Stuff Happens

“…Stuff happens.”

Sure it does. It always will. You can’t get rid of “stuff.”

People die. People die all the time. People die needlessly, all the time. All over the world, people are dying, right now, almost all of them, needlessly. Even many of those dying of old age are dying needlessly early.

So why is everyone so upset about the few who died the other day in Oregon?

Two people die every second in this world. Do the math. Nearly 173,000 people die every day. Why do we care so much about the nine who died in Oregon? No. That’s a fair question. Answer that question if you can. Why do you care?

Do we care just as much about the children being blown to bits by land mines in over 75 countries around the world? How about the victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria? Do we care just as much about those who are dying of hunger caused by drought exacerbated by global warming across the Middle East and Africa?

Why the hell do we care so much about these few people being shot when so many others are dying all the time all over the world? If you can’t answer that question, you can’t even begin to understand your place in the cluster-fuck that is American society right now.

Don’t tell me it’s because it’s so unfair and it’s so tragic and it’s so… so… just not right.

Don’t tell me that he Bible says “Thou shalt not kill.” We were willing to sit by while the American government in the form of our sons and daughters killed over a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But it just keeps happening – over and over!

So? We have always been a violent country. We have been in an almost perpetual state of war with someone since 1944. We have been killing people with guns for over 70 years. Why are we now so upset about these people?

War is different!

Dead is dead.

It’s un-American!

That is the most completely laughable reason I have heard yet. It’s the most American thing you could imagine. “Americans” took their guns and exterminated an entire population of native people. “Americans” waged gang wars in Boston and New York and Chicago for years, killing thousands with their guns. Police kill unarmed kids in parks. Drive-by shooters kill police officers in their police cars.

Our children sit in front of video screens and play first person shooter games half the day, killing virtual people with virtual guns, and learning just how to do it best with the real thing.

We sit in front of the television every night and watch actors kill each other hour after hour with all the special effects blood-and-gore and-veins-in-your-teeth you could ever want.

But these are real people.

Of course they are real people. Not even Mattel cares if you blow up Barbies with an AK-47.

We are all real people. Which is why I asked the question: as a real person, why do you care?

Is it hard to verbalize? I think it is. I think it is all very confusing and very emotional and very depressing. But I also think the reason is obvious.

Every time we have another mass shooting, the bullets seems to come closer to us. We see the names of the dead on our television screens, but we also see the grief in the faces of their families, the shock in the faces of their friends. We see pictures of the victims laughing and playing before they were killed– maybe with friends or parents or children. We now all know somebody who knows somebody who has known a victim of gun violence. Or maybe it’s even closer to us than that.

The fact is that mass media and social media have made each mass shooting seem a little closer to our home. Every time it happens we are inundated with information about the victims as well as the shooter. It isn’t happening in a far-off country to nameless people. It’s happening right in front of us, and it keeps happening, and we are getting frightened that it could be happening to someone we actually personally know (if it hasn’t already), or maybe it could be happening to us. We care because we are afraid.

I have personally seen the complete devastation gun violence wrecks on parents and loved ones, and would not wish that on anyone. I hope I never have to see that again. I am afraid that I might.

Forget the moral high ground. We are afraid.

We are afraid and we live in a divided country where fear is used to gain power.   The more afraid you are, the more someone can use that fear against you. That means that every time there is a mass shooting, someone sees it as an opportunity. Every time there is a mass shooting, gun stores make a whole lot more money; the NRA membership spikes; people join right wing militias. And the wedge between two parts of our culture is driven in one more blow.

The whole divide on how to approach gun violence can be seen in the westerns of mid-1900s television.

There were two main plot lines. Bad guys rode into town, did a bunch of bad-guy things to the meek people there, and the sheriff, sometimes after much soul-searching, went out to meet them at high noon in a blazing gun battle where he was often wounded, but usually won. Sometimes he had help from a few of the townspeople, but for the most part they were women and children and cowards.

