All Hallows Eve 2017

About  2 years ago the photography class from the KIA made a trek to an antiques emporium in Kalamazoo. Armed with our phones which contained our cameras, our practice session was to photograph images up close and personal. Before the afternoon was over my phone contained photos of wooden hangers, Fiesta pitchers in an array of colors, cracked platters, wire baskets, drawers filled with every kind of handle you can think of from any old water spigot in the neighborhood. The thickness of the air in the building on a hot, sticky July afternoon covered us all like a furry blanket which we could not kick off. Amazing how many people were rummaging through all the bits and pieces of human habitation: various models of ceramic sinks decorated the dark brown wooden floor; frames; window sashes, wire and metal of all kinds; ceiling lamps.

Along an entire wall, door upon door, lined up like soldiers with not a handle to hold. How many scenes had passed before them street-side? Who had knocked upon them? Who had opened them? Who had passed through the portals they guarded sunup to sundown, in blistering heat and icy cold? Did they open to reveal a stairway to the upper floors or were their environs lacking any entrance hall? A visitor went from the outside immediately into the midst of whatever and whoever were there.

There is always a door to be opened that leads inside just as there is a door to be opened that leads outside. The question is: which is which? Maybe the truth is as complicated as how the door swings on its hinge and where you stand when you grasp the handle. Which ever way you are headed, you will find yourself both inside and outside simultaneously. At least that has been my experience.

Almost two years ago a terrible mass shooting happened in Kalamazoo on a freezing cold, snowy Saturday night into early Sunday morning in February. The shooting had begun earlier in the day. The names and photographs of the dead made a neat line on the front page of the local paper for several days after that. Six people were killed. That’s what made it a “mass shooting”. None of them were from Kalamazoo County. All came here from some other place. One group had just had dinner at a local restaurant when the killer came to the cars and began firing. He wounded one young teen girl. By some miracle she did not die that night. She is still trying to recover but her life is changed forever by a bullet to the brain.

A father with his son, browsing in a used car lot on a major street, shot and killed as they dreamed of summer and senior year. The boy’s girlfriend hid on the floor of their car as the bullets opened their bodies to frigid air. She is not counted as a victim.

A young black woman, protecting children sensing something was not quite right with the guy driving by the playground. As she rounds the kids up and sends them running for safety, he shoots her in both thighs, shattering her bones. The kids are all “safe”. The first one shot, she survived and struggles to regain health in all its forms.

Doors lined up on a frigid night opened and closed in every life. And even in the lives of all of us bystanders – those who read the newspapers the next morning. Or like we who received calls from our children checking up to see that we were both alright and safe at home behind our closed doors.

It is impossible for me to understand why anyone believes they need the kind of weapon and ammunition that kills quickly and injures so completely.

I would like to understand why the injunction “you shall not kill” seems to carry so little import in the deliberations about firearm regulations and laws.

I would like to understand how it is that a consumer product that poses such lethal danger is treated like just one more piece of equipment like a flashlight which anyone can obtain while everyone is required to register at the pharmacy if you want to buy 2 packages of cold capsules. Want to  buy large amounts of fertilizer at your local hardware store just sign this registry. (Remember Oklahoma City?)  Take off your  shoes to pass through the airport security? (Remember the “shoe bomber”)?  Thank God we don’t have to take our underwear off. (Remember the underwear bomber)?

There is more to this debacle than the puzzling words of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. As a friend remarked the other day, “You had to wait for someone to make a rifle for you. There were no stores to buy one, no manufacturers. And nothing was automatic.”  Yes. There was no standing army when this amendment was ratified. Mutual protection was the plan. Someone actually knew who had a rifle. And remember this. There were black slaves in southern states. There were scared white men. There were the battles to fight against the British for independence. And the genocide to free  up the land of native peoples for white settlers.

Eventually there were gun manufacturers. But hunters of small game and large and mutual protection is no longer the situation. Now there is a stock market and manufacturers from all over the world who build there firearms in the United States. Why? Because they can make a bundle of money here. And they are making that money in the blood of young, old, and all categories between. The dead and injured come from all walks and strata of life.

The entire situation is criminal. We are participating in criminality.

First the manufacturers, then the legislators, then the lobbyists for the firearms industry and their little clubs of people purporting to protect the Constitution. Poppy cock! All they’re doing is sowing the seeds for a future of violence and destruction of the nation. I hope the purveyors of all this harm will one day, before it is too late, go through the door that will lead them toward a better way than fear, greed, and death. And I hope everyone sitting on the sidelines understand that they too have a choice to make as well. The doors are all lined up in the emporium.  Isn’t it finally time to close some of them against the mayhem that will surely come if we continue to ignore the danger that is not just coming but has already passed through this open door?


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