Conquerers and Commoners Alike

Friday was one of those days that changes your life forever, and sometimes in the most unexpected of ways.

Prior to that day, I was a full-fledged supporter of the Second Amendment (The right to bear arms and form militias).  I know why it was put in our leaving breathing Constitution: it’s there as a means of protecting the populace against a government that may very well be violating the Constitution.  It is something I believed in very strongly in, although with restrictions on ownership (confined to sane, reasonable people), background checks, closing the gun show loopholes that are wide enough to fit a tank through let alone an AK-47 or any assault weapon that does not belong on the streets and into the hands of sane men and women.  As the reports kept coming in, my heart was tearing itself into little pieces because in many ways my simple belief in that Amendment put me square into a small part of this as an unwilling conspirator.  My belief in that Amendment was a small part of what allowed that madman to have his weapons of doom that took the lives of those children.  I continued to feel the burden of my belief fall upon me, until in a moment…a flash of realization…that I had become (once again in my life) Saul on the Road to Damascus.  The scales dropped from my eyes, and I can now unequivocally state here now for the record that I am of the firm belief that although I believe Human Beings have infinite capabilities to be beautiful, we also have the capabilities of being evil and darkness incarnate.

Some have said it’s because we took God out of schools.  Some have said that it is because our society is so messed up that these events area a reflection of that and we need to do more to prevent crazies from gun ownership.  And the knee jerk reaction from the other side is, “See!  I told ya so!” in many, many ways.  Oh sure, we can get all cute on the Internet with instant pix and memes.  We can try and get our point across letting others choose our words for us, but I don’t have that luxury.  I write.  I have to say what needs to be said, and quite frankly, I do not find that the words that usually flow easily on many things come much slower this evening.  But this is what I do.  Like Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality does not kill you”.  Well, reality killed 18 children Friday.  Reality allowed those guns to be bought.  Reality is what may have dashed the hopes of one man so that he turned to his darker half and used the very extensions of the darkness to take 21 lives.  Reality is 18 sets of parents who may never celebrate the holidays again.  Reality is that guns are on our streets, they are in our schools, they are in our homes.  And it’s time for a reality check: it’s time to ban all guns from this country.  I cannot say more than that.  All you have to do is look at every name on a list on the front of the Huffington Post and realize those were children.  They will never know families of their own.  They will never know graduations and weddings.  They will never know what life has taken from them in the form of a madman who was allowed to have guns.  That’s the reality…so I’ll keep writing because I need to get drunk on it…

How to we keep going?  How do we move on from this?  I can only offer my own perspective.  I was going to work on a beautiful Tuesday Morning in September 2001 when my world can crashing down upon me.  I was in the middle of the attacks on the World Trade Center.  I was caught in the dust cloud.  I saw people jump and the second plane hit the building.  I ran for my life.  I was trampled on.  And yet, I knew I had to get back to my family…and I did.  I was never the same man as I was when I left home that morning.  PTSD took its toll over me for the next two years, as did a diagnosis of being bi,polar.  But the damage was done, and I was a weak and frightened man.  Slowly I dove into the bottle, and for a straight year I lived there…until I was redeemed, found sobriety, and the love of my children.  Like all humans, I survived when I had to…somehow; I moved on but came out of the experience better for it.  Somehow, we keep going…

My wife and I have had incredible marriage problems ever since then.  We have our good days and bad days, but in the end we care more about our kids than we do about ourselves, or yes, even our marriage.  That took a big hit because of 9/11 and a lot of other things…there’s always enough blame to go around.  I have my share, believe me.  I am no saint; I am more apt to be a concrete angel with clipped wings rather than a glowing light upon the cosmic zephyrs.  But while that is still an issue, and we are working through things the best we can, somehow we keep going…

Last December 19th, an abnormality showed up on a routine x,ray.  It was lung cancer.  I have plenty of blame for that one: I smoked for years.  I was in that aforementioned dust cloud on 9/11.  I have gone through extensive chemo, radiation, and an operation.  It is difficult knowing that every day you either look up at the sword of Damocles above your head or the stars in the sky.  There are days when I vacillate between the two, and then there are those magnificent days where all I see are the stars.  Those are the days when I feel life more than I ever have.  Those are the days I love my wife and kids more than ever.  But those days are here and there, and I just hang in there until one comes around.  When you are told you are dying, you tell them you are not.  You tell them that you are going to live to see your grandchildren, and those are the days you see the stars…but there’s always that sword.  I’m training myself not to look at it and see only the sky.  I do that because somehow, I must keep trying…

And that is what we must do here.  We must keep going on, we must keep trying no matter what stands in our way.  There are a lot of future kids’ fates riding on what we decide to do in the coming years.  Although our hearts break, they are not made of glass.  The heart never is; it is always flesh and blood and can be remolded and taught to love again.  It can be taught to do the right thing.  It can be taught to somehow, it must keep going.  We must come to the realization that if we are to survive as a people, as a nation, and as a planet…we must end the culture of guns NOW.  Those kids could have been yours.  They could have been mine.  Next time something like this happens, and we all know it WILL happen again, we’ll all pontificate and do what we have been doing to fight the violence and end the death…nothing.  We’ll all still send our photos and memes on Facebook.  We’ll all feel sad for a couple of days, and we’ll just go on living like we usually do.

But this time, it HAS to be different.  This time we need to honor the memories of those children and adults who perished in a sea of bullets that were bought and paid for by all the lobbying money that the National Rifle Association could muster.  This time we have to do something…anything to stop the violence and death.  That begins with a dialog.  That begins with enough of us writing to our Representatives and Senators and even marching on Washington to try and end this senseless violence and culture of guns.  That begins when one of us says “No more guns” and another and another and another follow until we can finally rid the land of the weapons that are holding us hostage by the presence of their very existence.  This reign of terror must end.

It is often said that a revolution begins with one man.  Let this piece be the first words of that revolution.  Let these words be the beginning of the end of the presence of guns in our homes, in our offices, in our schools, and in our streets; so that our children will never have to face this again, or that people will be able to go places and not live in fear that the next shooting may involve them or their families.  Let it be a reason to carry on and believe that this is not about taking away your right to own a gun, as much as it is my right to live another day and to see my children do the same.  It’s about freedom from fear.  It’s about freedom from the NRA.  It’s about remembering all those souls we have lost on Friday, and a few months before in a movie theater, and a few years before at Columbine.   It’s about somehow, us finding the courage to do what is right.  It’s about us somehow, going on and getting the job done.  It’s about us not merely saying, “no more guns”; it’s about us believing that liberty and freedom come from the soul more than they come from the point of a gun.  It’s about us believing enough in ourselves that we can do this.

This nation may have been born with a shot heart ‘round the world, but it will die a slow and painful death if we allow the culture of guns and violence to take over our streets and our hearts.

In loving memory of:

Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt


“Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.” – Harlan Ellison


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