two thousand twenty
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By John Addyman

   When Jared Loughner ran up behind an Arizona Congresswoman to shoot her in the back of the head, his weapon of choice was a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol. After he’d finished with the Congresswoman, he had so many more bullets to use on anyone else who happened to be standing by. He used them all, and he was reaching for more when a little old lady rose to smite him.
   Virginia Tech University shooter Seung-Hui Cho also used a Glock 9mm, and he killed 32 people.
   Only in America: since Saturday, when the Loughner horrifically burst into our national consciousness, sales of similar Glock handguns have jumped 60 percent.   

  The prevailing and conventional wisdom is that people are afraid the government is going to do something to ban this kind of handgun, so folks went out and snapped up their very own Glocks before Uncle Sam could step in.
   I just hope the real reason isn’t that people wanted to have a similar tool just in case they decided to commit a similar psychopathic act. I hope it wasn’t a, “Gee, I got to get me one of those, just in case,” kind of things. Isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery?
   Gabrielle Giffords was working hard to do the people’s business in Tucson. She was out meeting with her constituents on a Saturday morning in a shopping center, where she was likely to encounter a lot of people who might have trouble seeing her during a workday or in the evening after work.
   She certainly knew that some of the people she could run into might have a bone to pick with one thing or another, or might want to stress a point of view opposing her own. She had staff members there to help provide information or follow up on requests. She was certainly able to stand on her own feet and discuss contentious topics with people – she’d done it in congress, in her campaigning, and with constituents in the face of Tea Party pressure.
   But it’s hard to argue with a handgun.
   Don’t think what happened in Tucson hasn’t reverberated in our neck of the woods.
   We live in hard times. People who thought they had jobs for life – like good teachers – have been laid off. Promising businesses have gone away. Corporate promises about pensions and healthcare have disappeared into the ether. The concept of starting with one company and being there for your working life is a figment of a dream our fathers had.
   People are angry. They feel whipsawed by events they don’t comprehend. And when they don’t understand something, they seek explanation. When the answers are difficult to understand or not what people want to hear, they seek answers from someone else.
   And unfortunately, sometimes the people who scream loudest with the most bombast get the biggest audience for their words, however wrong or nonsensical those words may be. Say something crazy enough times and with enough conviction and people start to believe it.
   I was on a school board for four years in Pennsylvania. I wanted to give my constituents a voice on the board, I wanted to make sure I understood what their issues were, and I wanted them to be able to ask me direct questions, and I wanted a chance to explain things outside of the formal board meeting.
   So, the Sunday night before every Monday school board meeting, I held a little “pre-meeting” in the village library, where anyone could walk in and discuss the board’s meeting agenda with me and talk about issues.
   Sometimes I had 20 people there; mostly I had three or four.
   One of the men who almost always attended said very little in my pre-meetings. But he would gather with his friends in the market where my wife worked the next day, and the day after school board meetings, and criticize what I had done or said – all purposely within earshot of my wife. I got called a lot of names. She heard every one of them.
   My dear wife, who has never said an unkind word to anyone about anyone else, will never go back to that little village.
   The Wayne County Board of Supervisors has a meeting every month in the courthouse in Lyons. At one point last summer, a sheriff’s deputy appeared in the back of the courtroom before the meeting, and stayed through the entire meeting. Every meeting since, a similarly designated deputy has been present.
   When that happened the first time, I thought it was a little intimidating. From where I sat at the press table, I was staring right at the deputy. I asked Sheriff Barry Virts why the deputy was there. He told me one of the supervisors had felt threatened. The sheriff’s response was to post the deputy, to make the supervisor feel safer. On more than one level, I completely understand.
   In America, we are living in a new age when information comes at us very fast, from lots of directions, and it is uniquely more difficult to know what’s right. Few issues are simple. Once upon a time, we could depend on a Chet Huntley or David Brinkley or John Chancellor or Walter Cronkite to give it to us straight. Now I can’t watch either Fox news or MSNBC because both networks have crossed the line from “news” to “entertainment.” It seems exponentially more difficult to get the facts, just the facts.
   And I’m no longer entertained. I’m frustrated.
   Our ability to reason together, to express views and question one another without emotion seems to be disappearing. We’re so busy voicing our own concerns and fears, we’ve forgotten how to listen respectfully to other voices. We’ve lost a measure of concern and compassion for our fellow Americans.
   Will good people become reluctant to get themselves involved in public service because they fear actions like Jared Loughner took? I don’t know.
   But the fact that his actions have spurred a run on more purchases of Glock 9mm pistols should make us all ask what the heck is going on in the Land of the Free and the Home of Brave…


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