Yesterday, two news stories of interest to liberal audiences broke: a shooting at a San Bernardino elementary school in which two adults and one child were killed, and an incident in which a passenger was dragged forcibly off a United flight after it was oversold. My Facebook feed, which leans very far to the left, offered a ton of commentary on the United flight incident and very little about the shooting.
My husband put it thus: "It's another school shooting."
The United thing is slightly more unprecedented. Though it's part of the larger pattern of the last few years: the contempt and corruption and absurdity in institutions has torn through the last polite veil and it's on the surface now. Nepotism is plain instead of hidden. Swastikas are being spray-painted on churches. Profit comes before people, in Detroit and North Dakota and on the internet. It's always been here, roiling and charred; now it's visible.
I am not anti-gun, but I am not pro-gun. My father kept a shotgun under the bed, which my mother knew how to use. We believed in Constitutional rights in my family, but it doesn't follow that my family thought willy-nilly gun ownership was a good idea. It's kind of funny, because the two issues are at opposite ends of the political spectrum in this nation, but in my view, abortions and gun ownership should both be safe, legal, and rare.
It dawned on me a couple of years ago that plane flights, in a country as large as America, are not a luxury but a necessity. If you need to get home for a funeral, you don't have another choice but to fly. It's another way that the European model of planning a society doesn't fit America: the Eurail is reliable and useful because Europe is small. Copenhagen runs on bicycles because it's small. America can't do it the way they do it over there because our land mass is simply too big, and infrastructure planning for a place as large as America presents challenges that the Eurail doesn't face. (This doesn't excuse Amtrak for its suckiness, but it gives some sense to why lawmakers won't pour money into a rail infrastructure here. The distances are impractical.)
My opinion on gun control approaches apathy. Shootings keep happening, and we ride the roller-coaster of public outrage, and nothing changes. Why should I state and defend my position when lobbying outguns me every time?
If plane flights are a necessity rather than a luxury, why are they so unaffordable for the average person? Why do they run so unsatisfactorily, such that jokes about the unpleasant aspects of flying were already unfunny a generation ago? Why do they have to teeter between regulation (FAA) and deregulation (stockholders)?
Matt said to me once that handguns were designed for no purpose other than to kill human beings. This altered the way I view guns altogether. I see no problem with responsible gun ownership, but unless you're a collector (like some people collect decorative plates - and because of how I feel about cars, I fully understand a 100% unmurdery attraction toward guns, and whatever, you do you, but you probably have a gun safe), why on earth would you want a handgun unless you think you might kill a human being someday?
Why would you want to own a machine gun if you are not a soldier?
Why is overbooking flights okay?
"Because it's my right" is a good enough reason. I'm perfectly okay with that. Very little is more ingrained in the American perspective than my rights. But freedom and danger dance, inseparably, eternally, a tango toward the end of the world. Conscious decisions about which element to prioritize are necessary. You can't just assume you're either free or safe; you need to work it out for yourself, how much of each you want. And there's a point where I think the safety of others lands at a higher priority than the freedom of a few. That point keeps poking our nation in the temple again and again, cold and sharp, twenty children, fifty college students, a dozen moviegoers.
The opposing view on the United thing is that he should have just complied. Sure, I guess. If you think compliance will make people treat you fairly. If you think compliance is a virtue. If you think that overbooking flights is the customer's problem, not the airline's.
After Sandy Hook, I realized that the gun laws in this nation will not change. Ever. If the murder of twenty elementary school children spurs no restrictive action related to guns, nothing ever will.
As long as airlines are running a public utility for profit, shit like this is going to go down. They'll squeeze us into ever smaller sardine tins and charge us $400 for it and nothing will change. As long as we keep paying for what we have to have, and no one in a position to be heard says hey, this isn't right, and it matters to you as well as to me, we'll keep being dragged out of seats we paid for. We'll keep being given bloody noses and told to comply. For profit. For stockholders.
Guns don't cause these deaths. Illness does. If we can't fix illness - and we can't - there must be a way to limit what illness can wreak on the innocent.
The frenzy of being American contributes to it. Being male in America at a weird time, when the comfortable supremacy of men erodes daily, contributes to it. Powerlessness - like the kind that leads you to close your mouth instead of joining a union, like the kind that leads people to accept the phenomenon of overbooked flights so they can get where they need to go - contributes to it. The availability of guns, and the press coverage of prior shootings and the availability of guns to those prior shooters and the press coverage of the availability of guns to the shooters before that and the peaky emotional outpouring of rage and support after each one, these all contribute to it.
To keep the gears moving, to keep the bottom line in the black, to sell subscriptions, to generate clicks, so we can buy things and stone ourselves with television and tell each other how much better the advertisement was than the football game.
Don't you want to be famous?
Don't you want to matter?
Don't you want to get home?