Fury and sorrow are exhausting. They are physically difficult to sustain for any significant length of time because the human body actually fights them. When these emotions cause too much pain, your own central nervous system — with an assist from the pituitary gland — deploys endorphins into your bloodstream, and half the word “endorphin” is the word “morphine.” It’s a natural painkiller that soothes and calms. Remember the times when you’ve had bad trouble, but suddenly you felt like everything was going to be alright? That was the endorphins talking you down.
Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association make their daily bread on the surety of endorphins. When 20 children are slaughtered in school, when 49 people are massacred in a nightclub, when 58 people are cut down at a concert, LaPierre and the NRA — along with the politicians who sup on their campaign contributions — do what they always do: pipe down, lay low and wait.
Fury and sorrow sweep the nation for a time, cries for a change in policy rise to a deafening roar, teddy bears and candles and flowers appear like a snowdrift of tears at the places where the bullets flew … but then the endorphins kick in, everyone moves on, and LaPierre and the NRA go back to the business of selling “freedom” from their castle of bones. Until the next horror, and the next, and the next.
This has been the way of things for far too long, and it needs to end. I propose here no sweeping policy initiatives, no new laws, ordinances or regulations. Doing so would be a perfect waste of time, because many ideas for how to stop this long bloodbath already exist, and a majority of the population already agree that matters must change, though a collective conversation is necessary is to ensure that unintentionally harmful laws are not put in place. In almost every instance, for example, intensified penalties and policing wind up targeting and incarcerating people of color. As a nation, we have seen quite enough of that already.
What must change is our collective approach to achieving those necessary and entirely achievable solutions.
Simply put, we must, all of us, hold on to our fury and our sorrow. We must be rage sustained, inconsolable, implacable, unswerving. We must not let the pain of this long nightmare fade from our sight. Not anymore.
How we have come to find ourselves mired in this appalling situation has everything to do with a company that made farming equipment early in the last century. This company made the best tractors and harvesters that have ever been made, and prospered for a time as every farmer in the country bought one. Then, some years later, the company went under.
See, they made their product too well. Every farmer bought one tractor, and only needed the one because it lasted forever. The company ran out of customers. The lesson was not lost on capitalism, which came up with the concept of “planned obsolescence.” Translation: Make it so it breaks. Products today are deliberately manufactured not to last very long in order to stimulate consumerism and sustain the economy — i.e. people can be paid to make more of them, and people will keep buying them.
Here’s the thing: Guns, for the most part, don’t break. Even a shoddily manufactured rifle, if properly maintained, will last for generations. This became a problem for the gun manufacturers, one the old tractor company would have recognized immediately. Say everyone in the US buys a gun … then what? The gun they bought will likely last forever. Why would people buy multiple guns? Sooner or later, the gun manufacturers would go out of business for lack of customers, just as that long-ago tractor company did.
The NRA entered the equation when the gun manufacturers needed a new sales angle. A very lucrative solution was settled upon: Make guns about freedom, frighten people, and they will buy them like they buy batteries.
The typical NRA fundraising letter is as frantic as the YOU WILL BURN IN HELL pamphlets handed out by the guy downtown who wears the cardboard sign. Comprised of fetid rants about “those who would like nothing more than to destroy your freedom,” the NRA’s standard-issue propaganda is towering in its froth, and a segment of the population has bought into it with an evangelical fervor seldom matched in the public square. Why own 50 guns? Why own assault weapons that can kill dozens within minutes? Because freedom and fear, and pay off the politicians to calm the waters.
We’re here because the gun manufacturers want to keep making money, and the NRA is their advertising firm. It is not about freedom, or the Constitution, or personal safety. They are trying to turn a buck selling things that don’t break, so they wrap them in the flag and spend millions in Washington DC making sure no pesky laws get passed that interfere with the bottom line. That’s it. That’s all. That’s why we’re here. It’s all a marketing campaign that would make a tobacco executive blush.
There is your fury. Here is your sorrow.
Josh was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas with his friend Steve, saw Steve get shot, and watched him die. Christopher was a Navy bomb disposal expert who survived Afghanistan but was killed at the concert. Adrian and Brian were at the concert together when a bullet tore through Adrian’s neck, and he died in Brian’s arms. Sonny put his body over his wife Heather to shield her when the shots rang out, and she felt the bullets that killed him hit his body. Angela was a cheerleader. Sandy was a teacher. Austin and Thomas went to the concert together, and were killed there together. John had six kids, and was dancing at the concert with one of his sons when he was killed. Stacee was helping people escape the gunfire when she was killed. Jack died saving his wife. Erick, a security guard working the concert, died saving others.
For them, and for all the others who were murdered in Las Vegas and Orlando and Sandy Hook and all the other places where life has been senselessly stolen at the barrel of a firearm, hold on to your fury and sorrow.
LaPierre, the NRA and the gun manufacturers who lurk behind them are galactic in their patience. They believe they can wait us out, because that has always worked for them. They will never change, unless we force change upon them. To do so, we must change. No more several-day mourning periods, no more moving on, no more endorphins to wash the next massacre from our minds.
Until we do that, we will do nothing. We will fail to grasp the creative solutions that can end gun violence once and for all. After all this, after so much horror, failure is simply unacceptable.
Learn to seethe.