A few minutes after I read about the shootings in San Bernardino, I rage-posted on Facebook. The post read – “Fuck this and fuck everyone who makes me afraid for the country my child has to grow up in. Take away the fucking guns. Sorry, responsible gun owners. I don’t trust that there are enough of you to worry about. Your feelings will get hurt but you know what? You’ll live.”
Good idea, right? ??
My profile is completely public. Everyone can see and share and comment on everything. Until recently, I’ve liked it that way. I make my living in the theatre and I like to know that complete strangers can learn more about me and my work. Yes, yes, I know that’s what a website is for. I have one of those too.
Quite frankly, I know better than to post something so reactionary about a politically charged topic. I like to think of myself as one of those truly enlightened individuals who can see all sides of an issue. I’m a playwright, for crying out loud. I work with other playwrights. If we don’t figure out a way to have empathy for people we disagree with, we aren’t doing our job.
But this was my tipping point. I was pissed. Another mass shooting? Are you kidding me? And while I know every mass shooting is contextually different, they all have one thing in common. The shooters all have guns. That’s why we call them shooters. Duh. They all somehow procured guns and they shouldn’t have been able to. So in that moment, in my fit of Facebook indignation pique, I posted something harsh about responsible gun owners. Now, in my mind I put the word “responsible” in sarcastic quotes. I know there are genuinely responsible gun owners out there. But I’m not all that concerned about them. However, I am concerned about the people with armaments up to their ears that assert their responsibility so often that I start to think…”methinks the lady doth protest…”
Twenty minutes later I was on my way to teach playwright to a group of high school students when I checked Facebook on my phone and saw that my post had almost 800 likes.
A few hours later I was playing Star Wars with my son and I looked at my phone. The post had been shared over 200 times.
I might have deleted the post right then and there if my son hadn’t told me to stop staring at my phone while he was hitting me with his light saber.
Later that night, of course, I was doomed. The post was everywhere, it seemed. It hadn’t really gone viral. More like viralesque. Strangers were posting on my page calling me an idiot and a moron. One guy called me a chickenshit and a little girl, then told me to go eat a bag of dicks, which seemed extreme (Jesus, a whole bag???). Then there were the slightly less personally offensive posts that tried to take in the big picture and explain to me, in their passive-aggressive way, that the problem was far more complicated than mere access to guns. One had to take into account mental illness, bullying, workplace violence, terrorism, etc., etc.,
Of course I knew that. The whole hyper-intellectual, holier than thou approach is usually my bag, which is how I recognized it. But this time was different. I was pissed. I posted in anger. And while people that knew me understood my post within the context of my entire persona (at least my Facebook persona) these strangers had not. At that point, my post had been read by more strangers than friends. The only thing they knew about me was that I didn’t care about gun owners and their rights.
Honestly, I guess I really don’t care. I understand that gun owners have rights. But I don’t understand the need for those rights. And I really don’t understand the extreme, almost spiritual devotion to those rights. I don’t understand the person whose identity is wrapped up, inextricably linked, to their possession of a fire arm.
I understand hunters. My grandfather was a hunter. He had three guns in the house. One was a pellet gun but I still count it because I almost put my eye out with that thing. Then there was the rifle mounted on the fireplace mantel, held up by two horse spurs. The scary one was the hand gun in his underwear drawer. I don’t know if it was loaded. As a kid, I would occasionally open the drawer when no one was around and just look at it. I held it in my hands exactly once and never again. My grandfather bought the gun after an intruder broke into his house, bashed him on the head and tied him to a chair. My father was sixteen at the time. He came home to find my grandfather trying to maneuver his way down a flight of stairs while still tied to the chair. My grandfather’s gun was for protection. He never used it. As far as I know, it never left the underwear drawer except for the one time I held it in my hands.
But I still don’t get it. Why do some people need so many guns and why are they afraid of people taking them away? I try to find some equivalency in my own personality. For instance, I love books. What if someone tried to take my books away? Nope. Doesn’t work. Books don’t kill people. Not even those Twilight books everyone seems to go on and on about. I also love my decongestants. Honestly, if I didn’t have my decongestants I don’t know what I’d do. But I accept the fact that I have to show my license every time I buy a box and I can’t buy more than one box a day just in case I’m some guy that makes meth-crack in my basement or whatever freaky thing people do with decongestants.
But guns? I don’t understand. My empathy fails me. I accept them as a reality, of course. But I don’t understand the passion or the fear of losing the right to have a gun. I mean, I don’t honestly think that all gun owners are trying to kill people. Please. That would be ridiculous. But if we could make a dent in this mass shooting problem by making it a little harder to get a gun, shouldn’t we do that? What’s the problem?
There’s this secret part of your Facebook message box that I keep forgetting about. It’s for all the messages from people who aren’t actually your friends. Thursday morning I realized I had a couple dozen in there. Hoo-boy.
As one of my friends posted in a comment “Why is No Backbone in quotes? Is this a recipe?”
And so on…
And so on…
And so on…
And so on…
It’s pretty much an accepted truth of humanity that we very seldom change our minds about anything, particularly when we perceive we’re being attacked. In fact, we double-down and embed ourselves even further into our point of view even if we’re contradicted by irrefutable data. I’ve never really had that problem. Not because I’m so enlightened, but because I think I’m always in the wrong. Several of those messages I received are totally true. I am a big pussy. So I tend to step back and be the guy that listens, tries to see every point of view and bring everyone to a consensus, even if it means sacrificing my own convictions.
But that hasn’t been working when it comes to gun control. For anyone. We talk and talk and talk and people get shot and shot and shot. So I got pissed. I posted on Facebook while pissed. I made people angry. And they reacted in anger. But instead of feeling upset that I had been attacked, I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world. It was a bit like the first time you get a bad theatre review. It sucked, but I survived. People keep asking me if I was able to sleep last night. I slept fine. I’m not a victim. I’m not one of the people that was shot.
Now that I know I can speak out of anger, gain support from my friends and survive the onslaught of negative reactions, I’m much more willing to speak out in anger the next time an opportunity rolls around. If we can’t change things through rational discussion, maybe we can change things through irrational anger.
So you tell me – did I just become part of the solution or part of the problem?
Or am I kidding myself because neither rational debate or irrational anger makes a bit of difference? Perhaps I’m just as powerless as I was yesterday.