Image courtesy of the Crunk Feminist Collective blog.
Five days after the Newtown, CT, shooting, Marion Winik shares a proposal, a petition, and a poem…
It is beyond me to finish the end-of-year column I was working on this week, which is feather-light and silly and which I will try to get back to next time. Like everyone else, I am filled with grief and rage for people of Newtown and the concentric circles of family and friends that ripple out, by six or 60 degrees of separation, to touch every one of us.
In the stupefied frenzy of news consumption which overtook most of us on Friday the 14th, I read an op-ed in The New York Times by Gregory Gibson. He and his wife had just marked the 20th anniversary of the death of their son, killed in a shooting rampage at his college in Western Massachusetts, when they heard the news from Connecticut. “This,” writes Gibson, “is the way we in America want things to be. We want our freedom, and we want our firearms, and if we have to endure the occasional school shooting, so be it.”
No. That is not what I want. Is it what you want?
Only rarely does a popular movement change anything in this country. Civil Rights and Vietnam were the achievements of the generation before us. Ours will get credit, I imagine, for marijuana legalization and gay rights. As good and sane as those things are, there is something more important we have to do.
We have to ban automatic weapons. We have to ban all guns except hunting rifles (and here’s a great piece on that from The Economist). We have stop arguing about it and do it now. We don’t need the Second Amendment anymore because we’ve already lost our freedom and we cannot regain it with firearms. At this level of civilization, the tyrants use The Matrix to take over, and it’s fine with them if we are too busy shooting each other to pay attention. They’ve got the media, the internet, the economy, the military, the law, and the water supply — so your right to bear arms makes not a bit of difference.
Yesterday I tried to explain to my daughter and her friend why, when there are countries in which even the cops don’t need weapons because citizens don’t have them, Americans believe we need guns to be free. It’s a history lesson. Those days are over. Now we live in a freaky fun house of a country where we have armed the evil, the craven, and the mentally ill and set them loose in the streets. There’s no way to make sense of that. And I can’t say I feel it’s enhancing my freedom.
Every one of these insane mass shootings is wrenching, but none has involved so many young victims since the Amish school execution at Nickel Mines in 2006. I lived less than an hour from there; this is something I wrote back then. I throw it like a stone into the 27 oceans of grief that are filling with the tears of Newtown.
I would like to be part of the generation that puts an end to the nightmare. Please join me. Maybe this petition will help.
Amish Country: Fall
Because I have a little girl,
and I was a little girl,
I can picture them,
lined up facing the blackboard in their bonnets and aprons,
the curve of their cheeks,
the clear light in their eyes going out.
And their names, their sweet little girl names:
Mary Liz, Naomi Rose, Anna Mae.
The black buggies with their spoked wheels roll
along gold and crimson country roads
carrying the coffins I read about in the paper,
narrower at the head and foot, wider in the middle.
Inside a little girl is dressed for her funeral
in the white cape her mother sewed by hand,
whispering under her breath.
What are the words “little girl,” “ten little Amish schoolgirls,”
doing in the same sentence as “three guns”
and “600 rounds of ammunition”?
In every language our sentences
are stacked high with these things,
Next to “sister” and “doll” is “K-Y jelly,”
between “milk” and “school” is “execution.”
Amid the clopping of hooves and the turning of leaves
comes the sad, crazy man in his truck.
Mary Liz, Naomi Rose, Anna Mae!
This is no place for a little girl.
Run quick into my arms.
Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.