The Right to Bear Happiness

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columbine flowers

Columbine flowers

I woke up in England today at 3:00 am U.S. time to the BBC News: another random shooting in the U.S.—I’m immediately asking where it is, whom do I know there, and why? My assistant and wingwoman in my small business, Danielle, lives in Portage, Michigan, Kalamazoo County. I jumped online to her Facebook page and saw that she had posted some news about the shooting around 10 pm last night that read, “Whoa. If you’re out tonight in the Kalamazoo/Texas Twp area, strongly consider going home.” So, tick – she is okay. Relief.

I search the news for more information while my UK relatives tell me they think the US is crazy to let this sort of thing carry on. My sister-in-law says sarcastically, “Oh good! I’m so glad that the man running around shooting everyone has his liberties.” I tell my nephew about my experience with Columbine and all those feelings rush back. Columbine, 9-11, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Colorado Springs, Kalamazoo—these are just the ones that come to mind because I have distinct memory of each.

Like the day after Sandy Hook when I went to my nieces’ ballet performance. I walked in late, it was dark, and my sister said, “Are you okay?” with a bit of panic on her face. I said, “Yes, why?” She said, “I thought you’d be upset about the shooting.” And I had been upset, but knew I couldn’t dwell for the sake of my own ability to function. I cannot perpetually think of the time I was 17, smoking a cigarette on the back porch of a pizza parlor, watching SWAT helicopters fly over Columbine. It’s sad to think that I had to push away my grief over something so horrific because its frequency was inconvenient. How horrible is that?

The last time I wrote about this, it was Charleston, and I said we need to keep talking about it, but clearly that is not working. We need more.

At what point does preserving the right to bear arms (the definition of which can be argued) impinge upon the right of everyone else in their journey of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

 

Every time this goes on, we lock down our cities, hole up in our homes and scour the web to make sure our loved ones are safe. We try to make sense. If you haven’t personally experienced this — you will one day. So long as we allow this to go on, and on, and on… Just because our grief and confusion does not have a lobby, does not make our pursuit of happiness any less fractured by fear, violence and confusion.

After I found out Danielle was okay, I began my unending search to understand by scouring news articles—but there weren’t any yet—it was only 4:30 am in the U.S. So instead, I had this brief window of time before the flood of repetitive news articles come out, each one offering little more information then the last. A window where the Facebook feed is still full of life, instead of death. Where I can see that my friend took a bee keeping class, another blushed when he met his top presidential candidate, and another can’t stop taking selfies with his new baby. I sit and wait in limbo to experience the full blow of what will be tomorrow. When we sit and think about gun violence in the United States and do not find a way to fix what is broken, we wait forever in that same window of time, over and over and over again.

For more information on shooting statistics, visit the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) , a nonprofit formed in 2013 to provide free online public access to accurate information about gun-related violence in the United States.