Nightmare Begins Responsibility

A poem by Michael S. Harper, titled “Nightmare Begins Responsibility,” is one I have treasured for the poet’s raw emotion at losing two children. He lays open his grief, his feeling of powerlessness, his desperation. The title reminds us we have to come to grips in the midst of horror, accept the responsibility of our own position in such circumstances. How does one move forward when a wonderful child has been lost and how do we deal with that grief?

I received very sad news Saturday. My wonderful aunt lost her beloved nephew in the shooting in Santa Barbara. He was a very loved young man, the only child of two great parents who made considerable sacrifices for his well-being and upbringing, sending a good citizen on his start into this world. His family is *truly* devastated, as his father said on TV. Christopher’s mother is taking it very hard as is his grandmother and his cousin, my uncle has told me.

It pains me horribly to see how grief-stricken my own cousin appears in photos that are all over the internet and TV (he is the dark blond with his arm around a woman on the side of the photos). Christopher was as close to a little brother as he could have. When I see Christopher’s photo, I see my aunt’s eyes, the genetic legacy he carries from her family. I see his mother’s dark-haired beauty.

I have been thinking a lot about this for the past few days, of course. I have only one son who is dearer to me than anything else in this world. He is my gift, my fortune, my reason. Christopher’s parents felt the same way about their son, so I can only anguish for his mother. In my grief for Caryn and Richard, I have decided to write something to support their family.

I have pored over the articles trying to understand the motives of the young man, Elliot Rodger, and his means of carrying out the deaths he perpetrated. It was clear he was hell bent on killing himself and taking others with him. It was clear that several people knew he was expressing certain delusional and dark ideas and tried to act but were restrained by the law as much as the law did not restrain this young man from owning a weapon made for killing.

Christopher Michaels-Martinez’s father blamed the NRA and the “craven” politicians who allowed his son to die. I agree wholeheartedly. No needs to own a semi-automatic weapon. The only reason to have one is the intent to take someone else’s life. Period. Many of the guns the NRA supports the right to own are expressly made to kill other humans—not animals—efficiently and devastatingly. And the proliferation of these weapons, the easy access to them, is supported because the development and sale of these weapons make lots of people lots of money. That’s the bottom line.

These weapons are not being made to create a “well regulated” militia, and the argument that people need to arm themselves them against a government that overtakes them is laughable. Believe me, when the government takes over, they will have means much more insidious and devastating than a mere gun. Your assault rifle is not going to stop them from making laws to gerrymander voting districts, keep records of your electronic communications, or torture in the name of security.

A law regulating the guns that Elliot Rodger purchased would not have prevented the deaths of the people he killed with a knife. However, it would have curtailed his rampage greatly. Elliot Rodger killed Christopher quickly and efficiently with little effort with a semi-automatic weapon that required little effort to use. It was designed to kill. And it is documented in his writings that once he purchased his first gun, he felt emboldened. Perhaps if he hadn’t gotten the gun, he would not have acted at all.

The Rodger family was in a very difficult position with their son. He was clearly mentally ill and mental illnesses such as his often develop or are exacerbated at precisely this time in life—when the brain is in its final physical development and when a person is set suddenly free to make his own choices, sink or swim, and the pressures of making those choices exacerbates the anxieties, fears, angers that he has fostered in his delusions.

The law prevented his parents and therapists from doing anything to stop him. It regulated them. They could not insist he was evaluated in a mental institution. They could only beg police officers to look in on him, police officers who were also rendered helpless by the law. Their right to stop Elliot was taken away while his right to kill was freely given to him.

A federal ban on semi-automatic weapons makes complete sense. A vote was up in the Senate after Sandy Hook and received 55 affirmative votes. If the Senate wasn’t rigged to require a super majority, it would have passed. If the ban on such weapons was made law, a young man with homicidal and delusional intent would not be able to walk into a gun store and buy a gun as easily as if he were presenting an ID to get a drink.

It would have saved the life of a young man like Christopher Michaels-Martinez, who through no fault of his own, no culpability whatsoever, was shot dead, a shot that was felt brutally by his family and loved ones and his community.

With nightmare begins responsibility. When are you, Legislators, going to put your foot down and stop pandering to the NRA? When are we going to step up and protect our children and ourselves? Not one more.

6 thoughts on “Nightmare Begins Responsibility

  1. Pingback: Nightmare Begins Responsibility (Post-48177) - [O.L.D.] Old London Docks Best Feeds

  2. At the moment, I am without words – a rarity for me. I feel deep sadness for you and your family in your loss, a senseless and grievous loss. My other feelings of deep disappointment and outrage at the social situation that allows for this kind of thing to happen will find their expression elsewhere, but rest assured that I stand with you.
    May grace and comfort surround you all.

  3. First of all I feel so much with you and your family! I could not imagine what we would do when my children or one of my nieces and nephews would have been killed. But we are lucky, we live in Germany where the ownership of weapons is strictly limited and the chance to get shot here is 80% lower ( Weapons do not protect, they are danger! Military does not protect, it causes war! We should not be fooled by the lobby of the weapon industries. Thank you for reminding us. It cannot be said loud enough.

  4. You know my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Has no-one in the NRA ever paused to consider that the US has more guns than any other country, and more guns per person (8.5 guns for every 10 people). It also has the highest firearm homicide rate in the developed world (and the highest rate of unintentional firearm deaths.)

    Is it a co-incidence that the US one of only three countries – Guatemala, Mexico and the United States – where citizens have a constitutional right to bear arms.

    Factual research proves that guns do not make a nation safer. US doctors have compared the rate of firearms-related deaths in countries where many people own guns with the death rate in countries where gun ownership is rare.

    Their findings, published in the American Journal of Medicine, clearly disproved the popular argument used by the NRA many people in the United States that guns make a country safer. On the contrary, the research showed the US, with the most guns per head in the world, has the highest rate of deaths from firearms, while Japan, which has the lowest rate of gun ownership, has the least.

    The facts are simple – more guns mean more deaths. Gun ownership rate is a strong and independent predictor of firearm-related death.

    Private gun ownership is highest in the US. Japan, on the other end, has an extremely low gun ownership rate. Firearm-related deaths in the US are (10.2 per 100,000), while in the United Kingdom there is an extremely low rate of firearm-related deaths (0.25 per 100,000).

    To everyone in civilian life living in a town or city who reads this and is thinking “it is my right to own a gun and so I will”. I say ask yourself these questions –

    a) what is the reason you own a gun; and
    b) have you ever been even close to having to use that gun to protect your or another persons life

    Perhaps it is time every individual, including the members of the US Senate and the NRA should be honest about the necessity and sad reality of wide spread gun-ownership and stop the madness now.

    Footnote: I am not a US citizen or resident, I am an Australian citizen living in Australia but I understand facts.

    I also know that in April 1996 at Port Arthur, Tasmania on one afternoon Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old mentally ill young man armed with automatic weapons killed 35 people and wounded 23 others.

    As a consequence the Australian Federal Government heavily restricted the availability of all semi-automatic weapons and in 2010 The American Journal of Law and Economics reported that firearm homicides in Australia dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006.

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