By Lizzie Kramer
Several months ago, I was invited to a party at the home of a Buddhist friend of mine.
I walked up the stairs leading into the kitchen of her small home, where gun paraphernalia was displayed on slotted hooks of the enclosed walls.
It surprised me. She is a yoga teacher and a practicing Buddhist. The first limb of yoga is “ahimsa” or non-violence, and non-violence is, on a very obvious level, not using weapons. Guns are weapons.
I used my interpretation of “ahimsa” at that moment in time to not pass judgement on her and get upset about something that I felt I had no control over. Along with that, my cultural conditioning took over—it was her home and her life-style.
Who am I to say something about it?
Yet trauma is inherent in our current culture, and guns are used in the hands of people who have no real grasp of the value of their own lives and take the lives of other humans, daily.
They have no grasp of the gentle current that connects us all and take the lives of animals for sport.
So who am I not to say something about it?
I was raised in a home where I was told that the NRA is an organization that protects the freedom of the American people and the phrase, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” was used freely.
While I can see the truth in that statement, people are the ones holding the guns; people are only using guns as a means of defense and harm. Guns are completely un-necessary for our continuation as a human species. The only reason we have guns is because we are afraid. Other people have guns and we believe we have to have something to defend ourselves with, we have to have something to fight against them with. We go straight into fight or flight response and all of a sudden we’re grabbing at an invisible gun right next to us when someone insults us.
If no one has a gun, then who is there to shoot?
Several months later I sat in the classroom of my community college. We had been assigned to show pieces of our lives in two minute skits. One student chose to demonstrate coming home from a day of working at Dairy Queen and before he opened up the fridge to swig Jack Daniels, he placed an airsoft gun down on the table.
He was a manager who trained the other employees, and said that during his working hours he would use the gun to shoot those who weren’t doing their jobs correctly.
Later that week he asked to leave class so he could retrieve the play we were reading from his car across campus. He felt insecure about leaving the script in the car, and so, with bravado, he announced that he would run to get the script from his car in less than five minutes.
Someone suggested that we hide from him in the corner of the classroom, pretending that we weren’t there so that he would come back and we would be gone. I had a funny feeling about this, because I knew that he was dealing with some insecurities. I was concerned that it would hurt his feelings, and a little frightened about how he might react (a fear that I am not sure wasn’t residue left from my own trauma or from fear that I felt based on what I knew about him).
He seemed like he could be over-sensitive and easily hurt, hiding insecurities by telling jokes that weren’t funny and acting out. I felt like this would be hurtful to him, and might not be taken as a practical joke. I voiced my opinion somewhere along the course of my classmates convening in the corner, saying that I didn’t think that this was the best idea. He seemed sensitive, after-all. No one, including myself, listened.
I convened with them. I remember someone asking, “Do you think he’ll be upset guys? “
I remember the words, “where is he, guys?” coming from the teacher. And shortly afterwards,
A bang! Bang bang bang!
After he shot, he said he could tell that something was up.
We got air-softed.
Three weeks later, ten people died after being shot in the center of a community college classroom, including the shooter.
I watched the news from an elliptical in the gym of my community college. My legs spun underneath my body as I watched the mind of a nation spin and try to grasp a subject matter that it can’t quite wrap its heart around.
The song “Paradise” by Coldplay played on my iPod.
Para-para-para-dise. This could be para-para-paradise, Chris Martin crooned.
My stomach sank—nauseated by the news and the sadness of broken possibilities. 10 people, dead. 10 lives, taken.
Guns play an integral role in the fabric of our society. Hunting is a sport. Video games show graphic carnage strewn by the hands of teenagers connected to their victims by wires are popular forms of entertainment. TV shows with guns as a symbol of success and gun-fire as characters winning are switched on without a second thought.
Shooting to win is what makes us who we are.
It’s too painful for us to admit that this gun-violence and acceptance is perpetuated by the very television we watch and the video games that we play. Technology numbs us on a daily basis, putting us into sub-human states of mind while showing us that it’s okay to de-humanize other people. Something would have to change and we’d have to admit to an inconsistency in our national ethos:
America, land of the free and home of the brave.
Are we really free if we’re captive to bad habits that perpetuate violence? Are we really brave if we’re not willing to change?
It’s easy to blame a possible mental illness and point fingers at the mother than it is to have the tough conversations with each-other, and ourselves. To ask willingly if we can really be doing better.
To rest in the faith that we know we can.
America the Beautiful
Set on a shelf, hung up on the walls
Is this playtime, ma?
This is the voice of my generation
It’s the wrong way
We hear voices because we’re
choked, not given a choice
Filled to the brim
Pulling the trigger before we can find
our own voice
Killer takes the noose
That’s a human on the other side
Mass media controlling the public
(is the mother to blame?)
makes us fear our own nature
but can they feel us
they’re humans too
with a need to be nurtured
instead of shamed
And so, on the satellite report tonight:
10 humans dead.
Rest in peace.
Lizzie Kramer is a certified yoga teacher, student of life and continual seeker of truth, and blogger who believes in the desecration of that which is held sacred, the hallowing of the ordinary, and the capability of reverence in every present moment. She also believes in laughing at sayings such as “the capability of reverence in every present moment,” while eating raw spinach and drinking Kombucha after enjoying a gluten-free cupcake. Most of all she believes that everyone should write their own bio in third person.
Photo: AK Rockefeller/Flickr
Editor: Ty H Phillips