South

BEVERLY BECKHAM

It’s how we live now — and die

Salwan Georges/Washington Post
A woman bent to light a candle at a street vigil along the Las Vegas Strip on Monday.

They insulate me from the world. They keep me away from network TV and the barrage of bad news, which is incessant. They make me pay attention to what is happening right in front of me because they are in front of me, children singing a song, reciting a poem, telling me about a book I have to read or a movie I have to watch, sharing a word they just learned.

“She lives past that intersection, Mimi,” “intersection” rolling off my granddaughter’s tongue as if she has said it a dozen times before. As if she hadn’t learned it just yesterday.

Children are a distraction.

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But outside this cocoon called home, the world is spinning out of control. It is suffering without end. All day, every day. Different places. Different faces. But it’s always the same. Murders and wars and hunger and disasters and sickness and poverty and death

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And what can we do about it? What do we do about it?

There’s nothing we can do about what Mother Nature hurls at us — hurricanes and earthquakes and landslides and floods — except prepare for the worst and then help each other out in the aftermath. There’s nothing we can do about North Korea and all the other places in the world where tyranny rules, not individually, anyway. We trust our military for this. There’s nothing we can do so much of the time. We can’t cure the sick, we can’t make a young person with a broken heart know what we know, that things will get better. We can’t cure a friend’s drug addiction. We can’t raise the dead.

But we can get automatic weapons banned in this country. We can make sure that no one ever again can so easily kill and maim some 600 people.

After Sandy Hook, after 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty little children, six and seven-year olds, six adults, and then himself, I believed we would jump out of our cocoons and come together as a nation so this would never happen again. I thought the deaths of those children would be like the sinking of the Lusitania, the turning point in our debate about guns.

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But it turned out to be just another mass murder in a long string of shootings and mass murders. In the US, “There is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – every nine out of 10 days on average,” The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, reported the day after the Las Vegas massacre. A simple graph showed the horrific toll of gun violence: 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days.

I try not to think about how unsafe we all are. I try not to think about murderers when I’m at a mall or at church or at a movie theater or concert or playground. I try not to think about madmen and mayhem on the mornings I drive my grandchildren to school. I say “Have a nice day,” and they smile and get out of the car. And I watch them walk into a place where they should be safe but where they are not.

Our president has shelled out $2 million in taxpayer dollars to four construction companies for prototypes, to see which company can come up with the best border wall. He’s upped the ban on travelers from six to eight countries, exacting not just an economic cost but a social one. He claimed as recently as Sept. 24 that “Making America Safe is my number one priority.”

But America is not safe. It’s unsafe not because of foreign-born terrorists. It’s unsafe because of home-grown ones.

The gun lobby says that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. This is rubbish. If Stephen Paddock hadn’t had 42 guns, if he’d been throwing rocks out a window instead of firing automatic weapons, the 59 people who were dead as of Tuesday and the 600 others who were maimed might have a few bruises, but that’s all.

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As for our constitutional right to bear arms? Maybe this is our future. Arming ourselves for Armageddon. Because if it is our constitutional right to own assault weapons designed for soldiers in combat, then it’s our constitutional right to own nuclear weapons, too. After all, nuclear bombs don’t kill people. People kill people.

What’s next? Who is next? Because there will be a next. Next week. Next month. If Sandy Hook and the carnage of children changed nothing, Las Vegas will change nothing. It’s how we live now. Lobbies rule.

Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at bevbeckham@gmail.com.