I’m warning you in advance this is going to be another rambling post.
Yesterday I was looking at the pictures of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, and I made it a point to read every bio that was provided. I figured it was the least I could do, because I know we aren’t going to do a fucking thing as a country to honor their memory with any meaningful action on the gun front. I was just struck, with few exceptions, how young they all were:
Quinton Robbins was 20. When I was 20, I was living in Germany, serving in the Army, and just having the time of my life. Seeing new things, doing something important for the first time in my life, on my own, paying my own bills, and making friends that I still to this day keep in touch with pretty regularly.
Sonny Melton was 29. When I was 29 I was at the tail end of grad school, and I still went to a lot of concerts and went out all the time and was still pretty wild. That could have been me.
Rachael Parker was 33. When I was 33 I didn’t have my life in any sort of order, but I was finally making decent money and could afford to do things, and I had Tunch and lot of close friends.
And on and on and on. And now, they are just all gone. They are no more.
I know we have all sorts of differing opinions on the afterlife, but mine is pretty simple. When you’re dead you’re dead. That’s the ballgame, as they say. Roll the credits. It’s just over.
I know that’s really hard for people to comprehend, so that’s why I think we have so many myths made up to comfort people about the afterlife, because it’s really hard to contemplate not existing or the world continuing to exist without you- all of us are to some degree egocentric in that way. We’re the only thing that has been with us our entire lives- you always have to live with yourself, because you never go away until you go away.
And the euphemisms we employ to soothe us- passed away, moved on, is in a better place, the long sleep. I find it hard to put a finger on mortality, too. The best way I’ve come to imagine what the world would like be without me is to try to think back to my earliest memory as a child, and then to go farther into nothingness. Just a void- you can’t remember any more before that. Well, that’s what it will be like when we are gone, I think.
And when you are dead, that’s the end of experience. On the drive home today I picked up a small Coke slush and had a sip and just smiled because it was so good. I listened to Kendrick Lamar DAMN. for the fifth or sixth time, and this time, for the first time, I kind of got it (you have to listen to it in reverse order). His others all made “sense” musically the first listening, especially Good Kid, which is another one of those perfect albums. And it happened while I was cruising along on the highway, with my polarized sunglasses on so everything looked so precise because my eyes didn’t have to filter out the glare, the fall foliage was amazing, the sun was filtering through the thick rain clouds that are a consequence of Hurricane Nate, the windows were down and the pollen was low and I just had that rushing “Oh, I think I get it and appreciate it now” feeling and the hair on my arms stood up a little bit. Later on I was driving down the back roads, and the smell of leaves and manure and the sweet country air filled the car, and I saw a beautiful Holstein just sitting down by the fence, chomping away, twitching her tail and I pulled over and watcher her for a bit.
None of those fifty dead will ever get to experience anything like that ever again. Not the feel of clean sheets, the cold floor when you wake up, the burst of hot water in the shower, the minty taste of toothpaste on a new tooth brush, the aroma of the morning coffee, or the feel of your kid’s hands as you walk them to the school bus or kiss your lover again. They will never get any of that ever again. Those things are just gone for them.
And this is where some will inevitably say but their memories will linger on. No they won’t. More than likely, history will not remember them as people- they might be known for a while as victims, but who they are as people will die off in a couple generations, as their loved ones move on. There have been billions of people- history remembers very few. Maybe if they had lived full lives, one of them might have done something extraordinary in the historical sense, but I doubt it. And I’m not saying that to be an asshole- people do extraordinary little things every day, from things as simple as slamming on the brakes to not hit a squirrel or saying something kind to someone who is having a bad day. Time washes all the stuff but the greatest achievements away- the Grand Canyon wasn’t always so grand.
It’s a fragile and short and wonderful thing being alive, and your life is really, truly, the only thing you have in this world. And that’s what is so damned maddening about these shootings. All of those people had the only thing that mattered stolen from them, literally robbed at gunpoint, just so a few people retain their unfettered right to own a little hand-held killing machine that makes their dick hard or gives them a grin for ten seconds at a firing range.
It’s sick. It’s a sickness. Like I said earlier, you have to live with yourselves your whole life, and I just don’t know how these people who oppose all gun control do it. There is just something wrong with them. They are broken. And worse still are the politicians who oppose it for a few coins and some political power.
Some of them, I suspect, know it, which is why they rely on nonsense arguments like “more people are killed by cars” or all the other bullshit that gets churned up. They’ll tell you if we ban guns only criminals will have guns. OK. Then we lock them up until we get all the guns. We can change- there used to be a time when there weren’t seatbelts in cars. Or “We can’t confiscate all guns.” Sure we can. It will just take time.
But even assuming they are right, why the fuck does it hurt to try?
Again, it’s a sickness. And everyone who continues to fight for the right to unfettered access to guns is complicit. They didn’t pull the trigger, but they might as well have.
It’s just a level of selfishness that I will never ever ever understand.