Letter: Something Broken

To the Editor:

Sept. 26, 2013, and we all wake up to the news of another shooting. Another “isolated” incident where a disagreement between employee and employer has resulted in the use of deadly weapons and attack.

And my heart is aching.

The answering machine went off at 6 a.m., announcing the school delay. “What? What did that say?” I yelled as I ran from my bedroom to my father’s. “Why is there a delay?”

Because there was a shooting on Long Island and a massive manhunt is in effect for the Hudson Valley. But it wasn’t until I’d fallen back asleep and re-emerged two hours later that I learned that the suspect’s car had been found in Cold Spring itself, parked at the entrance of the trail we used to take to spend our summer nights with bonfires along the Hudson River, and that the school I’d grown up in was acting as command headquarters for the search.

“No school for me!” my almost fifteen-year-old sister squealed, jumping up and down, as if that were the big news of the day.

And then it hits me why my heart feels so offended and broken by what this day has brought. That is her big news for the day. The shootings, those happen on the regular, but school getting cancelled for it? Now that’s news. I don’t blame her for it, and that’s what hurts even more. Blame, in general I feel, doesn’t have a place here and doesn’t warrant much of a discussion. It doesn’t get us anywhere.

The reality is that we have let this become our reality. And it just plain sucks.

I felt my heart sinking, settling into an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach as she babbled on about the unhappy man who’d gone into his workplace, started shooting – killing one and sending another to the hospital for surgery – and then took off for here, trying desperately to escape the consequences of his actions, of his choices.

The liberal in me couldn’t help but interject with a concern about gun control, asking how many times are we going to let these events go unaddressed before we realize the kind of society we are creating – the one we are already living in – of fear and terror and acceptance that “this is how it is.”

“No, no,” she countered. “The same would have happened if he’d had, you know, like, throwing stars. It’s not a question about guns.”

Do we really believe that to be true? I do not.

“Well then our background checks are clearly not working,” I went with, knowing full well that a comparison between automatic killing machines and Chinese throwing stars was a moot point at best and an uphill battle at worst, “if we’re letting psychopaths legally walk out of stores with guns.”

“Oh no, he wasn’t pyscho. He was a normal guy. He was just angry.”

At this, my heart’s achy feeling sprints across the line towards emotional wreckage and I have to walk away from the conversation. He was angry? So we accept that this was a valid reaction?

Perhaps that’s not actually what she was saying, perhaps no one is actually saying that. Because who, in their right mind, would say – eh, it’s okay that there are a few innocent casualties here and there, so long as we maintain our right to bear arms.

No one is saying that. I know that. But when I hear a defense for something that does have this “unfortunate” side effect, when it walks right into my literal backyard, the woods behind where I sit and write this right now, it becomes difficult for me to hear the rationale in the argument.

I know that I cannot fully understand the lifestyle of hunting. It is not one I have ever been a part of, nor probably will I ever be. And while I do not wish to attack a long-standing way of living, way of being, what I do understand is the fear in my soul when I see my 8-year old brother head-to-toe in camo fatigues, which my mother reluctantly bought him for his birthday, still unsure about her choice even as he grinned the biggest grin I’ve ever seen on him as he adjusted his cap, then leapt into the bushes to camouflage himself, his “toy” machine gun in hand.

What I understand is that she and I, and all of our daily prayers that his “military phase” will pass as quickly as his “golf phase,” stand inches tall next to the world around him showing him that violence is, in fact, sometimes the answer. That our voices reminding him of peaceful solutions, however strong, pale to a whisper in comparison to the voice of the society he lives in booming out, “listen kid, it ain’t pretty and it ain’t perfect, but sometimes when people are angry, this is what happens.”

Maybe gun control is not the issue, maybe it is. I don’t know. What I know is that something has failed. Something is broken here.

It happens too much. Too often, too violently, too commonplace. And I am scared.

I feel hurt to think of the next teenaged child who is feeling alone and angry right at this very moment, as most teenaged children do at some point in their years. This child who is stewing in his feelings and watching today’s headlines to see confirmation, yet again, that if he just got his hands on a gun, he could make his problems go away.

I feel helpless to protect those I love – both on a day-to-day basis, and from the larger forces at work here. I am aghast that we live in a world that tells us, tomorrow, it might be you, but that’s just how it is.

Allie Thompson
Cold Spring

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