THE END—OR MAYBE NOT . . .

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One cannot reach the sixth or seventh decade (and beyond) of one’s life without having some acquaintance with the grim reaper along the way. I am often mindful of those I have personally lost to “Death’s dateless night”—as the Bard of Avon put it. In recent weeks the subject has been especially poignant as one of my dearest friends lost her husband of over 50 years, and another has been sitting at the bedside of her dying son. (In the natural order of things, it says down here in fine print, parents should not have to bury their children.)

In the meantime, we have such travesties as yet another school shooting—this one in Oregon, not far from where I grew up. One of the youngest victims was my brother’s granddaughter’s stepdaughter. It’s complicated, but it does fit the “six degrees of separation” test.

Most of us (especially those of a certain age) are all too familiar with the steps of the textbook grief process. Sometimes it is really, really hard to let go of the anger stage. I am still angry with my friend Wini who, in the mid-80s, went to sleep at the wheel and crashed her car into an overpass abutment on the freeway. Why on earth did she not just pull over and have a nap? I still miss her gentle wisdom, her unfailing interest in life in all its idiosyncrasies, her love of children, her ability to discuss almost anything from Cardinal Newman to the latest sporting events. (She actually read—completely—three newspapers, two dailies and one weekly, as well as several magazines—all while teaching high school or college English full time!)

With public events like these unspeakable school shootings, the anger is more public, the inevitable “WHY?” is shared more widely, and the futility of loss is more general. Unfortunately, as the public grief follows its course, feelings become diffused, and we lose sight of that healthy anger—anger that could, perhaps, be directed toward finally doing something!

We cannot control all such aberrant behavior as displayed by these pathetic shooters, but—really—shouldn’t we get beyond always equating control of weapons with banning them? They are not the same. Outside the military and licensed collectors and hobbyists, who the hell actually needs an AK-47 or the like? And when was the last time we saw a “well-regulated militia” in this country (other than the National Guard which is more properly an extension of the military itself)? Yeah, we have some militias, all right. Hardly of the “well-regulated” variety, though. Instead, these “militias” have a bunch of weirdos running through the woods in Alabama and Idaho, playing dress-up in camouflage, and getting their jollies in pretending to be “protecting” whatever it is they think needs protecting from God knows whom or what.

Isn’t it time to address this issue like reasonable adults?

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