I think we set a record after Vegas. We stopped talking collectively about gun control after 3.5 days. Time to revisit:
In the past year, two men from our community in the east San Fernando Valley killed themselves. Both were husbands and fathers and both, prior to committing suicide, had experienced financial difficulties. The depth of their despair was ostensibly deeper than their desire to live. It feels immoral to assign further insight into their state of mind. I didn’t know either man personally.
How many men can imagine their torture? The lost job, the bills piling up, the pride battered. No way out so … a final exit.
Financial catastrophe, real or suspected; the anticipated or actual loss of a job. Suicide. Faustian bargains. It’s real and it’s dark and it’s devastating. And it’s led each one of us, at one time or many, to make decisions and choices that were wrong, that compromised what we knew to be right.
I quit my first job at fifteen, in a candy store, because the boss was treating a fellow employee disrespectfully. I was living at home, no bills to pay. Years later, working for a repulsive film director and his disgusting producer, I listened as they bragged about sex with women not their wives and screamed at the production staff and set crew to distract from their breathtaking unpreparedness. They were immoral, vile human beings and I suffered through nearly all of it (I quit on the last day of shooting) because rent was due.
Which brings me to three subjects: congressional Republicans, gun control, and Harvey Weinstein.
I’m aware of individuals capable of girding themselves through integrity. They believe that God or the universe will provide so long as they remain dependably moral. Identify them if you can and be their friends. These are the greatest among us. You won’t find them in the Republican quarters of Congress.
After the Newtown shooting, after twenty first-graders were killed by a madman with a gun, in addition to six adults, Americans widely – 90% of us – supported background checks and, at the very least, debate on assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines. Most of us know comprehensive mental health care in this country is ridiculously insufficient, but we also understand triage. It was and is urgent to reduce the amount of guns available for purchase, and therefore use, in America.
But after Newtown, not only did nearly all Republicans refuse to meet with the parents of those first graders, thirteen of them drafted a letter saying they would make certain there was no debate on the issue. Forget a vote, they didn’t even want to talk about it. Naturally, Mitch McConnell, their leader at the time and currently, supported their request and no discussion of sensible gun control legislation even took place.
Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Mike Enzi, Richard Burr—the list goes on—enjoy working in Congress. In addition to the salary that helps support their families, they appreciate having a place to be in the morning. The NRA has successfully convinced them and a majority of their voting constituents that any support for gun control means losing their livelihood. Rather than conceive of the moral good—a safer world—they lay awake at night (maybe) imagining the darkness and desperation of unemployment. Even wealthy senators who don’t need the money refuse to envision a life void of clubby dinners and drinks on Capitol Hill. And so they continue to have scotch, neat, with the devil.
And Satan lives in Hollywood just as surely as he does in D.C. The difference, however, is the victim, even as job security remains the insidious disease. The women who have come forward to share their stories of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse were hoping for an opportunity in an impossible profession where women are hardly valued for their minds. None of them were interested in an intimate physical relationship with a sexual predator, but when the predator suggested a career they only dreamed about, and their level of confidence was not as strong as any of the men around them because they grew up in this/our world, the brain goes haywire. Fight or flight. They may have done both but they didn’t tell anyone, or at least not anyone who could make a difference.
The ability to put food on the table, to pay the bills, and/or to have purpose in one’s day is critical. Before retirement, it’s why we get up in the morning. I’d love to report I throw off the covers because I want to head outside and smell the roses but the truth is I can’t enjoy the fragrance unless my life is useful. An unstructured, uncertain future terrifies me as much as it scares Paul Ryan. Problem is, he was born without a spine and ended up in Congress, responsible for creating and passing laws. The compromising positions in which I’ve been entangled begat historically benign outcomes.
So on the one hand you have Weinstein’s victims, looking for jobs and staining their individual souls in pursuit. On the other hand, you have Republicans in Congress, reaching for job security, through the NRA and by other means, and making victims of us all. I know two people who were at that concert in Vegas and ran for their lives. That our government would do NOTHING to address gun violence in this country is criminal and a dereliction of duty.
So what do we do? For the women who were sexually abused, by Weinstein but so many others, exactly what we are doing. We’re rising up and coming forward, not only to punish but also to prevent. The squeaky wheel gets the grease especially when livelihoods are threatened.
For gun control and gun safety, for saving lives not just from mass shooting but suicide, homicide, and accidental gun deaths, WE VOTE the bums out of office. Threatening their jobs is the only thing they understand. Republicans in safe, conservative districts? Make it a litmus test and find another Republican to primary the incumbent. If they won’t promise to pass gun control legislation that just might help prevent a few deaths here and there, or eventually thousands, vote them out. You can still ask for your tax cuts and I’m happy to fight you over health care but we agree on this: we need to reduce gun violence in this country and we need legislation to get the ball rolling.
There are those who choose suicide in reaction to job loss and a failure to support their families. That’s tragedy. On the flip side, those willing to jeopardize others’ lives to sustain their own careers are doing far worse. That’s criminal. They have nothing less than blood on their hands.
Vote them out of office. And until this November, when Utah, Virginia, and New Jersey have important elections, and November 2018, donate—either to candidates who support gun control and understand the flaws and limitations of the Second Amendment, or to organizations like Everytown or Moms Demand Action—and call your reps or show up at their town halls.
Squeaky wheel, meet grease. Let’s make our outrage useful, and louder than loud.