Commentary On My Own Writing

As someone who enjoys writing and conveying my thoughts to others I am often faced with a dilemma.

I am aware of what I am thinking, of course.  So I am left with the decision to go in to graphic detail, or to leave some things to the reader’s interpretation.

I want to assume that if people are reading what I have written, if they have taken the time to go to a site like WordPress and search for an article, that they are intelligent people that do not need to be spoon fed every thought.  So, to some extent, I feel like too many clarifying statements leaves the appearance that I believe the reader is stupid.  On the other hand, as I am the only person actually in my head (as far as I know) it is possible that I am not clearly communicating what I intend to communicate.  So, clarification may be necessary.  It’s a tough choice.

As emotions are running high in the wake of the Navy Yard shootings, and there is a lot of debate on the subjects of mental health and gun control, I felt like my post for the writing challenge yesterday could use some clarification.

My point in the imagined conversation between myself and Mary was that sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we react without really thinking about things in depth.

Mary, being a black woman in the South, undoubtedly comes from a family where just a couple of generations ago fear of the police was an accepted fact.  It was the police that were beating people down in the streets during the Watts riots.  Police sicked dogs on marchers during the Civil Rights Movement.  And it is still police, to this day, pulling people over for no other reason than what has been called “Driving while black”.

Mary may also be unaware of the fact that there was a group of people in this country who were disavowed of their Constitutional right to bear arms.  Those people were black, and they were slaves.

My greater point was that in seeking security and safety we may cede our ability to protect ourselves to agencies which we were distrustful of not so long ago.  In so doing we may in fact place ourselves in greater jeopardy.

The deaths at the Navy Yard on Monday were tragic.  Newtown, Aurora, Ft. Hood, these were all tragedies.  But in reacting to these tragedies we must be careful that we do not swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.

Our government has already shown a penchant for being overbearing, intrusive and heavy-handed.  A quick scan of the news will reveal that police are gunning down black men in the street in N.C.; the EPA is conducting armed raids on gold miners in Alaska; the NSA is reading your emails.  The list goes on and on.

The one thing that has always held government in check is an empowered populace, aware of their rights, prepared to defend them, and armed for that purpose.  In every instance where oppressive, intrusive government has sought to disarm the public, the result has been an oppressed people.

To allow that only the various governmental agencies and their militant branches should have weapons, and then hope that somehow absolute power will not corrupt absolutely, is to invite abuse and eventually the dissolution of our nation as constituted.  This is a demonstrable historical fact, with centuries of precedent.  We Americans are not superior in this regard to the Empires that have appeared and then left the world stage over the centuries of recorded history.

I was simply making the point that if we, in response to the tragic deaths of some of our citizens, allow the nation itself to be turned in to a police state, then we have committed far worse crimes than those people we are horrified by.

Twelve people died at the Navy Yard.  If I recall correctly it was 32 in Colorado.  40 million people died under Stalin.  6 Million under Hitler.  Millions more under Mao, Pol Pot, et al.  In every place where the government is in sole possession of the weapons and power goes unchecked for long, that power corrupts those who hold it and the people suffer.

Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  Let us not now change that to “Take my liberty to preserve my life.”

In the end, historically, you wind up with neither.

Writing Challenge

In response to the Weekly Writing Challenge, which this week is to write a dialogue, I present the following.  If you’re interested, you can find the challenge here:


“Oh my God!  Oh My God!”  She keeps saying it.  Over and over again.  Her voice is breaking.  Her hands shake.  She’s scared.  We’re all scared.

“Mary”, I whisper.  “It’s going to be alright. ”

We’re outside the building with a small group of co-workers.  We all ran when we heard the shots ringing out.  A lot of people we know are still inside; the gunman is still inside…

Suddenly, she exclaims, “They gotta do something about these nuts and these guns!!  We can’t live like this!”

We’re in the middle of a tragedy.  The helicopters are circling overhead.  Police are swarming all over the place.  Distant muffled shots ring out from time to time.  But I’ve been, to some degree, desensitized to it all  It seems like crazy people on killing sprees is just something that happens from time to time these days.  Twenty-four hour news coverage of other recent shootings has kinda of numbed me to the events going on around me.  I’m outside.  I’m safe.  I know how this all ends.

But, I am a gun owner.  Mary’s comment rings louder in my ear than perhaps it should have.

“What can ‘they’ do Mary?  We’re in Washington D.C. for Christ sake; you can’t get much stricter gun control than we have here!”  I exclaim.  My tone, too rough.  My nerves are shot and I’m on edge.  We’re all on edge.

Mary and I lock eyes for a second.  I have no idea what she sees in mine.  In hers I see fear, panic, stress.

We’ve just been through an ordeal.  Hell, we’re STILL going through an ordeal.  There are people we came to work with this morning who will not be returning tomorrow.  The Police want to talk to us.  The FBI wants to talk to us.  The Press wants to talk to us.  We just want to go home, hug our loved ones, cry a little and let it all sink in.

“Hello!”, she snaps her fingers in front of my eyes.  I focus in again on her face.  “Did you hear me?”, she asks?  “No.  No, I didn’t.  What did you say?”

“I don’t know what can be done.  Maybe we just need to outlaw guns!  I just know that we cannot have kids being shot up in schools and people being shot on military bases, and other craziness  like this!”, she yells.  “THIS cannot be life in America!  How can we come to work every day, wondering if today will be the day we get killed?”, she asks.  Her tone is getting louder.  She’s gone from fear to anger.

I hold up my hands.  This is not the time or place for a shouting match.

“All I’m saying is, I can’t sit at my house unarmed, waiting for someone to kick down my door to steal my electronics or rape my wife either.”  “We have to be able to protect ourselves!”  “Besides” I say, my tone dropping a bit,  “We have a Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

She starts shaking her head at me.  “I am so sick of Second Amendment this and Second Amendment that!”  “You survival nuts and anti-government types are crazy!  This is what that leads to!” , she screams in my face.

One of the officers starts walking our way.  I guess he heard the commotion.

He’s carrying an M-16.  Essentially the same gun we’ve heard the shooter was using, except the AR-15 the shooter has cannot be put in “auto” mode.

As he gets closer Mary catches my eye looking past her and turns around.

I say just loud enough for her to hear me, “There’s a man with a gun.  How come you’re not scared of him?”  “He’s the police”, she replies.  “I’m not afraid of the police.”

I shake my head.  Mary is a black woman, living in Virginia.

As the officer begins to speak to us I whisper back, “Times sure have changed, haven’t they?”