I know. I was going to take a couple of days off from posting.
But. when I get something stuck in my teeth I have to dislodge it or it will keep me awake and drive me crazy.
I'm going to discuss a couple of topics.
All, seemingly, unrelated.
But, if I do it right, by the end of this post each thread will weave with the others to form a tapestry that will all make sense.
(Sorry, Gary. But you know it's true. You're still da' man in my book!)
Here we go...
Did you ever have one of those friends when you were in college or high school or prison, or wherever you spent your late teens/ early 20s? That friend that you had next to nothing in common with but was a friend anyway, because he came with the package with the rest of your friends?
You know who I'm talking about. We all had one. (Or maybe more.)
He (I'm sure that there were "she-s" as well, but I'm sticking with "he" for the sake of simplicity,) was basically a douchebag.
Obsessed with Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Curtis Sliwa. And to that end, fantasized endlessly about forming a "Guardian Angels" type squad to protect the campus after dark. But never had the self discipline to do it.
He fetishized weapons and uniforms, subscribed to "Guns & Ammo" and "Soldier of Fortune," and spent more time mapping out Dungeons & Dragons maps than studying for classes.
He was a misogynistic prick to his steady girlfriend and the other women that he openly lusted after.
(And, you know that for a fact, because all of those women came to you to tell you about what a prick he was.)
And, maybe, you might have ended up marrying his ex.
Okay, now put this bit on the back burner on the stovetop of your mind and simmer on "Low."
We'll come back to this.
Unless you live in a cave without access to TV, radio, newspapers or the internet, you have seen/read/heard all sorts of stories about gun related deaths all over the country, pretty much every day.
Not the mass shootings, but the stories of shootings that fill the news cycle spaces between the Auroras, Newtowns, and Navy Yards.
Now, eliminate the stories about shootings with malicious intent.
That leaves accidental shootings.
From there, let's subtract the accidental shootings that are caused by adults.
That leaves the reports of children (and for the sake of this point, I will stretch the definition of children to anyone under the age of 21.)
Holy shit! There sure seem to be a lot of stories left.
I feel like I read these reports two or three times a week.
Unsupervised youths killing each other or themselves while playing with a loaded gun that some "responsible gun owner" left laying around.
At first, we react with outrage and anger.
But, after a while, our outrage seems to be supplanted by resignation. And our empathy takes a back seat to a sort of numb acceptance that the stories are just anecdotal semi-fictions that happened to someone else, somewhere else.
These days, we live in a culture where "Based on a True Story" means that someone paid someone else a truckload of money for the book and movie rights to their interesting life story, only to change every single, actual fact of the story, including the someone's name, in favor of a more interesting fiction.
because, Dude! That shit is gold!"
In today's culture, true stories, even when they are "hot off the press" are disposable.
We may still care. We have just stopped relating.
And... switch burners. Back to the first topic.
Decades later, you get a "friend" request from the Dungeon Master Douchebag.
And, even though, deep down, you know that that can not possibly end well...
Because, why not? It could be a hoot.
Not surprisingly, your newsfeed is suddenly flooded with NRA pro-gun, veiled racist Tea Party, anti-Obama, anti-liberal, anti-government, anti-IRS, "support the troops," islamophobic, libertarian, Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, Rand Paul batshit, being "shared" by this guy.
As I said...
But, all these years later, a new wrinkle has been added.
And, not just any old "born again," "WWJD?" "God is an Umercan patriot God."
The guy who once viewed chemical contraception as used by the women that he hoped to fuck as proof of God's existence, is now a full on, Pope fellating, Knights of Columbus Catholic.
Which not only satisfies his aforementioned weapon and uniform fetish...
It also rationalizes his view of women as chattel and adds a selection of pious, "God Wants You to Know" affirmations and "pro-life" (at least until you are born) memes to his Facebook newsfeed.
And... back to simmer.
There is a funny quirk about my current job.
One that I find personally satisfying.
If an outrageous news story or viral story on the social media pops up...
There is a good chance that, within a week or two, the broadcast waves, ink and paper or pixels on my monitor will, magically coalesce into actual, living human beings, right in front of me. And, suddenly, those disposable, anecdotal, semi-fictional characters from the 24 hour news cycle have morphed into real people with real lives, real stories and real emotions.
And that slams me back into being the empathetic, feeling person that I imagine myself to be.
Which brings me back to the stories of accidental gun deaths of children.
I have spent the last two days with parents from some of these stories.
The grieving parents of some of those kids who died at the wrong end of a gun, because of an accident.
Some angry (and rightly so,) at the "responsible" gun owning parent who left a loaded pistol where their kid could get a hold of it.
Some blaming themselves, (and rightly so,) for leaving the loaded weapon where their unsupervised child could put his hands on it.
The parents of a seven-year-old whose seven-year-old playmate was showing off the gun his dad left where he could get ahold of it.
The parents of the 19-year-old who would rather believe that their son lost a battle with personal demons and took his own life, rather than believe the eyewitnesses who say that he was just messing around with the gun. Better, I guess, to believe that their son took his own life, intentionally, rather than concede that his cause of death was "dumb-fuckery."
Just when I fear that I am losing touch with the real world, and therefore, losing my empathy, the real world drops by my place of business and gives me a swift kick in the head.
And, while I am sorry for everyone's loss and grief, I am grateful for the reality check.
And this, I hope, is where it all comes together.
Call it a "perfect storm."
Call it "bad timing."
Not minutes after I said good by to the last of the grief stricken parents, I took advantage of the lull and checked my Facebook news feed.
And there it was. "Shared" by my Catholic, Conservative, douchebag, friend.
A "pro-life," meme posted by a pro-gun propagandist.
Not his fault, really. How could he know how tasteless I would find his "Share" at this one point in time?
But that happened.
And, here is my epiphany...
And fuck everyone like him.
Empathy is the single most important gift that life has imbued us with.
Sympathy and charity, and even, "love," take a distant second and take little effort.
But, empathy takes actual, hands-on effort.
Empathy is hard work. But, mastering it is the only good reason to be.
And that is why this "friend" has been unfriended. It will probably be months before he notices.
But, how does that meme go?
And, I ain't got time for you or your hypocrisy.
'Cause I know what you did in college.