The United States just celebrated the Fourth of July. We spent a whole holiday weekend eating and drinking and celebrating how proud we are to be Americans. We sang “Born in the USA” and gabbed about how great it is to be the product of such an amazing country built on the ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We reveled in the fact that we have achieved such greatness.
And then that was all undone in a matter of minutes.
Or rather, a matter of gunshots.
First, there was Alton Sterling. He was shot in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, on Tuesday, July 5, the day after we toasted our nation’s prestige by thrusting our beers into the air. He was selling CDs when someone called the police saying that a man selling CDs in a red shirt had pulled a gun on someone. The police arrived swiftly and immediately pinned him to the ground, as Sterling struggled beneath their knees. An officer shouted that Sterling had a gun and the other, despite have Sterling in a firm hold beneath his meaty body, pointed his own gun point-blank at Sterling’s chest and opened fire. He died shortly after.
Next came Philando Castile, a Minnesota boyfriend and father who was shot dead on Wednesday night after a routine traffic stop. The cop pulled him over for a busted tail light and as Castile reached for his driver’s license, he informed the officer that he had a licensed firearm but he was grabbing his ID. The officer rapidly fired four shots into Castile’s arm as his girlfriend sat in the passenger seat and his four-year-old daughter sat in the back. Castile died as a result of his injuries.
Thursday night, Dallas hosted a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Police officers did their duty to protect civilians as they gathered to honor the lives lost earlier that week. There was no antagonism between the officers and the protestors. Suddenly, a sniper armed with assault-style military-grade weapons open fired from a rooftop in the city and shot twelve people—both policemen and civilians. Five officers died as a result of the gunshots.
No one of these lives matters anymore than the others and no one life matters any less. We spent a whole day talking about what a great country we are and then seven of our people died. There are heightened emotions and a lot of opinions and a lot of anger, and all rightfully so. At the end of the day, it all comes back to guns.
I know that guns are there to protect, but as is evident by this week, that is not always the case. They are being grossly misused and excuse after excuse is being spewed out as to why it’s OK and why we should still have guns in society. I fired a gun for the first time in my life last summer and I will never do it again. I completely underestimated the power associated with such a simple machine. My arms ached and my ears rang and I felt nothing good.
Before we wrap our fingers, digit by digit, around the cold grip of a gun, remember what hands are best for: holding. Think about perfectly your fingers fit in when you hold the hand of someone you love—how those gaps between your fingers are filled so perfectly by someone else’s. There are so many better things to hold than a gun. Here’s what I think we were meant to hold:
A cold beer.
A dog’s snout.
A baseball, a basketball, a football.
A new pair of shoes.
A soft pillow.
A steering wheel with the windows down.
Hot chocolate in the winter.
Sand on the beach.
Warm laundry fresh out the dryer.
An old book.
A cupcake with tons of frosting.
A test you aced that you didn’t expect to ace.
The hand of someone you love after a long time apart.