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Opinion

Mayday!


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • May. 26, 2022 - 3:24 PM

Mayday!

Longtime Newnan resident Susie Berta has many creative pursuits, including music, art, writing, cooking, gardening, entertaining and decorating. She is now pursuing her passion for writing and recently published her memoir, “The Veterinarian’s Wife,” which is available now on Amazon and locally at Corner Arts Gallery and Gift Shop. She can be reached at susie.berta@gmail.com.

Been a busy week. The month of May is always a train wreck. Our calendars resemble abstract art, heavy on the graphics, light on the negative space.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, students, graduating seniors, politicians, voters, and everybody planning for events, summer childcare, and the final episodes of This Is Us, knows this.

After this particular week, though, I am reminded that our May calendars these days must also have one or more mass shootings penciled in. My God. What is wrong with us? Unfortunately, this is not a TV show. This really is us now.

Last week, it was a hate crime in a Buffalo grocery store. This week it’s an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. These have been happening everywhere, for years, and I’m so sick of it. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and on and on. There have been 27 school shootings this year alone in the U.S. and it’s only May. Do the grizzly math and figure the unholy average per month. Unacceptable.

The elementary school children in Texas and their teachers who are lost will not have any more days to count til Christmas or til graduation or til their weddings or their birthdays. The only calendars left to them are the ones their loved ones keep that count the days since they were murdered.

Shame on us for allowing this madness year after year after year.

An editorial cartoon this week took my breath away. A perplexed angel at the pearly gates talks to a non-plussed St Peter: “They keep sending thoughts and prayers… and their kids.” Dark. True. Just damn.

So, in light of this week’s dark, deadly chaos, and the general, busy calendar activities that suddenly now pales in comparison, I thought I’d keep this column simple. Banal. Easygoing.

I’ve tried to Zen out, clear my mind, make room for quiet and calm inspiration.

First simple thought: write about watching paint dry. Um, no. Delete.

Second thought: Hey, Alex McRae actually interviewed a speed bump once. Maybe I should interview my furniture. That’s it. I got this.

Pause.

Nah, I haven’t got this.

The children, their families, their schoolmates and teachers are too much with me and I cannot think of anything else. Little kids and their teachers were massacred last Tuesday in a school, a place where they should’ve been safe.

No, I most definitely do not have this.

No one’s got this. That’s the problem. That’s been the problem for years.

If we really want to stop the madness we would do something about it. Or at least try.

I remember when the speed limit was actually lowered on some freeways because the higher speed limit had proven too dangerous. Can we also slow down the all too easy, speedy access to assault weapons and still preserve the 2nd amendment? How? Are we even willing to talk about it? For the sake of our children?

Food for thought, though: when the 10-year federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004, mass shootings doubled. And here we are.

Do not tell me it’s not about the automatic weapon; that it’s only about the evil guy behind the butt plate.

It takes two to tango, yo. I’ve yet to hear of an assault weapon operating solo without someone to pull the trigger in the most inappropriate places: schools, churches, synagogues, offices, stores, movie theaters, homes, and neighborhood streets. No, clearly anyone who would commit mass murder is mentally ill, but it’s definitely about the gun, too. Guns and their shooters are literal partners in crime and cannot be separated from one another.

Could law-abiding citizens who want to defend themselves, or hunt, or enjoy target practice manage without assault weapons? Maybe we could raise the gun purchasing age to 21 when the teenage amygdala is more mature. The majority of school shootings have been committed by those under the age of 21.

Could we all at least support stricter regulations, registering, and licensing guns? We require as much for a vehicle, and we must carry driver’s licenses and insurance. Don’t tell me our children’s lives aren’t worth the same trouble.

These ideas aren’t the magic be-all and end-all solutions, of course, so let’s keep moving forward. Let’s not let excuses for why we can’t improve something be our default answer. We must not give up.

There must be more answers. Those answers ought not to rely on simply upping-the-ante and arming every teacher, school, movie theater usher, salesperson, office worker, minister, and security guard with like weapons, either. Then we become a Marvel movie on an endless loop, everyone relying on nonstop, rapid-fire violence, death, destruction, and mayhem. I do not want to foresee a dystopian future when steel shades cover every window in every building, bullet proof doors and walls are required building code, and Kevlar is the de rigueur fashion fabric of the times.

Our solutions should involve less violence, not more.

I don’t believe in binary, simplistic answers for the problem, either. Let’s not limit our conversation to mental health vs gun laws. The solution is found in brave collaboration, and examination of everything.

As a general observation, people are still good, and caring, and benevolent. But we have also become polarized, pessimistic, and paralyzed. We are solipsistic, selfish, and short-sighted. We have completely lost track of saving humanity as our priority. We refuse cooperative solutions, dispense with give and take, and eschew as impossible the concept of selfless, bright, creative, and willing minds coming together (imagine!), agreeing to talk about and come up with multi-faceted solutions (imagine, again!)?

Can those solutions — a tall order but all for the greater good — examine and address the causes of mass shootings as well as how we enable them in order to effect change? Can we take an honest look at today’s mental health issues, social media influences, societal mores, pressures, and inequities, and emotional triggers, along with our current gun laws, or lack thereof, around assault weapons? Are we brave enough to indict ourselves, accept our shortcomings, clean up our act, and do better? Can we look at immovable politicians, gun lobbies, and the NRA? Can we decry all those who accept money in return for looking the other way, pointing fingers, and going deaf to screaming, dying children? Or worse, those who pray over problems they are unwilling to solve? Are we going to continue rationalizing, avoiding responsibility and our reflections in the mirror, or are we going to grow up and figure this out?

Too many innocent lives have already been taken. We must all drop the “who me?” attitude and look carefully, respectfully, and responsibly at everything, every damn thing. Everything from policies to permits; from common sense to innovative, bipartisan concessions and cooperation across the aisle. If we can’t all work together, if we don’t manage to summon the willingness to find collaborative answers in common ground, I truly fear we really are doomed to live an eternal, horrific, repetitive Groundhog Day.

I sat down to write this column, utterly speechless. I was about to beg off, to say, “give me a week and maybe I can write something then.”

I really thought I had no words. I was wrong. Silence is not an option.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

There is no time to waste. Let’s do this. We simply must get it together.

For good.

Longtime Newnan resident Susie Berta has many creative pursuits, including music, art, writing, cooking, gardening, entertaining and decorating. She is now pursuing her passion for writing and recently published her memoir, “The Veterinarian’s Wife,” which is available now on Amazon and locally at Corner Arts Gallery and Gift Shop. She can be reached at susie.berta@gmail.com.