By: Tim Bean
Sometimes a healthy imagination can be a very unhealthy thing.
A wild-eyed, pale man, tromping around an elementary school classroom, holding a matte-black AR-15 and aiming it at the heads and bellies of cowering six and seven year olds, whose minds couldn’t think past the deafening crack of the gun and the splattered red paint (but not paint, not paint at all). He squeezed gently on the rifle’s trigger, just like he practiced—
An aging high roller leaned out of a hotel window in Las Vegas and took careful, steady aim in his scope’s crosshairs, plinking rounds at concertgoers’ bodies like ducks in a carnival game. He’s amazed at how steady his hands are. The air in the room was heavy with the salty-sweet smell of burnt cordite, and he hummed a soundless tune to himself as he checked his listed ranges on a yellow legal pad—
A nineteen-year-old kid, molded to hate by social media and angry at everyone and everything, yanking down the handle of a fire alarm and standing in the middle of a wide school hallway. Waiting. The rifle seated firmly against his shoulder, one foot behind the other, just like he was taught. Doors banged open. Students flooded from classrooms into the hallway automatically, just like every drill before, and the angry kid raises the rifle—
I turn away from those stories now. I’ll read the headlines, but that’s it. Anyone with a healthy imagination knows, try as you might, you can’t shut if off or control it. I’ll quote Springsteen here: Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing/I took a wrong turn and I just kept going.
Since having kids, the images have been sharper, more detailed and longer-lasting, like going from Standard to HD. I can now see the drips of sweat beading on Lanza’s forehead or hear the crunch of crayons under his feet. Or see Cruz digging out damp, crumpled bills from his jeans to pay for the Subway soda he bought minutes after burying dozens of rounds into kids. Reading detailed accounts is like giving your imagination ammunition.
Trust me. That really wears you down. And makes you cynical.
With that in mind, I heard about these Florida survivors speaking out, organizing, attempting to make a change. Can these Florida teens make a difference? I don’t know. I don’t have a suggestion or answer. I don’t know if stricter gun control can pull us out of this homicidal quagmire or if focusing on mental illness is the answer. I don’t know if I should blame the Founding Fathers for drafting a poorly worded Second Amendment or if arming teachers is the answer in preventing these shootings. I don’t know.
And none of you do either.
Not one of you.
Neither do the talking heads filling airtime on Fox News, CNN, RT, MSNBC or Newsweek. Or our President. Or the clucking voices of Congress. There’s no message of peace to be unearthed here, and any attempt to extract a lesson from it belittles the lives of those lost. Chances are little will be done by the powers that be. Sides will stay quiet and act with somber piety until this entire thing blows over. I’m guessing four, five months. Eight on the outside.
If Sandy Hook and twenty bullet-riddled first-graders doesn’t move a nation to change, what the Hell will?
No, as an adult who has spent the last eighteen months watching this country poop its pants live and in Technicolor on the news, in print and in legislation, I think we need to put someone else in charge. We don’t just need new leadership. We need to reframe. Take it down to the studs and rebuild. I think we need to declare a philosophical bankruptcy and listen to these kids. Our stewardship of this country hasn’t been the best, to put it mildly. Most of us had great intentions, but great intentions don’t mean anything. We screwed it up. Maybe they’ll do better.
I think they will, as long as we don’t stand in their way.
Kids, good luck and Godspeed.