Sunday, November 26, 2017

To gun, or not to gun.....I don't understand the question.

For most of the nation, this month's discussion started at a little church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. For me and for my family, it started Halloween night, when my uncle did the unthinkable. He shot and killed his wife, and then himself. Just finding the link to post here led me to read it and find new information that I hadn't found before.... she had multiple gunshot wounds. I guess that was part of the "denial" phase of my grief. I hung onto the hope that he'd fired one shot, a warning, a threat even...and that it had killed her and he had killed himself in shock and remorse (as if that would somehow make it less abhorrent an act). But to fire, and fire again, and possibly again at another human being! before turning it on himself... I cannot fathom that amount of rage coupled with despair.

And I am so, so, so full of despair. The only light moments I've had were when drinking, either visiting with family or on the phone....but then the next morning awakening to the return of the horror and the surreal but true truth of the matter. I've never known such grief.

What a digression that was. You see, my uncle Brann wasn't a typical uncle by any means. He was the product of a marriage between my grandfather, divorced from my grandmother with whom he'd had 5 children, 1 deceased, and his second wife, also a divorced woman with 5 children of her own. Most of these first-family children were grown when Brann was born, and so he was born into my generation, to be surrounded by nieces and nephews who thought of him as "theirs," while the older half-brothers and -sisters weren't sure how he fit into their lives.

As I grew up the feud between the two sides of the family grew, never waned, and to this day, the day before the beginning of the funeral activities, 47 years after Brann's birth and 9 days after his death, that generation of half-brothers and-sisters have me fit to be tied how we will make it through these services with any semblance of honor or dignity. The only peace I find is truly in not speaking aloud to anyone of anything. So all the words and wordless waves of emotion just swirl around inside me. When they become too great and I start making small yelps that slip out aloud, I take a Xanax and wait quietly until I become again "comfortably numb."

So this event transpired the night of Halloween, and I was told about it the following night. That was Wednesday. After a couple of days of hysteria, I got in my truck and made an escape for my haven, our under-developed farm-to-be outside Floresville, Texas. On my way, my Dad called to offer me comfort but then the subject of the other side of the family came up and I was caught again in that place of grief and anger and enmity that I wanted no part of. I finally arrived (having stopped and bought a bottle of Jack Daniels), had 2 or 3 drinks, slept well that night and most of the next day. At some points I woke up and checked my phone for messages, Facebook, funeral updates. At one point I tried to post something and my phone wanted to post my location as "Sutherland Springs, TX." So later when all the reports began coming in about the shooting in the church I realized just how close we had been to this new tragedy.

Finally I come back home and find all the usual polarizing arguments about gun control and I'm just astounded at the insensitivity of people to human loss and human need and human frailty. Why on earth did my uncle, with whom I'd climbed trees and snuck cigarettes and beer in my youth, consider picking up a gun part of a quarrel? Why did this other man decide and plan and carry out taking a gun into a place of worship, a place that is full of people seeking peace and comfort and even release of painful events of the week.... WTF?? Something in the attitude towards guns and conflict has fundamentally changed. I believe this attitude shift has demonstrated itself in actions are not rhetorical....they demand a response that is not rhetorical.

I believe in the 2nd amendment, but I also believe that it, being itself an amendment, means that our constitution is always open to examination and scrutiny and, if necessary, amended to accommodate amendments in the world we find ourselves in. I use the word in repeatedly, in all these forms, as a reminder of what the true meaning behind this "right" is. In 12-step programs, there is a step involving "making amends," which means accepting responsibility for how our actions have affected others, and finding ways when possible to make right what was done. That is another perspective on the word that bears consideration.