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Monday, August 06, 2012

Bad guys and Good guys

Like the rest of you, I've been trying to make sense of the shooting deaths of six people at a Sikh Temple in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Sunday's attack came just a little over two weeks after a gunman opened fire at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and wounding 58. In January 2011, then-congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords was the target of an assassination attempt in which six people were killed and 13 were wounded in Tucson, Arizona.

Legal authorities are trying to determine whether or not it was an act of "domestic terrorism" or a "hate crime" - apparently because "people often confuse Sikhs with Muslims". I'm not at all sure what that has to do with anything, but it seems a very important point with some people.

Talk shows are filled with "experts" who give their "informed opinions" on whether or not the shooter, one Wade Michael Page, was a "madman" or simply a "fanatical white supremest" - as if there were a difference.  To me, the two are pretty much the same thing.

In an interview, Mr. Page’s stepmother, Laura Page, 67, of Denver, expressed shock at the news that the boy she had known since he was 10 years old could be behind such a crime. “I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine what made him do this,” she said. 

It doesn't make any sense.

Apparently, Mr. Page has been - for the past decade - on the radar of organizations that monitor "hate groups" because he was a member of Definite Hate, a band affiliated with the 'Hammerskin Nation', a white supremacist group founded in Dallas in the late 1980s, that now controls much of the White Power music scene in the U.S.

White Power music. Who knew? I haven't seen it as a category option on Pandora.

Of course, the conversation always comes 'round to "gun control" - usually about how many of us want it but because of the NRA can't - and won't ever - see it in our life time. OR - how the Second Amendment can't be compromised or we place the entire Constitution of the United States of America in jeopardy.

Perhaps the most disheartening statement I read was this one from Nancy Pelosi:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she is "devastated" by the mass shootings in Oak Creek, Wis., but said when it comes to revisiting the issue of gun control, Congress just doesn't have the votes to pass any laws.

"The votes aren't there for gun control," she said. "We certainly aren't going to be able to do it in this Congress, and I don't know that we would be able to do it in a Democratic Congress because it takes a lot of votes to go down that path."
We don't have the votes.  Thirty-one people have been killed in mass murder since January of last year and countless others injured and who knows how many others have been killed or injured in other murder incidents in the past year and a half and we don't have the votes?

Really? It just doesn't make any sense to me.

Perhaps the one thing I've heard that does make sense is the one that came from an 8-year old girl this morning in the grocery store. She and her mother were just ahead of me in the check out line. She was reading the headline in the magazines and newspapers that were there in the newsstand.

Man praying outside the Temple as he waits for news (AP)
The picture of the shooting in Wisconsin seem to have captivated her attention. At first, she seemed to think that the shooter was the same guy as the one in Colorado.

"Did the bad guy get out of jail, Mommy?"

"No, honey," said her mother, "this is a different bad guy."

"Wow," she said, "there are a lot of bad guys out there."

"No," said her mother, "there aren't a lot. It just seems like it sometimes."

Good call, mom, I thought. Let's keep this all in perspective.

"But, Mom," the child said, "how did the bad guy get the gun? Bad guys aren't supposed to have guns. That's what daddy says."

"Yes, that's right," said the mother, "the government makes sure that you have to pass a test before you can buy a gun. They check your record and make sure you haven't done anything bad."

She was quiet for a while as she thought about this. "So, Mom? If the bad guys can't get guns, how do they get them, anyway?"

"Sometimes," said the mother, growing uncomfortable, "Sometimes.... well....sometimes, people...the men in the government makes mistakes. Nothing is perfect, honey. Now, come here," she said, pulling her daughter away from the newsstand, growing aware that many eyes and ears were on her.

'Sometimes the men in the government make mistakes', I thought. Now, there's an understatement.  We are scrutinizing the eligibility of voters but anyone can buy a gun and ammunition. In every state in the union, you have to license and register your car, but in some states, anyone can carry a loaded gun in public - even in churches and at the Starbucks.

"Mommy?" asked the child. "Daddy has a gun, right?"

"Yes, he has it for duck hunting," the mother said, making sure that others in line heard her.

"Where is it?"the child asked.

"It's in the shed," said the mother. "Locked up. So no bad guys can get it."

"Mommy?", asked the child, "I want Daddy to get rid of his gun."

"It's a rifle, honey. A hunting rifle," she added carefully as she shot a look my way. "Daddy only uses it once a year. During duck hunting season."

"I still want him to get rid of it," said the child.

"It's locked up," said the mother, "In the shed. Don't worry. No bad guy will get it."

"Mommy?" said the child, "Know what I think?"

"What?" said the mother.

"I think bad guys are are sometimes good guys with guns," she said.

I stood there, in the check out line at the grocery store, located in Lower, Slower, Delaware and one of the bastions of the NRA with its very own chapter of the KKK and said out loud so everyone who was listening in could hear me, "And a little child shall lead them."

Bad guys are sometimes good guys with guns.

I know it won't make sense to some, but it was the only thing I've heard since the shooting on Sunday that has made any sense.


Unknown said...

Out of the mouths of babes!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Susan - Yeppa. Nothing else about these shootings makes any sense.

Marthe said...

Watching the coverage of these shootings, I was struck by the statement of one of the worshippers immediately after the crime: he said over and over, what did we do wrong?, trying to make his point that the members of the temple are all about peaceful existence, but what I heard was a victim reflexively searching for the thing HE did to deserve to be shot at. This is the effect of living in a predator society that teaches all non-violent innocent bystanders to assume that any bad event is somehow their own fault, that they have somehow insulted or failed to appease the dominant rulers. White 'supremacists' really ought to be named 'brutalists' in that they have twisted the notion of the survival of the fittest into survival of those most willing to resort to brutal means to protect their own twisted view of the world. In fact these 'supremacists' are terrified that they are not the "fittest", not the ones destined to inherit the earth, are not the chosen ones - and then they overcompensate for their own insecurities and ignorance with force and claim it is their "natural right". And the media plays along by calling crimes "incidents" ... to appease the NRA and advertisers who profit from the same predator economy, when the only real question is: how do we stop these people before they shoot? That is the only proper question, and one that no one will really ask with genuine follow through to any solution.

Terri said...

Profound indeed. Truth from the heart of a child. Dang, I hope her parents recognize this...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marthe - I heard the same thing. It was like listening to an abused chils or some of the abused women I've worked with who have asked the same question.

And yes the term White Supremist is not what they are but what they think they are. We should call them what they are: scared bullies.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Terri - her mother looked stunned. I hope her parents are talking about this tonight.