October 5th, 2017
In Las Vegas and Beyond, Counting On Lady Luck Is Insane
Less than 16 months ago, I wrote about crying at the gym as I watched televised coverage of the carnage in an Orlando nightclub. I lamented our nation’s rote response to gun violence, a checklist that includes “tears, outrage, shock” and “thoughts and prayers” from national leaders. I wrote about what seems to be our collective misunderstanding of the word “reeling” – a term I imagine we’ll hear again and again in coming days to describe our response to the horror in Las Vegas. I noted how “reeling” implies shock and disbelief so intense it’s physically staggering.
I suggested that when it comes to the shootings now occurring with terrifying frequency across this country, perhaps we shouldn’t be quite so shocked or disbelieving.
Today, in light of the latest life-shattering – and record-breaking – gun massacre, I’ve got another word on my mind: insanity.
We all know the working definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different outcome. Who hasn’t uttered those words to remind a friend, a coworker, a child that it’s time to try a new approach because the current strategy just isn’t working.
When it comes to having basic expectations about our personal safety, however, it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to diagnose our existing approach to gun control as certifiably insane. Our current regulations (or lack thereof) for protecting our fundamental right to live safely, let alone to enjoy liberty and the pursuit of happiness, seem increasingly based on faith, luck and superstition.
Going to school, church, a movie theater or a concert? Cross your fingers and hope you’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time. Heading to the grocery store, airport or nightclub? Don’t leave home without a wing and a prayer. If you wish upon a four-leaf clover, a white horse or a shooting star before leaving your house, chances are you might just be okay.
By the way, I’m not immune to this kind of crazy. In the wake of never-ending, ever-worsening gun violence, I’ve developed my own talisman for keeping my kids safe when they leave the house each morning: A hug, a kiss and a recitation that now borders on incantation: Bike safely. Stay alert. If you see a gun, run.
I know my morning mantra won’t protect my loved ones from a bullet perfectly designed to tear through soft, innocent flesh. But in the wake of gun violence that escalates in frequency and scale with every news cycle, why not try to cast my lucky spell – and then hope like hell?
Today – this time – I’m lucky enough to confirm my dear cousin and her family are safe at their home in Las Vegas. But my cousin’s teenage daughter has friends in the ICU fighting for their young lives – and my cousin is learning of others in her circle who never got the chance to fight.
When I wrote mere months ago about what happened in Orlando, I imagined the sound of bullets spraying across the loud, pulsing nightclub. At Sunday’s Route 91 Harvest Festival, the stutter of bullets may have sounded, for just a moment, like fireworks exploding over the Strip. Perhaps some of the thousands of fans who were thinking how lucky they were to be there, in this place, at this time, glanced upward. Maybe they looked toward the sky expecting to see colorful explosions of bright light. Maybe they imagined, for a split-second, they’d catch a glimpse of a fleeting shooting star.
I wish, oh, how I wish, they’d been so lucky.
This article appeared in the Marin Independent Journal.