In the second scenario the handsome but deadly sheriff was hired to protect the town and posted bans on the way in prohibiting all guns. All the drunks had to use fisticuffs to do any damage to each other until the local rancher and his sons decided they had had enough of getting punched in the face and not being able to shoot people like they always had before, and rode in, guns blazing. Then the handsome sheriff and his usually colorful sidekick-deputy managed to subdue them through cunning and some fancy shooting.

The NRA and the gun lobby are in the high noon camp. So are most of the Republican presidential candidates.  The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Buy your white hats at the NRA website. Buy your guns anywhere you can. Oh, and buy lots of ammunition. Don’t let anyone take your guns because you need them when high noon rolls around in your neighborhood. And you will definitely need them when the government comes to take your guns which will be sooner than ever because this mass shooting just happened.

The Oregon shooter’s mother stockpiled guns and ammunition because she believed Obama was coming to get her guns.

Political candidates have called for arming teachers in the classroom. Ask a teacher how she feels about that.

And the other side just says that if the bans had been posted and the guns kept out of town, all this would have been nothing more than a bar brawl where the bad guy got his ass whipped because he was completely outnumbered in a fair fight. Just get rid of the guns, they say, and no one can get killed by a gun. I won’t get killed by a gun.


Fear motivating the purchase of more guns. Fear motivating the drive to ban the guns. And big money is orchestrating the whole carnival of fear.

Over the years the gun control debate has become increasingly aligned to the partisan divide in American politics. Increasingly, Republicans have moved to the high noon camp and Democrats have moved to the post-the-bans camp.

The solution to lowering the death rate by guns is very clear. We know what works and what doesn’t even though congress has made it impossible to accumulate current data. Other countries have paved the way. Get rid of unregulated guns and unregulated owners and the death rate by guns goes down. It’s very simple.

More guns are not an answer. In just the past week an eleven year old boy killed an eight year old girl because she wouldn’t show him her puppy. He took a shotgun from a closet and killed her through a window. Should she have been armed? Could she have saved herself if she were just armed?

Several years ago a five year old boy killed his two year old sister with a .22 rifle he had been given for his birthday. A five year old was given a rifle for his birthday! The rifle in question can be purchased online. It is advertised as “My First Rifle” and comes in an assortment of stock colors, including pink. It’s sort of the My Little Pony of rifles. Every child should have one, right?

This is where the high-nooners would take us.

They are, to coin a phrase, dead wrong!

But there is nothing substantial that can be done in the current political climate to reduce the number of guns available to be misused.

The gun violence conversation has been hijacked by partisan politics and partisan politics has been become more and more belligerent.

The complicated plans that have been put forth to try to work within the system and still make a difference will do nothing more than make things harder to enforce.

They will also be opposed by the NRA and the gun lobby which has members of congress genuinely fearful that any action they take to limit guns will result in massive amounts of money being spent against them when they try to get re-elected. And they are correct.

So long as big money controls the NRA and the gun lobby and they control elections, the problem of gun violence cannot be adequately addressed.

If you really want to end the senseless gun violence that makes this country the laughingstock of the civilized world, get big money out of politics, put critical thinking back in our schools, and stop thinking we are the only country in the world who can solve problems.

Gun violence has become just another symptom of what is tearing the country apart from within.

Hopefully we can survive the symptom until we implement the cure.

Your Humble Servant,
Roger A. Shipley, The Willowbrook Curmudgeon

2 thoughts on “Stuff Happens

  1. I spend very little time being afraid. Maybe this is because I resent the efforts of politicians and the media to instill me with fear. Yes I am also cognisant of the unnecessary deaths around the world and this makes me less likely to single out “ours”.


    • I’m glad you spend as little time as possible being afraid. Healthy choice. But the language you used admits to the fact that there is a recognized element of fear in what we see around us. Two school shootings today alone. Bad start to the weekend.


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