Working the Problem: Guns in America

Saturn devouring his Son
by Franscisco Goya

I haven’t been able to write a word of fiction since last Friday. I will return to my work, but today I’m hijacking my blog to talk about guns. My youngest daughter is seven and all this week, when I look at her, she is surrounded by the ghosts of those 20 massacred children and by the adults who sacrificed their lives for them. The heartbreak of their parents and loved ones has accompanied me on all my last minute holiday errands. I think of the horror and helplessness of the first responders and my heart aches for the whole broken community.

I feel like this nation is devouring itself. Like Goya’s disturbing picture of Saturn (the Greeks called him  Cronus) who, fearing that his children would overthrow him, devoured them. The media is partisan, politics has devolved to brinksmanship. And dialogue or debate on any important topic is too often drowned out by voices that scream the same tired talking points, like accusations, at the other side. 

Gary Wills in the New York Review of Books begins to articulate our sick relationship to guns in his essay titled “Our Moloch

“That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year). “

Attending the sorrow that I feel for those families in Newtown, and for those killed every day in America, is the realization that my inaction makes me culpable. 

In response to Newton The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off the Shelf featured a poem by Dan Beachy-Quick. 

This is not a poem of comfort. 

The poem begins at about 3:40, but the whole thing is less then eight minutes long and the preamble is informative. In the introduction Curtis Fox explains that the poem draws from the Euripides play about Hercules where:

“A god inflicts him with the madness that leads him to kill his wife and three sons, it’s not a tumor it’s not his father, its a god. Hercules didn’t recognize his family and thought they were his enemies. A chorus of old men looks on helplessly as they tell us what’s going on, not unlike our media today.”

It is a poem that looks at madness and murder. In it I see the madmen who reap mayhem in our malls and movie theaters, in our schools and holy places. In this poem I also see everyone else, all of us who everyday create the world we and our children live in. In it I see myself.

by Dan Beachy-Quick 

I have no interest in the extremes on either end of this argument. While we should be free to own guns, we should also be free to go safely into gun free zones. I believe that we can regulate ourselves as a society so that we do not have to retreat into a bunker mentality where every public space is filled with criminals, madmen and armed vigilantes. 

There are so many things that we cannot control in this world but there are many things which we can. We make the world for our children. To make a world worthy of them, we have to become adults.

Adults who participate in real and candid dialogue. The kind of discussion you engage in with others when everybody is interested in SOLVING a problem, not just getting their own way. We’ve solved many highly complex problems. That kind of invention, innoviation, and stubbornness is the American way, right?

“Wake up anybody you need and get them in here.
Let’s work the problem, people.
Let’s not make things worse by guessin’.” 
-Ed Harris as Gene Kranz in Apollo 13

Gene Kranz working the problem

2 thoughts on “Working the Problem: Guns in America”

  1. Thank you. When I find myself agreeing with conservative columnists like Wills and Charles Krauthammer, that's when I know the problem is solvable; we just have to have the will to solve it. But then I despair when the NRA goes on its offensive and blames everything else except for access to guns.


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