I am no longer a child with wide eyes and hope for a better future. I’ve been through the future, which now lays at my feet as my past. Best I try, I can’t suppress my crotchety mumbles of “goddamn idiots” and “what’s wrong with ice trays” as I struggle to update my refrigerator’s technology to cube, crush, or even melt my ice from freezing cold to just below room temperature, so that I have the privilege to have a chilled beverage without causing pain to my sensitive teeth. This is America now – a magical land of mystical elves that can create products to ease our most ridiculous concerns without anyone noticing it happened.
At this point, I am 43-years-old. I can quickly list the moments where my “better future” has slapped me in the face with biting reality:
- Struggling as a poor family with a single immigrant mother that barely spoke English
- The racists remarks and actions that I have witnessed based on my browness
- The disappointment of knowing your dreams are not coming true because you need a job more than a degree
- Suffering multiple physical abuses and sexual assaults by a boyfriend
- Realizing love itself isn’t enough for marriage
- Raising daughters in the City of Chicago while crossing my fingers that they won’t get shot walking home from school, in school, at a mall, at the movies, at a concert, in a parking lot, in a church, at work, in an airport, on the beach, in a nightclub, by a former coworker, by a lover, or even their own toddler
Even after all this, I feel compelled to believe that humans are better than all these things. That deep in our heart, we want changes for a “better future.”
Earlier this year, I heard that call for change. I was running through my morning media routine: NPR blaring in the background, my computer screen rolling through the day’s headlines, and Facebook screaming for my attention from my small pocket computer, now known as a phone. Up until this moment, I didn’t realize how long it has been since I last watched Saturday Night Live and had no idea who Katie Rich was.
Katie Rich, a writer on SNL, was on the cusp of being fired for tweeting a joke. Americans, liberal and conservative alike, were pissed according to the media. It was the inauguration of our 45th president; a pocked-skinned tangerine with rosacea named Donald Trump. I apologize. Tangerines are delightful and Trump is an infected ingrown hair that builds to a hard mass that takes too long to pop; sitting on your skin with a daily dull aching reminder of how gross it is. Yet, if you take a needle to it, it would feed off of your resentment, oozing a light clear liquid of hate, but never letting go of its purpose to make you miserable.
The internet was blissfully posting photos of Trump’s family looking disappointed, bored, and completely uninspired about the massive political change they had made in America. Katie Rich seized this opportunity to create a joke that was strong in its set-up, execution, timing, and message, “Barron will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.”
Once I got over my shock that anyone would name their child Barron, I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Then, I hoped and I hoped and I hoped because fuck Trump.
People started posting messages calling for action and social guidelines! No matter the politics, kids are off limits! Katie Rich should be fired for making fun of a child! This is unacceptable behavior! Katie Rich is a bully, she should go!
For the sake of time, I’ll set aside the fact that the actual President, on the campaign trail, consistently bullied and made fun of people, even those with disabilities. Let’s also forget the Obama girls being called apes when they entered the White House or that a GOP Staffer posted on Facebook that the girls should “dress like you deserve respect, not a seat at the bar.” But, let’s not pretend that being a bully or being a dick to kids is something new.
This prompted me to write this status.
To be clear –
If a comedy writer writes a joke about a kid becoming a shooter, we must demand action causing changes. But, if an actual kid actually shoots a roomful of children, we should not demand action causing changes. Is that right, America?
And for those of you who would say that “it’s not the same,” you’re right. In one scenario, a child has his feelings hurt; in the other, children are dead.
It shouldn’t have come as a shock to me that people were crapping large turds of outrage into the social network toilet bowl. But, I wanted to send a message and I wanted it to be clear: demand real action from real people about real issues.
When posting about tragedies where first graders are actually slaughtered through the use of guns, I see many posts of how sorry people are about the tragedy; how prayers and thoughts are with families; or will this ever end? We all know that it never will if we don’t pressure the people and politicians around us the same way Americans did to the heads of Saturday Night Live. SNL has the right to stand by the first amendment and they are a private company. They have no reason to give in to the general public, but they did because it felt like the right thing to do: to listen and make a move.
