Friday, December 14, 2012

Guns (Redux)

Back in August, while vacationing at Cape Cod with family, I started writing about kids and guns. Or, more to the point, parenting and guns. I noodled around, trying to talk about how we institute sane gun policy with our child, because kids, especially boys, like to play with toy guns.

Now, on December 14, 2012, as I sit on the couch with my child while he eats Extra Cheesy Cheddar Bunnies and watches “Wonder Pets,” that essay sits unfinished in my queue, and 20 children and 7 adults have been slaughtered in Newtown, Connecticut by a man with guns.

On Tuesday, a man with guns killed two people at a shopping mall in Oregon. Here in Minnesota last week, a man shot his granddaughter because he thought she was an intruder. (She lived.) On Thanksgiving, again in Minnesota, a man shot and then executed two teenagers who he says broke into his home. I don’t need to go any further back in time, do I?

Because America has reached the point where headlines such as this are necessary: “Mass shootings at schools and universities in the US” (emphasis mine) and “A history of mass shootings in the US since Columbine.” They don’t even try to list them all anymore.

One of the reasons I have not finished the essay is because talking publicly about guns and gun policy is a daunting prospect in this hysterical, gun-addled country. It’s like a third rail or, more accurately, a religion, where no one is allowed to criticize or question. The moment anyone brings it up, the NRA and various right-wingers go ape-shit, bark about the Second Amendment, trot out false equivalencies, blame it on gun control, and it’s all over.

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

Fuck you, NRA, and the heavily-armed horse you rode in on.

People with guns kill people, and you can keep your bumpersticker mentality and bizarre interpretation of the Constitution to yourself. Your superficial, myopic sloganeering in your adoration of the Second Amendment is laughable, uncritical, and harmful. It hinders thoughtful discussion of our culturally complicated relationship with firearms. It distorts our history and makes effective, evidence-based public policy impossible. I have no use for you; you are part of the problem. Because you stifle any chance to approach this issue with sanity, facts, reason, and long-term thinking.

Sure, it’s not just about guns, but you won’t let us talk about the guns part at all. And, truth be told, your friends on the right don’t want to assist the mentally ill, talk about poverty, drug policy, education, or anything else that might help. And it’s not about better defenses or arming teachers or security at schools. Stop blaming the victim.

All you have is “No.”

So just shut up.

Your right to have a gun is infringing on my freedom to be safe anywhere, ever.
You’re done.

After today, you have nothing more to say.


No apologies, folks. It's time for a review of the evidence and a re-evaluation of national and state gun policies based on facts. It's time to address the cultural issues. It's time to talk about our national obsession with firearms and the Second Amendment. It's time to talk mental health, poverty, crime, and drug policy.

Past time.

Thoughts and prayers are one thing. I'm sick of them. Thoughts and prayers are not action.

Surely a great nation such as the United States can work to craft sane gun policy as well as policy that works on other related issues. While it is certain that every prohibition creates another underground, I believe that we can begin a policy long-game that starts to create change.

Stop standing in the way, GOP and NRA. You have no leg to stand on.

You never did.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The First Snow

This is it. The first big snowstorm of the year. How you handle this determines the quality of your whole winter. Will your neighbors curse you the entire season for your lumpy, narrow walkway? Will you bottom out the car twice daily on an unmovable ice hump at the end of the driveway until April?

This is a project.

You have to have a plan.

First, do you have a snow-shoveling partner? If so, now is the time to discuss your expectations: before you begin, not half-way into it or, Satan forbid, after it’s over and all you have left are pain and recrimination.

Is your partner a perfectionist or a halfasser? Find out. If you intend to shovel down to the pavement, even if it means relentless chopping, and your parter is going to shovel until he or she hits packed snow and shrugs because it’s too hard, you need to know.

Define your parameters. Do you want a narrow path to stumble down until the first thaw, or do you want to use your whole sidewalk, the whole winter? Mark these areas so your halfasser knows what you expect. Remember to leave space for recycling and garbage bins. If you don’t clear the area now, it will never happen. You will tell yourself you will handle it later, but you won’t. (See above: pain and recrimination.)

Side note: if you are dating someone, it’s a good idea to asses his or her snow-removal ethic now to avoid a painful breakup and dividing of assets later. Freshly evaluate the relationship on the basis of your assessment.

Check the prevailing weather conditions. Dress accordingly. Layer your clothing to ensure that you will be boiling within 30 minutes of beginning, no matter the temperature, and will wind up shoveling bare-headed and bare-handed. Important tip: don’t put your discarded scarf, mittens, and hat somewhere they will be covered with snow, not to be found until spring.

Take pictures. Do not allow your child or children or partner or dog or cat or city chickens to step on any of the freshly-fallen snow that is in the shot. You need pristine images of this momentous event, and your child will need the memory of having to wait for what seems like hours before it can play.

By all means, set a stopwatch before you begin. You will need to know how long you worked so you can complain/brag about it on all forms of social media, especially Facebook, because no one else in the city (or the nation) has it as bad as you/is as awesome. You also need to know how long you were at this activity so that you can replace the calories with beer.

(For instance: it took me 1 hour, 34 minutes and some odd seconds to complete the steps and walkway. In Weight Watchers terms, that’s slightly over one beer. I will need to shovel for approximately one more year to make quota.)

If you have a child who wants to help but is not quite of age to truly be of assistance, dress it warmly and chain it to the porch.

Choose your tool wisely. We have a micro electric snowblower, which allows us to finish some things faster but is unable to chop through the plow pile or packed snow, so we can still feel the righteous indignation of a shovel-only family as well as scoff at people with monster blowers. The best of both worlds. We also have an array of shovels, from the new-fangled lightweight bendy pieces of crap that are supposed to protect your back but provide no leverage to the steel and wood coal shovel that I prefer.

Hydrate. Jam that water bottle right into a snow bank. Just don’t shovel over it (see above note).

About a quarter of the way into a major snow fall, you will find yourself considering giving up. Resist. Think “shark in water.” Or Dory, if that helps. Just keep swimming. You have to get over that initial feeling of “I’m going to die,” and find the resolve to continue. It gets easier as you see progress, but be warned: there is another wall, and it comes about three quarters of the way through. You will be convinced that it’s all over, you can’t finish, and you are a miserable loser. Miserable loser you may be, but you can do this. Worry about your personality flaws and inability to find work later.

Save touch-up work for the end. Resist all temptation to remover “rollers” as they happen. This will save you time and murderous rage. In the same vein, resist the urge to redo neighbors’ halfassery. This job is about resistance and perseverance.

There are rewards along the way, especially if it has stopped snowing, and the sky is a crystalline blue that you usually only see over soaring mountain peaks in the west. Pause to watch the breeze blow sparkling crystals through the air; feel the coldness fill your lungs, refreshing you and reminding you of bitter beautiful mornings at your grandparents’ farmhouse; uncover the scent of peppermint and oregano as you near your garden beds; watch your child struggle against its bonds and hear its cries of “Mama!” wafting lightly through the crisp air.

It’s good to be alive.