I am no Second Amendment Sister. I am a Million Mom Marcher from way back. No toy guns allowed at my house. Only water pistols and Super- Soakers. My kids were crack shots — gunning down dandelions and blowing away begonias in the backyard. No BB guns, not even cap guns crossed our threshold. At least until….
The dawn of Nintendo 64. One showed up under the tree on a Christmas morn with Zach’s name on it. I think Santa put it there. If Santa put it there, it was a really big deal, a really, really big deal. Mom and dad wrapped up books and board games. Santa gave you stuff that knocked your socks off. Zach’s socks were launched into the stratosphere on December 25, 1990.
So welcome Mario and Wario (his evil twin.) Welcome Kirby and Donkey Kong. Welcome Huey, Douey, and Louey. Lots of fun and games. Lots of jumping over walls, catching stars, and grabbing gold coins. Lots of keys and magic codes to climb from level to level. Zach played for hours on end while his little brother watched in wonder — hoping against hope to take control of that controller. Just a toddler at the age of two, he picked it up and has yet to put it down at the age of twenty-six.
Jacob mastered Mario. He crushed Kirby. He tackled Tetris. He whooped Wario. And “bang, bang, bang,” — arcade style — he bagged hundreds of ducks. The first “stick that made thunder” had made it into our house.
“Is that a peace and love game? “Jacob has heard this a million times from his Million Mom Marching mother. As Jacob matured so did the ratings on his video games. I never really censored the games he played but I would lean over his monitor to monitor just how much blood and guts were on display. “Is that a peace and love game?” I would invariably ask him. “It’s just mummies, mom. It’s just zombies, mom.” So I bought him “Civilization”, so civilized and educational. “How’s that going, Jacob?” “Great, mom! Gandhi just conquered Genghis Khan!”
Jacob has grown up to be quite the indie gamer. He founded Gaming in Public. He’s the Community Organizer for the Unallied – the developers of Super Dwarf Madness. His Kickstarter project raised $20,000 for the project. Inspired by Tolkein’s “The Hobbit” – “these dwarves are taking back their kingdom with GUNS.”
“Dwarves and military grade firearms? Fascinating!” raves one reviewer. Another comments: “It made me fear demon cows like nothing else. Seriously shoot those guys.”
I am a major backer of Super Dwarf Madness. No, it is not exactly about peace and love. But it is not all that far removed from Elmer Fudd and his blunderbuss or Yosemite Sam and his six-shooter. “Sticks that make thunder” cartoon style.
Yosemite Sam was “the roughest, toughest, fastest gun-slinger west of the Pecos!” but he couldn’t hit the side of a barn. And every Saturday morning, Bugs Bunny got away with nary a scratch. And Elmer Fudd also with all his bravado never managed to blow away Bugs either. It was a kinder and gentler time. Remember Sheriff Andy Taylor? No gun. Remember Deputy Barney Fife? One gun and no bullets except the one in his pocket. These were the only guns my dad would allow in our house: celluloid guns; cartoon guns; sitcom guns; maybe a water pistol or two; maybe even a cap gun. But never, ever the real thing.
My dad was pro gun control long before it was politically correct. You see, my Rockefeller Republican father was Chief of Surgery at Greater Southeast Community Hospital in DC. A general surgeon he took out his fair share of gall bladders, repaired his fair share of hernias, and excised his fair share of tumors. But extracting bullets from young black men, my dad told us, that he had had far more than his fair share. He told us that he had lost way way too many of those young black men on his operating table. More than he could count. Tragic and traumatic and cut down in their prime. Young and vibrant and full of life and all life’s possibilities. Never to go home again. Never.
NEVER have a gun in the home, my father taught us. NEVER, he instilled in us. NEVER, he ingrained in us. Guns in the home were anathema to him. People were crazy to believe they could protect themselves. In the heat of passion those gun owners fell victim to their own firearms. Things can get real crazy real fast when there are guns around. NEVER HAVE A GUN IN THE HOME.
This is a lesson learned that I still preach and teach and believe with all my heart. In my nearly sixty years, I had never ever even seen a real gun – much less handled one. And then a month or so ago, I visited the home of a sharpshooting friend. Law abiding in every way, she only shoots tin cans and paper tigers. Proud of her sport, she took out her collection and introduced me to her “sticks that make thunder”. She taught me the difference between a rifle, a shotgun, a pistol, and a revolver. Patiently she explained cartridges, caliber, clips, millimeters and magazines. And she drove home the importance of safeties – the tiny little lever that keeps a gun from firing. This tiny little lever between this life and the life to come — they call it a safety.
Now there is a stereotype that people like me are not safe. Mall shooters and campus snipers are indeed disturbed and deranged. Of that there is no doubt. But bipolar-me is no more likely to gun you down than anyone else. Regardless, the media often diagnoses the murderous soul as likely bipolar and off their meds. It’s a stock plot twist in made for TV movies and dime store novels. It’s simply not true or at least very rarely true. Suicide is more likely than homicide for folks like me.
I have never had a plan to do away with myself. But I do know what its like to not want to wake up anymore. Depression can eat you alive just a surely as cancer can. “Do you feel safe?”, the nurse at Dominion asked me. “No”, I replied. So she took away my shoelaces and my belt and my cell phone. Dangerous weapons, I guess. First light every morning and last thing every night, we had to answer the same question: “Do you feel safe? Rate yourself on a scale from zero to ten.” Zero and you can go home. Ten – or anything close to ten – and you get to stay a little longer. To stay your hand from doing yourself in. To stay your hand from doing what cannot be undone. Especially if at home you had a gun. God forbid, if I did. Thank God, I did not.
Biblically speaking, God has nothing to say about guns. Biblically speaking, Yahweh vacillates when it comes to violence. Beat those plowshares into swords? Or beat those swords into plowshares? But Jesus – he’s pretty damn clear on the subject. Clearer than Ghandi. Clearer than Dr. Martin Luther King.
“I say to all who can hear me: Love your foes, help those who hate you, praise those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. The one who punches your cheek, offer the other cheek…Love your foes and treat them well….Your great reward will be that you are children of the Highest One, who also favors ingrates and scoundrels. Be just and lenient as that Father. Be not a judge…Be not an executioner. Pardon and you will be pardoned” Luke 6, trans. Garry Wills
Such foes are just as likely to be found within us as without us. On this battleground – when we meet the enemy, the enemy might just be us. There is a Civil War inside between the darkness and the light. There is a Civil War inside between the brain’s left and the brain’s right — a Civil War between the brain’s moods both blue and gray. And each side needs to lay down its arms, to turn the other cheek. Each side needs to love the other, to pray for the other, to praise the other, to pardon the other.
“Some wear the color of the sky in winter.
Some were as blue as the night.
They came like a storm with the light of the morn.
And they fell through the whole day and night.
Colors flew high and they danced in the sky
As I watched them come over the hill
Then to my wonder, sticks that made thunder,
Such a great number lay still.”
– The Steeldrivers
Each side needs to lay down those arms, those firearms — those “sticks that make thunder” — But Lord, I have to wonder, honestly wonder, if anyone will.