In Order To Breathe

I understand Andy Parker, the grief-stricken father whose 24-year-old daughter Alison was slain on live television in Roanoke, VA.

When my nephew died in Iraq, I wanted to prevent other families from hearing the words delivered to my brother, “We regret to inform you…” I wrote my first op-ed and sent it for publication to a Kentucky newspaper, believing individual voices mattered, that I could make a difference. Even though signing petitions and participation in peace marches had accomplished nothing to thwart the Bush/Cheney bloodlust in the Middle East. For months after Chase’s death, I lay awake, thinking about his parents, siblings, and my parents, dwelling on the death of a child, children, and feeling panicky. How could I survive if this were one of my sons? I continued writing, spoke at rallies, protested.

I was on a mission.

Like Parker.

Like Parker, who asked, “How many times are we going to see a crazy person with a gun kill people?”

Parker’s prepared to become the “John Walsh of gun control” to challenge the National Rifle Association (NRA). His words:

I’m for the Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians that are cowards and in the pockets of the NRA to come to grips and make sense, have sensible laws so that crazy people can’t get guns.

Yes, I do understand Parker, recognize his silent wail of “oh, god, not my child, not my child, please not my child.” He’s in quicksand, suffocating, reaching for something firm. The answer to his immeasurable pain: tackle the vast. He has to believe in his success and gulp the spotlessness of hope in order to breathe.

So Parker is pouring his fall-to-the-floor pain into a cause—one that will slam him against those realities that the Karl Roves create and then spin to something else when and if enough of us grasp a truth that might tug at their design.

It’s not just a “crazy person” with guns though. The culture of aggression, dripping with violence, is pervasive. Drones, a president with a kill list, invasions, a conquest-oriented foreign policy, a conquest-oriented domestic policy enforced through police militarization, and an utterly terrifying array of politicians that pander to our basest predispositions: fear. And especially fear of anyone dissimilar.

Ten years have passed since Chase died. The Empire strikes and strikes and strikes. Gun shows flourish. Mothers support a baby with one arm while packing heat and a concealed-carry permit in a handbag in the other. Movies that glorify war are blockbusters, nominated for awards. Major sports events are military recruitment tools.
I understand Andy Parker. But I wonder when he’ll realize that if Sandy Hook failed to deliver gun control, nothing will. Because the masters of carnage are in control and are out of control.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: