Glocks at Dairy Queen
After work, I turned on the news.
I watch very little news these days.
I am almost on day 20 of active sobriety/work in AA and I’m learning a lot about my own drinking “triggers.”
News can be one, so I no longer overindulge in CNN, MSNBC, or NPR
(the latter being the least likely to send me toward the bottle).
Today, I caught part of an interview on CNN.
A teenager was being interviewed about her friend who died in a grocery store in Colorado.
She could easily have been one of my students, and her friend — now deceased, grinning in a selfie, curly hair, goofy-teen-boy smile —
could have easily been one of my students, also.
Her face is red from crying.
She’s wearing a beanie.
Her hair is long, brown.
I can’t bear it.
I turn this off.
Remember your first job?
I remember mine.
I bagged groceries for Jewel,
a grocery store chain in Chicagoland.
I bagged groceries for minimum wage
(something like 4.25 in the early nineties)
and pushed wayward grocery carts back into their corral
when customers were too lazy to do this themselves.
Rain, snow, heat, on my period, off my period, I bagged groceries
and pushed carts. And I dreamed.
I was fourteen. I dreamed.
I dreamed of a future where I no longer worked at a grocery store.
I dreamed of a future where I was anywhere else but Arlington Heights, IL.
I dreamed of personal peace and joy and success.
If someone had asked me, “Would you feel comfortable dying
in the grocery store?”
I would have been horrified.
But every day we ask young Americans to be comfortable with possibly dying: in school, at a park, in a house of worship, or in a grocery store
where you dream of a future that doesn’t include codes for spills and cleanups or lazy, rude customers who leave their carts strewn all over the parking lot for some poorly paid teenage girl on her period
to schlep back in the swampy July heat.
The interviewer on CNN asked the girl about what her friend “liked”
about his job.
What a stupid question.
As though this child was working in some field, some chosen career.
Fuck the JOB. We didn’t even give this kid a chance
to know how it might feel to live long enough in America
that he found a profession he actually “liked.”
I might be wrong, but I would bet that boy didn’t give a fuck about his “job.”
He needed a little $$ to get him closer to whatever version of this American life he hoped to have. Or thought he wanted.
Or dreamed of.
Because Republicans have been too cowardly to pass even the most tepid of gun control legislation
(lest they “upset” the white lunatic fringe of this country),
that kid died in a GROCERY STORE.
He wasn’t in the military.
He wasn’t on a police force.
He was in a grocery store.
A grocery store after years in the American education system
where we would rather make kids (and adults) endure the trauma
of make believe “mass shootings” than put in the work to create and pass logical gun control laws.
I am sick of this country pandering to the dumbest, meanest, most broken among us.
I am sick of this country sacrificing the lives of our young
(arguably a society’s greatest asset and most precious treasure)
because White Supremacist Bill is going to get mad if he has to wait on a background check before purchasing an AR-15.
Fuck White Supremacist Bill’s needs.
He’s broken. A lost cause. He loves things and illusions far more than
he loves truth and reality. We cannot convince Bill to change,
nor can we let Bill call the shots.
But we do.
In government. In schools. In hospitals.
We let Bills call the shots.
We are so scared of Bill that sometimes we HIRE HIM just to placate him.
I don’t know what we do with all of this nation’s Bills (see what I did there?), but I think a good start would be by saying,
“Hey, Bill. You’re drunk. You’re crazy. You’re mean as fuck.
Go home and let the Actual Adults take it from here.”
Quit capitulating to these crazy fuckers.
Or to paraphrase the late Nancy Reagan, “Just say no.”
(That campaign, by the way, was such a major success: by the time I was twenty I not only had a drinking problem, but a taste for cocaine, and an incredibly expensive addiction to cigarettes.)
I’m a little down today, reader.
It’s a little bit my eye, a little bit the last fifteen months,
a lot that I can’t be back on campus with my students.
A lot of the latter.
I miss them. Crazily so.
And then I see a sad kid who could be my kid on television
and she’s having to talk about her dead friend who died,
in his teens, at a grocery store in the United States.
The primal “why?”
The horrible answers.
The same answers over and over again:
cowardice, laziness, greed,
racism, sexism, entitlement.
The deafening refusal to make even the smallest concessions
so that this doesn’t happen over and over and over again.
Look: no one should die in a grocery store, but you must admit
there is something acutely painful about a young adult
dying at a minimum wage job.
If the child had died of work-related causes
(one might be able to argue that in America, death-by-gun is “work related”), the business would have been shuttered.
Because he was killed by an “outsider”
(there’s no such thing, America — if you cooked ’em, you made ’em)
with a gun, we’ll just collectively shrug our shoulders and go on with business as usual: the tedious, maddeningly cyclical news coverage and the idiot masses droning on about how much they love their guns
because Fox News and Republican politicians have deliberately
scrambled their little brains so that they’ve lost touch
with their most basic humanity, much less reality.
The reality is this: no one should be shot while shopping for groceries.
No one should be shot while ringing up groceries.
No one should be shot while bagging groceries.
A grocery store should never be a fucking combat zone.
A school should never be a combat zone.
A house of worship should never be a combat zone.
Life is so brief, our very existence so unlikely, we should not have to die at the end of some crazy white dude’s gun.
(It’s almost always white men — don’t @ me, as they say.)
My wife and I sometimes talk about Sandy Hook as the event that showed us the politicians weren’t going to help us.
We were on our own with these crazy white men
and their guns. Defenseless.
I don’t own a gun. I don’t want to own a gun.
People all around me are buying guns right now.
Even people who I used to know as “anti-gun.”
I don’t want a gun.
I don’t want anyone to have a gun.
I am not a politician, so don’t worry about me “taking your guns”
— I live in Arizona. I see people with guns all the time,
and I stay far away from these people, and I think,
“How sad it must be to live in such fear that you need to bring your glock
to Dairy Queen.”
Guns don’t impress me or make me feel safe.
On the contrary, I find them terrifying.
The same way I find meth, self-driving cars,
and atomic bombs “terrifying.”
I want nothing to do with any of these things.
Gun fanatics talk a lot about their “right” to own a gun.
I’ve written here before about “rights.”
Just because you have a “right” doesn’t mean it is “correct”
to exercise that “right” freely and carelessly,
Also, what about my right, or that kid’s right,
not to be shot while finishing a shift at the grocery store;
which was just a job, for a period of time,
until he grew up and found something better suited
to his dreams.