How is it that American politicians can stand over the graves of dozens of six and seven-year-olds without wanting to change our gun laws? What is going on with the American public that we can pressure companies to fire employees for being racists or hate rich white kids but we cannot get any traction to fire the goddamn National Rifle Association, a lobbying group that consistently donates money to politicians to block legislation that requests simple hearings and studies of the effects of guns as a health crisis, like the ones implemented for helmet safety, car seats, and beer!
The worst reality is that in the American legislative system, we, as citizens, are supposed to be the boss. We’re supposed to be able to demand that our representatives take action and then if they don’t, we are supposed to have the power to fire them. We don’t though. Why? Because it’s much easier to shame a corporation from our couch about an employee’s bad behavior than it is to show up to protests, donate money, and make threatening calls to politicians to change the landscape of violence in America.
There are no stakes for us in getting Katie Rich fired. She’s one woman whose name will soon get lost in the annals of 5-minute-scandals. But, to enact real change in our system, we have to take risks. We’d have to be the new David staring into the barrel of Goliath’s gun by getting off the couch, moved by faith, and putting down our 150 oz drink to attempt our first shot. We have to face the reality of who were are as a culture, question what we are doing, and face the fact that someone we love could walk into any room and murder us all because this is also what America is now – a place where no one is safe.
Mother Jones has been tracking the number of mass shootings, defined as three or more victims killed in an indiscriminate public rampage, from 1982 through today – 85 thus far with 48 happening in just the last 10 years. Chicago has a running tally on several websites that tracks daily shootings, which between January 2016 and now stands at 4,880 with 513 just these last two months. It feels like there as many sites for tracking gun related deaths as there are Tinder profiles. All this information, all the witnesses to carnage, and still we continue to sit and wait for someone else to do something.
And let’s be real. We’re all scared. What do we know about gun control? What do we know about legislation? How do you even start a conversation with your local representatives, let alone all of Congress, while standing nose to nose with a massive powerhouse like the NRA? The answer is that you do it. You put on foot in front of the other and you walk into the offices and you say, “Hey, I am a member of your district and I want to help figure this out.”
You look to donate to organizations that help locally as well as nationally, like Ceasefire or Sandy Hook Promise. You get involved in letter writing campaigns. You sit across the table of a beloved family member and tell them to keep their guns, but ask them to stop donating to the NRA or acting like we don’t have a problem. You vote out the people in power who are backed by an organization that is funded by retailers whose sole purpose is to sell more guns! I mean c’mon! Buying a silencer screams murder!
Ah! There I go, being crotchety again and preaching. I can say this about President Mucus Membrane That Appears on My Underwear When I’m Ovulating is that he has created some fighters in our people. I wish 500,000 people would have marched on Washington after Sandy Hook, Columbine, Orlando, Fort Hood, Planned Parenthood, the Sikh Temple, the Charleston Church, and so many others. I know I wish I had.
In my heart of hearts, I fear that reviewing and revamping our gun laws will fly under our priorities. I hope that it won’t take another mass shooting for us to take notice again. I can only wish that the NRA would tweet a hilarious joke about Trump’s kid so we can truly become outraged and demand change and then, maybe, I could believe in a “better future” again because despite my cynicism I really want it.
Written for and read at The Skewer , a monthly live news revue satirizing the demon squall of this mad world. You can hear the live podcast here.
Well-written, beautiful essay. I read it twice–once out loud because the metaphors for Trump were so pleasant to say aloud. The outrage over a joke was pretty silly to me. Poor Chelsea–remember what she faced. So–just tell her–“Hey, no more jokes like that, OK?” and don’t fire her–that was my view. But GUN control? Sensible gun control? We just passed a bill allowing the mentally ill to purchase guns. I HAVE noticed that the shredding of the first amendment doesn’t seem to bother our fellow Republicans as much as ANY move to even STUDY the effects of gun control. Thank you, Elizabeth,.