Posts Tagged ‘Better Homes & Gardens’

It’s 2:30 in the morning. You’re at your desk, laying waste to the orcs and skeletons and zombies of your latest computer game. The cats are each in their respective office perches nearby. Your husband is supposedly watching videos on the laptop in the living room, but you can hear the occasional snort as he nods off more often than not. Just another quiet night in the ‘burbs, enjoying your middle-class life.

The banging on the front door, followed quickly by a rapid, incessant ringing of the bell, cuts through the silence like a bomb going off. Instantly awake, the Marine sergeant on the couch lets loose with his best DI[1] voice, demanding identification. There is no response. Now on his feet and approaching the door, your husband ups the ante with a repeated demand that could probably be heard on the other side of town. Again, no response. And a quick look through the peep-hole reveals only the back of somebody’s head. What do you do?


In our case, I start dialing 911, while my husband fetches his shotgun. Any of our friends and family know they can show up at our house or call us at any time of the day or night if they need help. They also know better than to ignore a demand for identification or turn their back to the door. We both retreat to the central hallway, where we’re away from windows and doors, but able to see just about all of them. There’s been an uptick in SoCal of what cops call knock-knock burglaries: the suspects knock first to see if someone is home. If there’s no answer, they look for a way in, usually through the back yard or garage. There have been occasions when the door was answered that the suspects then forced their way in and held the occupants hostage while ransacking the house. Given that the houses on both sides of us have been burglarized in the last few years, and there was a drive-by shooting just down the block (thankfully, no injuries) a couple summers ago, we don’t take chances around here.

And it’s not like we live in a bad area. We’re in a typical middle-class housing tract built in the ‘80s. Decent cars are parked out front, and kids play in their yards. Aside from the occasional drunken karaoke party and the thumpity-bump stereo booming street racer that cruises around, it’s pretty tame here. When we first moved in, the whole neighborhood was like something out of Better Homes & Gardens: pristine green lawns, freshly painted eaves, and smiling people. Then came the real estate crash and the Great Recession, and nearly a third of the houses around us ended up sold for cheap, or rented out. That’s when things started to change. It is very subtle, but growing more noticeable each day. When people get tired, beat down, and angry, so do their neighborhoods.


I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to experience much of the darker sides of our country. Growing up in the military had me literally protected on all sides. But it also gave me exposure to lots of different ethnicities and cultures and religions. Add in progressive parents who valued education and equality, and you get somebody who gives a crap about the world and its inhabitants. As I’m standing there in my pajamas with an adrenaline high to rival the hottest street drug, I find myself thinking of the people who have to deal with that kind of fear on a far more frequent basis. Families in Aleppo. Child soldiers in Africa. Yazidi’s under the thumb of ISIL. My situation is nothing compared to what they have to endure.

We always seem to think of other places across the world for comparison after angry encounters at zero-dark-thirty. We watch the news and are quietly grateful we’re not there, and give lip-service to wishing we could do something. But the horror across the ocean simply distracts us from the horrors in our own back yard.

In recent years, the US has seen an increase in mass shootings – 385 of them in 2015 alone, depending on your source. This past weekend gave us yet another one in Florida. Chicago experienced its deadliest shooting year in two decades – 762 dead by year’s end, 12 of them on Christmas weekend alone. You’re probably reading those stats and wondering what the hell is wrong with us gun-loving ‘Muricans. When I was younger, I thought the same thing. I was a strong proponent of total gun control, akin to the likes of Japan. As I’ve aged, my thoughts on the matter swung to the other end of the argument. Supposedly it’s because we become more conservative as we get older, but I think the reality is we become more experienced and educated in the world, and come to understand the world as it is and not as we’d imagine it to be.



Dammit, I’m done adulting!


Because the truth of the matter is, guns are simply the tool. Yes, we should have background checks and safety training courses and permits. But getting rid of firearms entirely won’t solve the issue. Mass murders will still happen, just using different tools like trucks and Kool-Aid[2]. The real problem isn’t the how, it’s the why. But that’s a complicated, chaotic web of anger, disenfranchisement, mental health, social influences, and untold number of other factors and we humans want an easy answer. There isn’t one. Gun control is just putting a band aide on an arterial bleed. We’ll feel like we’ve accomplished something, but the patient will still die.

And the real scary truth of the matter – we will never stop it all. No matter how much research, how good our health care, how wonderful our economy, how draconian our laws – there will always be somebody somewhere that will slip through the cracks and leave us all standing around wondering what the hell just happened. That’s just the nature of humanity. I can do little more than point out the problems and offer suggestions for solutions, but I suppose that’s what writers are meant to do.

In the mean time, I’ll be a responsible gun owner and hope we never have to use one beyond the firing range. The guy at our front door wandered off after a few minutes, so we can keep that goal for now. We learned later that he had mistaken our house for his brother’s, where the two drunken siblings got in a fight and brought six police units to our neighborhood. Some would say that’s just another Friday night in the city. I’m looking forward to when it’s not.

[1] Drill Instructor

[2] http://ijr.com/2015/12/487774-13-mass-killings-where-no-guns-were-involved/

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