No More Big Guns

Gun to the head

Photo: Daniel van den Berg

The big guns — this phrase typically has to do with calling in the heavy lifters of spiritual sustenance, faith, guidance. But these days, it just evokes guns. The big ones. The ones with letters and numbers in combinations that sound militaristic, because they are. Because that is what they are intended for, military-style killing machines.

And then all the people who say, time to call in the big guns, to pray for those poor families who have lost loved ones to the big guns, but don’t you dare touch our big gun rights. Oy.

And then the undeniable inequities, always in America, of race, of pushing policies that will hurt people of color most. And the inevitable hierarchies of suffering that get invoked then, my loss against your loss, my kids against your kids, the very realness of black and white and yet the intractability of how this conversation often seems to go.

Full stop. Whew. See? This gun thing is inflammatory. The race thing, also. Our whole country a landscape of landmines buried deep into the soil we walk on, soil stolen and blooded and built upon, a haven and land of opportunity only for some, like my great-grandparents who came here by choice, for economic opportunity and yes, eventually prosperity.

The deeper I move into listening and learning and studying and trying to understand, they less I know. The more I know I don’t know. The more I see that shouting across digital divides gets us nowhere. Status quo is not an option. Life keeps moving, there’s so much to track, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

For me, overwhelmed means: I lose my footing. Footing is purpose, priorities, ability to focus without being myopic. The big guns? I may have to abandon this term altogether. Kind of like the phrase “having a gun to your head,” which I almost used with a client Friday in the context of there not being urgency for her to make faster progress on her book, but then though the better of it.

When violence infuses our politics, it is inevitably going to show up in the way we talk, the policies we enact, the monies that get moved around like a shell game we don’t know the half of. I am convinced we are more in the dark than we know, more in the darkness. I will not invoke love and light to make things feel falsely better, nor will I deny the joy and beauty right here under my roof, the miracle of this body, and the fierce love I feel for life itself.

So no. I will no longer be calling in the big guns. I don’t want any guns in my house, not even linguistic ones. I also realize that changing the language we use is not enough, but it isn’t nothing either.

It’s pouring and cold, neither winter nor spring. God is somewhere around here, putting out fires or maybe even starting them. I can’t know for sure, so I will listen hard and see what comes.