This past week, I moved my younger daughter and her boyfriend out to Colorado — the Denver area — where they will be beginning a new chapter in their lives. They have jobs lined up, a very nice apartment with a gorgeous view of the Rockies, and big plans for what their future together might hold. (People ask me how I feel about them living together. Nancy and I lived together for nearly two years before we married, so even if I minded, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on . . .)
It was a very Dad week for me. My younger kid and her beau wanted to drive in the moving truck together, with him doing most of the driving and her navigating, keeping him focused and awake, etc., etc. One of their cars was on the truck trailer. The other . . . well, the other I drove. 1250 miles in two and half days. And then we moved all their stuff into their third floor apartment (no elevator).
That’s what dads do. It’s the sort of thing my dad might have done for me. I thought of him a lot this week, as I dispensed the sort of advice he would have given my siblings and me, and did my best to be the calming, reasonable voice when things grew fraught, as they often do with moves of this magnitude. As I say, very Dad.
I am kind of exhausted from all the driving and from carrying stuff up all those freaking stairs, but I am so glad I did it. I loved being there to help, to see their new place and the wonderful neighborhood around it, to give all that advice, and to buy them a nice dinner when the difficult work was finished. I wouldn’t trade this past week for anything, even though while in the middle of it I wouldn’t have said it was fun. Because dads are supposed to help our grown kids begin their adult lives. We’re supposed to do that sort of hard work. I was lucky to have the opportunity.
As we all know — painfully, tragically, sickeningly — too many dads in Uvalde, Texas (this time), had a very different week.
Dads are not supposed to worry about their kids being shot dead in their schools. Dads are not supposed to mourn in elementary school parking lots. They shouldn’t have to wonder why police didn’t do their jobs, why so many “good guys with guns” let a bad guy with a gun run amok in that building for so long. Dads shouldn’t have to ask why an eighteen-year-old kid had access to a weapon of war and all the ammunition needed to take so many lives, or why the leaders of their state are so concerned with “promoting a culture of life” that they turn a blind eye to the dangers and sins of an industry of death. Dads shouldn’t have to worry that their child (or their partner, or they themselves) might be shot in a grocery store or a movie theater or a mall, or any of the dozens of places that have been the scenes of horrific shootings over the past couple of decades.
And, the fact is, in most of the world, certainly in most of the wealthier nations to which we in the United States like to compare ourselves, dads don’t have to worry about such things. Mass shootings of the sort we’ve seen this month in Uvalde and Buffalo are far, far, far more common in the U.S. than they are in any of the countries we consider our international peer-group.
Why? Republican politicians, who fear the electoral retribution of the National Rifle Association more than they do news of another mass killing, tell us this is a problem of mental illness, not guns. So is it their position that Americans are more prone to mental illness than are people in other countries? Are they saying we are more likely to be murderous psychopaths? Is that what they mean by American exceptionalism? There’s a winning platform. I can’t wait to see them put that on a bumper sticker.
Or is it possible, just maybe, that we have way, way, way more murders and suicides by firearm — per capita as well as in absolute numbers — than, say, Italy, or France, or Spain, of the United Kingdom, or Australia, or New Zealand, or Japan, or Ireland, or Finland, or Sweden, or Denmark, or Canada, or Belgium, or Greece, or Germany, or Poland, or Portugal, etc., etc., etc., because we have way, way, way more guns than they do? And because our guns are so readily available. And because our state legislatures are constantly passing laws to make them easier to conceal and carry.
Yes, the right to bear arms is in our Constitution. Everyone knows that. Far fewer people give consideration to the meaning of the exact wording of the amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
If we’re going to keep the damn amendment (and there is zero chance we’ll ever get rid of it — the Founders saddled us with a culture of guns and death that will forever haunt our nation) can’t we at least honor its complete wording? Is it so fucking hard for people to admit that we have a gun problem in the United States? If tightening laws surrounding background checks, mental health checks, gun-show sales, and the availability of ammunition can save even one life, can spare even one dad the gut-wrenching horror of going through what those parents in Uvalde have endured this week, wouldn’t it be worth a little inconvenience?
Or are we too much in the thrall of the gun lobby even for that?
Have a great week. Stay safe.