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God, Guns and Guts

by Liz Flaherty

It is said by some that this country was built by God, guts, and guns. I tend to think that's true. It's also true that the South was partially built on the backs of slaves, manufacturing gained strength from the employment of children, and a whole bunch of people once thought the world was flat.

Times change. Slavery, thank goodness, is an ugly part of the past; there are laws that impede the exploitation of children employees; and when no one's ships fell off the edge of the ocean, people figured out that the world was round.

Now, about God, guts, and guns. I believe God's still here, though I imagine He shakes His head a lot. Goodness know, the guns are still here. I'm not sure about the guts.

I think I could have survived back in the days when our country was young. I'd have been noisy about it, but I'd have lived to tell the story. There were terrible things to worry about then. Disease, the elements, hunger. There weren't any social programs, so if you got old and poor and sick, well, too bad for you. If you were a woman who wanted to be educated or work to help support your family or vote or in many cases even own property, you could forget that, too.

So the people then did what they had to do. They treated disease with all the knowledge they had at hand, braved the elements because there was no alternative, and fought hunger every way they could. Social programs came into being which have eased, although not eradicated, the suffering of the old, poor, and sick. Women got educated, got jobs, got the vote, and can own whatever they please.

They had guns in those pioneering days, but they weren't assault rifles made with the intent of doing physical damage to other people. They hunted with them, to provide meat, and they used them to protect their families from all who sought to harm.

Their children didn't take them to school to shoot other children.

I can hear it now: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

Tell that to the people whose children have died, because I don't believe it.

Lest you think I'm supporting the removal of guns from the hands of private citizens, I'm not. But what is so terribly wrong with the word "control?" What negative difference will a waiting period make in the scheme of things when there is at least a chance it would make a positive one? What in the world do you need with an assault rife or with any other weapon that can cause mass destruction?

When the first of the school shootings happened, I was so grateful that at least that was one concern that was behind me, because my children had all graduated. But it's not behind me at all, because I have a daughter and son-in-law who are teachers. I don't worry a lot any more that students' parents will get mad at my teacher kids or that they'll lose their jobs to reductions in force. No, now I get to worry that they'll get shot. I look at my five grandkids and feel that same heart-in-my-throat terror I felt for their parents in that age of precious innocence.

And it doesn't end there. When I drive by the ball park and see kids practicing baseball or shooting baskets, I wonder if any of them will be hurt by violence or if any of them will become perpetrators.

Who's to blame? I don't know. What can we do to stop it? I don't know that, either, though I certainly wish I did. When a solution is found, will we have the sense to create the changes that are needed? You tell me. In this time of no one taking responsibility for anything, have we lost the guts to do things right?

I keep looking for a tidy end to this essay, some way to tie in this country's beginnings with the mess we've made of the American Dream. But there's no connection. There's no tidy end. And children are still dying.



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