a couple of his cats… good lovable creatures supposedly… because of a change in their life. I had considered pets before but always ruled a no considering the last time I had my heart-broken when my best dog… Trot… died from diabetes. I have always been a dog person, but my urban lifestyle and imagined metrosexual status is more cat like… thus I had agreed a few days before being stricken with the plague to meet these “adorable” cats.

Well, cat owners in desperate need of a home for their cats are not going to allow your illness from keeping them from pawning their felines off on you. So in an hour of no fever I agreed to meet these cats. Botchka (Russian for grandmother… whose real name is John Cabot) sorta showed herself… she is a lump and shy and Gelly (short for Magellan) made an appearance. They didn’t seem to hate me and I didn’t seem to sneeze or be repelled. Selfishly I figured two cats named after explorers… people name their pets oddly… wouldn’t be such bad companions. Supposedly both creatures like to share the bed and couch with people… and after a week of lonely illness I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have the flu around these two noncommittal creatures. I mean… I pretty noncommittal in my attitude about cats, why shouldn’t they be allowed to be noncommittal about me. So I agreed to take these cats… and I don’t think it was the fever talking.

Tomorrow the famed explorers become part of my family. Hopefully the cough will be near its end and I will have only used a few squares of the butt wipe. If that isn’t how it works out, however, at least I know the neighbors won’t have to put up with the smell of death emitting from my apartment… because we all know the cats will eat my dead body when I discover that this gut wrenching flu was really the early stages of the plague. Everything works out in the end. Welcome Botchka and Gelly… but leave the butt wipe alone… that is mine.