“We were fascinated by the little glass spheres, by those dark waves of color, some narrow and drawn out into several swirls, and others that widened out in the center of the marble into a single bundle and thinned out smoothly at the ends. There were reddish streaks in Añuco’s new marbles, but in the cloudy, chipped ones the bands of color also appeared, strangely and inexplicably.” – José María Arguedas, Antología poética
(Reprinted with permission from Rodalena.com)
I like marbles. I don’t really like guns.
No. Hang on: that’s wrong. That second sentence is not actually true. I do like some guns: there are many that are simply beautiful, much like the oddly mesmerizing beauty in the colorful smooth glass toys of children. Allow me to edit my intro with this more accurate statement:
I don’t feel comfortable around guns.
In fact, guns make me decidedly uncomfortable. They are tools of death, tools of pain. A gun is not a tool of creation, it is a tool of destruction.
That said, I’ve held a gun. I’ve even fired a gun. The experience was both exhilarating and…weighty. There was a terrifying gravity in pulling that trigger, which was only compounded by the realization that I have some natural talent in marksmanship, and honestly, hitting that target dead center was…really fun. But knowing that such a small movement of my index finger could end someone’s life was horrible. I did not like learning that I was a pretty decent shot. If I had my druthers, we’d live in a safe and peaceful world where devastating tools like handguns were unnecessary.
“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” – Dalai Lama XIV
But we don’t.
We live here in this dark world. We walk on a hard marble full of sharp rough edges. It’s a place of burglar alarm systems, school shootings, airport security, locked doors, gated apartment complexes where a woman oughtn’t walk alone at night to get the mail, terrorists, the necessity of blue mace, gangs, and a thousand other fears. Ours is a world in which it is a good idea not to watch the local news, or, hell, expose oneself to any news at all, if one wants to preserve any of one’s tenderness toward humanity.
I was thinking about my attitude toward firearms recently, and I found myself thinking the strangest thought: I owe a debt of gratitude to some of those seemingly fanatical gun-toting people. They are doing something I could never do because of my innate discomfort around guns. There is a group of law-abiding people among us who endure a fair amount of public scorn (like being unfairly labelled “fanatical”) in addition to a huge amount of invasive scrutiny and training and licensing in order to be able to own and carry a gun legally. This is a huge responsibility and a heavy burden I don’t think I could bear.
I don’t think I’m capable of being the unknown go-to hero in an emergency situation where using a gun to stop an act of violence was necessary: the very thought makes me shudder; I’m nearly certain the actual situation would probably paralyze me. I don’t think I possess the quick-thinking and the focus necessary to use a gun to protect the people in my home from an armed attacker.
But, I know people who are prepared for such situations. They walk around with an unseen focus on protecting innocent people. They think thoughts I don’t want to think: they look for areas where danger is likely to lurk, where escape routes are, what hidden perils lie beneath the surface of our plastic shopping centers and concert venues and parking lots.
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” -Virginia Woolf
Walking among us are silent plain-clothed first-responders who have gone through the extensive background checks, bought a weapon and waited and probably waited some more to take possession of it. They have trained to use that weapon, obtained their license and now carry a gun on their person. Many of them are people who, oddly enough, hate violence. They long for a safe place to raise their families, a world more as it should be: a peaceful beautiful marble with no jagged edges, a place swirling with thick clouds, blue skies, and laughter, not a rough gray rock swirling with a haze of gunfire, smoke, and pain.
If you happen to be one of those people who bears that heavy burden on your hip,