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…that hasn’t been said? Mass killing after mass killing, putting towns like Dayton and El Paso on the map in ways they wish had never happened. I’ve heard a lot of analysis about America in the last week, a lot of analysis about who kills and why. I am surprised to hear, for instance, that America is the only developed country with bad parents. The only one where kids play violent video games. They only country with any mental illness. These things must be true because gun violence doesn’t happen in any other developed country — not like it does here in the US.

Look, here’s what I know is true: America is a man with a gun standing before a thousand men with a thousand guns, representing a million men with a million guns, all claiming (all at once) that violence is never the fault of a man with a gun.

Here’s what else I know: There are more of us than there are of them.

Do not forget. Do not let anyone tell you to “put it behind you.” Keep it raw. Keep it festering. Hold it in your hand, even as it scorches your skin.

And then vote. Vote like your life depends on it, because it does.

Also, pray.

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It was a week
to shake the faith
right out of our bones.

But faith cannot fall
to such a small god:
a god of bombs, bullets, ripped limbs.

Seek God elsewhere.
He is there in the helpers.
In solace, yes, and mourning, too.
In healing hands, in hope.

Look to those who know the truth:
What is not love
cannot be God.

Hate destroys.
Love restores.
There is your answer.

Every time a mass shooting occurs, The Onion runs the same headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” And every time a mass shooting occurs, Facebook explodes with opinions from both sides of the gun control debate. Because apparently some people are perfectly content living in a country where they and their children are 20 times more likely to die by gun violence than in any other civilized country on the map.

There are no arguments. Not anymore. Don’t tell me “guns don’t kill people; people do.” Yes. People with guns. Do you not get that? Don’t explain patiently that the killers on 9/11 didn’t use guns. I know that. And we immediately did something about it — we changed the way we fly; we put people on lists; we went to war (with the wrong country, but whatever). But there’s nothing we can do about guns? Fine then. What’s the other near-constant in gun violence? White guys. Shall we legislate against them? Oh wait. They’re the ones in charge of absolutely everything.

Well, I’m done arguing. Your right to own an object does not supersede my right to live.

In better, calmer times, I wrote the following (as Ruth recently reminded me). I’ve decided that it will be my version of The Onion article. Get used to seeing it, folks. Because we may worship God here in America, but guns — ah! Those are our real deity.

It was a week
to shake the faith
right out of our bones.

But faith cannot fall
to such a small god:
a god of bombs, bullets, ripped limbs.

Seek God elsewhere.
He is there in the helpers.
In solace, yes, and mourning, too.
In healing hands, in hope.

Look to those who know the truth:
What is not love
cannot be God.

Hate destroys.
Love restores.
There is your answer.

 

There have been more mass shootings this year in America than there have been days of the year. And gun sales are booming (an ugly pun, I know). We seem determined to wipe one another off the face of the earth…rapidly.

So what has all this got to do with Flannery O’Connor? O’Connor, a prolific Southern writer with a deeply spiritual mindset, has been dead since 1964. She did not live to see gun violence escalate into wholesale slaughter on an everyday basis. But her influence lives on.

I have been walking around in a state of O’Connor-based awareness for the last several weeks, as I have been reading her collected short stories. It’s hard not to fall under her spell, even though her stories are typically difficult to read. That innocent-seeming visitor at the door on page one? Likely as not he will uproot the life of the people upon whose door he knocks. The lady who sees a photo of an escaped murderer in the newspaper? You can be certain said murderer will do her in by the last page of her tale. But one story in particular, “Revelation,” spoke to me most profoundly. In it, a woman who has been assaulted by a mentally ill person seeks to understand what she did that drove her attacker to action. She suddenly, unexpectedly has a vision: A vast group of pilgrims ascending into heaven together — all colors, all backgrounds, the mentally ill and the so-called sane — all marching toward God as one.

And that’s when it hit me: Either we all go together, or no one goes. Let that sink in for a minute. Try to knit it into the fabric of your beliefs. What would it mean if we all truly believed that? If we weren’t each out for our own success, redemption or happy ending, but utterly dependent on — and responsible to — others to achieve the same?

What would be the use of war in a mindset like this? Or of murder of any kind? Division of persons based on any sort of criteria dissolves into inanity. Anything negative I do to you robs me of happiness, as we are all interconnected and interdependent. There is nothing I can do to my neighbor that does not impact me personally. Either we get it together and achieve some sort of perfection in this world or the next or we all fail — and are punished for it miserably. And yes, this does make me my brother’s keeper. And he, mine.

I’m asking you to take seriously the ethical position of one writer, who just so happens to be echoing the words of Christ himself: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” We are in this together, folks. Like it or not. As a Founding Father once asserted, either we all hang together or we will each hang separately. So, yes, I’m demanding that you choose a side: Work for peace or step aside. Because I don’t want to die. And I don’t want you to die.

This mandates some difficult decision-making. Do we, as a country, love guns more than people? If so, there will be no parade of salvation. If not, let’s do something. Enough talk. Talk ain’t gonna get us to the Promised Land. And isn’t that where we want to go?

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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