Monday, July 23, 2012

Aurora Borealis

It is an unfortunate and sad light that shines upon Aurora, Colorado, in the wake of the mass shooting this past Friday. My mind is still trying to come to grips with an event of such magnitude that, however, did not affect me personally except in so much as it rendered me sad and pessimistic. Both emotions will pass.

It helps that I am listening to Benjamin Britten's delightful and playful "Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell," better known as "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra." It is so upbeat and cheerful that it helps wash bad moods away. Yet, the thinking goes on, as it should.

Events like the one in Aurora spur us on. We scratch our heads and try to figure out how to prevent them from happening again. The truth is, as I alluded yesterday, these events will happen again, maybe not exactly in the same way but somehow. There always will be a handful of human beings who become so bent or twisted or sick or filled with unexplainable rage, or brainwashed by others with their own agendas, that they will lash out blindly. They don't write music or make movies; their symphonies become something altogether different.

What are they telling us? For them, it is the telling that counts. There is no message here, not from them.

But at these times we discuss other factors as well. Gun control becomes a major topic of debate. In the United States of America, ownership of firearms is seen as a God-given right, and anyone who is passionate about the issue can be blinded by the flash of gunpowder. The Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees us the right to keep and bear arms. When the amendment was added, in 1791, the idea was to ensure that states could gather their militia in a hurry if the Federal government massed an armed attack: it was a safeguard. For practical purposes, as well, firearms were useful to people of the day for hunting and self-defense. In 2010 the Supreme Court upheld this right on the basis of use for peaceful purposes and self defense.

Overturning this ammendment probably will not happen within my lifetime. In Montana gun ownership is almost automatic. I do not own one myself, nor intend to, but most of the people I know up here have one or more. What I don't see are assault rifles.

I long have wondered what a hunter would do with an assalut rifle, other than to mince his meat on the spot in a hail of bullets. It seems only logical that even Americans accept that assault rifles are a bit over the top as firearms protected by the Constitution. Overkill, so to speak. Legislation to ban them has been sitting in Congress now for over a year, but the do-nothing Congress we have in DC these days keeps the issue tabled, and the National Rifle Association is lobbying hard to keep things that way.

Gun control is something that Americans will have to take one step at a time. It seems a good next step to ban these assault weapons. They were built with one purpose in mind, to kill human beings. The shooter in Aurora had four firearms. One was an assalut rifle, that jammed on him. If it had not jammed, the dead and injured could have numbered much, much higher.

Guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people. And yes, there will always be violence perpetrated by one human on another, here and there, now and then, even daily. The simple truth is, it is much easier to inflict maximum damage to maximum numbers with a gun. At the very least, getting one should never be easy. And any weapon that functions solely to obliterate human beings should be impossible to get.

Twelve hopeful and brilliant lights were extinguished in Aurora, Colorado, on July
20, 2012. It was the 44th anniversary of men first setting foot on the Moon. Looking out on the horizon, they saw an earth rising that looked small and blue and fragile, and they thought about the sea of humanity that lives there, on the third rock from the sun. They saw one light, reflecting back the sun onto them in a miracle of color against a black sky. In our pain just four days ago, we forgot to remember. It is our job now, each and every one of us, to shine our light outward and upward in honor of the victims. To remember.

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