Thoughts on School Shootings, Freedom, and Indian Rice Pudding

Who am I to not join in on that great American pastime of commenting one’s opinions/thoughts/concerns about school shootings via social media?

It is becoming a regular occurrence (has been regular for some time), and just like every spring when the weather begins to change, and baseball season begins (yet another classic American pastime), one can almost expect to hear about another school shooting. I heard about the Nashville shooting and couldn’t think about it because I was fatigued. “Not again…” was about all I could muster, and I haven’t been able to sit down and process it until now.

I don’t mean to make light of the tragedy but I feel I wouldn’t be alone if that were my true intended purpose, because in fact, one begins to wonder whether Americans actually like school shootings, for we continue to put up with them. Allow me to elaborate.

I had dessert the other night, a type of Indian rice pudding called “kheer.” I didn’t like the flavor necessarily, but I kept eating it. I kept spooning it into my mouth and at one point I told my friend, “I don’t even like this, but I’m still eating it, why?” Because truthfully, it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t that great, but I guess I enjoyed it because I kept eating the rice pudding. I kept returning to the bowl, filling my spoon, and eating.

Americans seem to agree when it comes to school shootings. They aren’t that bad. They must be somewhat enjoyable to some degree. If they were absolutely distasteful one would expect a different outcome than what has happened for the past 20 or so years.

Now that last paragraph is meant more as a shock statement. I don’t think Americans really enjoy waking up and hearing about the deaths of innocent children at any school anywhere, anytime. What I really suspect is that Americans don’t mind it *that* much, because they really find other alternatives more distasteful.

What other alternatives can there be? Perhaps tighter gun regulation? Whatever we are currently doing is obviously not working… What baffles me is that America really seems to be the only country still dealing with regular school shootings. A general survey of mass shootings by country usually indicates that America is the only country with a mass-shooting problem.

My theory is that Americans like their freedom too much, and just as with anything in excess, it can quickly become problematic. Which do we prefer more? Tighter gun laws that might make it difficult to purchase automatic or semi-automatic rifles? Or more dead kids, and the ability to not worry about the government “stealing my guns?” America has made its vote.

Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-American poet/author said it this way in his famous book, The Prophet:

“And an orator said, Speak to us of Freedom.

And he answered:

At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,

Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.

Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.

And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfilment.

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,

But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.”

Some lines worth noting:

“Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them…”

Seems to me Americans worship freedom even though that very freedom leads to the death of innocent people – the tyranny of freedom slaying its worshippers.

“I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.”

Seems to me Americans are enslaved to the idea of freedom and the thought of giving up anything is itself a type of bondage. We hold on so tightly to our freedom, to our gun rights, we don’t realize that we could be missing out on an all-together different type of freedom. For example, when I think of my nieces and nephews going to school someday, and my own children (perhaps someday), I can imagine a type of freedom of being able to relax at work, at home, knowing the chances of them not coming home at the end of the day due to a mass shooting are practically none.

However, until something changes – that anxiety, that “bondage to worry” will always be there. Even in our freedom, we are choosing bondage to something.

“And my heart bled within me…”

I am continually heart-broken that people choose their rights to own guns, to have easy access to guns, particularly dangerous guns, over the chance of possibility of safe schools. And what’s worse, it seems that most often it is the Christians leading the charge to maintain gun ownership, saying, “It’s my right!” I am reminded of Philippians 2, where Jesus lays down his literal God given-ness and becomes a human, and even as a human, lays down his own life, rather than saying things like, “It’s my right.”

And I suppose Americans are free to choose their type of freedom. After all, that too is an American idea, but let’s be clear about which it is we’re choosing, and let’s stop making a show of throwing our hands up like we can’t do anything about it, and then saying shit like, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” and “Abel killed Cain with a rock. David killed Goliath with a rock. The rock’s not the problem.”

We are spooning mass shootings into our own mouths over and over again, and one begins to wonder whether or not Americans, as a whole, enjoy them after all is said and done.

Link to Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet

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