Tuesday, July 05, 2022

As American as Apple Pie

 Living in the US mass shootings don't come as a surprise anymore, but seeing the town where I lived from 1978-1986 on the news as the scene of the latest massacre had an unreal feeling to it. As the story unfolded I noticed the building where the shooter positioned himself on the roof was where I had an apartment in my last few months of living in town, above a shop. He must have climbed the fire escape I thought (later confirmed by the sheriff in a press conference where he described it as a, "Ladder affixed to the building" because he's apparently never seen a fire escape) a visual image still in my mind after all these decades. It would have been very easy to disappear down the alley, which we now know is what happened. It was the shittiest of shitty studio apartments with a murphy bed, a strange bathroom with a sunken tub the shape of an inverted ziggurat where you could sit at the edge and soak your feet, but little else, and generations of bugs that all came out to say hello when I'd arrive home and turn on the lights. I won't go as far as to say it was the sort of spot where no one would notice you climbing a fire escape with an assault rifle, because I have no idea what the apartments are like now in 2022, but in 1986, absolutely. It was/is an affluent town, but the working class had to live somewhere, and in my case it was the shitty apartment above the store.

I have to admit that I absolutely hated living in Highland Park. I've been back once, in 36 years because Dan wanted to visit the nearby wildlife preserve. It rained, it snowed, it was April and we drove once through town, I thanked my lucky stars I didn't still live there, and that was that, until I saw the news yesterday. I couldn't wait to leave. People toss around the phrase, "Mercilessly bullied", but having been on the receiving end of the worst the North Shore has to offer for a large chunk of my school years, I can still say without hesitation that  at no point did I ever consider purchasing a weapon to seek revenge. Know what I DID do? I moved. Moved at the first opportunity. Got my belongings out of that apartment, put them in a rented storage space which I treated week after week with an insecticide fogger until I was satisfied no hitchhikers would be joining me in my exodus from the North Shore. For years I've joked about going to Deerfield High School instead of Highland Park because I didn't want to kill anyone, but it sincerely was a joke. I went to Deerfield because it was closer to where I lived and I knew I'd never get up in time to catch the bus to Highland Park. But murder? I never even daydreamed about it. You can hate people without wanting to kill them. For fuck's sake, you can move somewhere else. And if you really want to make sure you're far enough away you can move out of state, which I did.

 I don't want to hear pundits telling us how it isn't the guns, it is the mentally ill because I'm certain I tick more than a few boxes on the mental health assessments, like god only knows how many other Americans who also don't go out and buy an assault rifle to settle a collective grudge. But the ones who do have that desire? I'm no expert and I don't get paid to think about this sort of thing but from my place of unprofessional observation maybe we shouldn't be selling assault rifles because it is impossible to predict who's going to wake up on the Fourth of July, climb atop a shitty block of apartments, and start taking people out at the community parade. At the very least, it ought to be harder. This shit has to stop. It just has to. 

It is still early, and we don't have all the information about the shooter, and his motives but it doesn't matter. He killed six people, wounded 26 others and there's zero excuse. You want a class war? Join a goddamned union. You don't achieve anything shooting at children on tricycles in a parade. 

If you were keeping track of the places you shouldn't go to avoid being shot we can add suburban parade to the already too long list including (but not limited to because it is indeed a very long list to recount here) grocery store, church, synagogue, mosque, Sikh temple, Christmas market, driving down the fucking Dan Ryan Expressway, school, department store, newspaper press room, baseball game, office party, concert, nightclub, walking down the street, buying gas, and on and on and on. The mass shootings get the attention because they're shocking but getting individually shot in the US is almost mundane, and treated like some sick rite of passage provided you live to tell the story. 

Sure, it is impossible to look at what happened in Highland Park and not feel it personally. The flag-lined street littered with abandoned strollers, chairs, and children's toys feels very close to home because like it or not it was home. I can't imagine what it was like to be working the emergency room at Highland Park Hospital which is small, and probably trained for but never expected to deal with that sort of mass casualty event. A tornado sure, but a mass shooting? 

We're a nation that's increasingly angry, selfish, violent, ignorant, irresponsible, thoughtless, and incapable of long view-we shouldn't be trusted with butter knives much less assault rifles. Don't suggest it isn't "All Americans" because much like it isn't, "All Cops", "All Men", "All Conservatives", there's enough of them that we feel we need to use the "It isn't all" excuse. We've got ourselves a hell of a problem and I haven't a clue how we fix something this broken. I do know we shouldn't have sharp objects or weapons capable of firing multiple rounds without re-loading. We have to start somewhere.


Sheila said...

I saw news about that shooting up here in Canada - how awful to have that connection and be able to picture it. I admit, I read the "ladder attached to the side of the building" and I thought, "That sounds like a fire escape, duh."

We just had our own shoot-em-up here in sleepy ol' Victoria: two 22-year-olds walked into a bank and came out in a hail of gunfire: https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/police-identify-saanich-b-c-gunmen-as-22-year-old-twin-brothers-1.5971829. The area is only a few blocks from where my sister-in-law lives.

Automatic weapons are a rarity here (guns are strictly controlled), so that was a punch in the gut to many Canadians (we made the news across Canada, oh yay). What. The. Hell.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that you have such a personal attachment to this tragedy. It isn't only in America that people are "angry, selfish, violent, ignorant, irresponsible, thoughtless and incapable of long view"..... that is worldwide.
That is in everyone village, town and city.

Keep looking on the bright side, and keep being well dressed and accessorised. Control what you can....at least you make people smile when they see your outfits.

Emily said...

Oh dear, I knew the name "Highland Park" rang a bell for me, but I couldn't figure out why until I saw your blog entry and I realized I must have heard of it solely through you. I do remember you blogging about your road trip with Dan, and the uncomfortable feelings it brought back for you.

Here in Portland, we've had a huge uptick in violent crime in the past two years. Some of it is gun-related, but not all. What scares me even more than guns is the people in Portland who deliberately run their cars over complete strangers with no known motive for wanting to kill them. It's happened at least twice that I know of. You can take guns away from people like that, but there's no way to stop them from going crazy behind the wheel of a car. :(

I was thinking earlier today of what Arundhati Roy famously said, about how a "pandemic is a portal." Well, it's been over two years since the pandemic started. I don't like what I see so far, but I maintain a glimmer of hope that goodness will survive, and that evil will be crushed.

If one good thing comes out of this, maybe politicians will get tougher on crime, and new gun laws will make it a little harder for mass shootings like this to occur. This bullshit has got to stop.

Vix said...

How vile that you have personal experience of the area where that horrible shooting occurred.
These atrocities occur far too often, both in the USA and elsewhere - like beautiful Copenhagen only a few days ago. xxx

bahnwärterin said...

it was all over the news here too.....

*We're a nation that's increasingly angry, selfish, violent, ignorant, irresponsible, thoughtless, and incapable of long view* - that applies for us too - but thankfully it is much harder to get a dangerous weapon here. sadly not impossible.... under the smokescreen of "sport" too many people can have guns etc..


Polyester Princess said...

News about the shooting has been all over the news here too, obviously. We might shake our heads and think "only in America" but that's very far from the truth. Violent crime is literally everywhere and it's scary. I can imagine having a connection with the area must make it even more so. For a couple of years, when I was in my early twenties, I lived in a part of Antwerp which was quite noxious even back then, but which I now wouldn't dream of going near. Like you, I made my escape in the nick of time. xxx

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this stuff is contagious..Monkey see monkey do kind of thing.

I am all for an assault weapons ban, but my state of Pennsylvania has been taken over by a lot of gerrymandered right wing gun fanatics. Our governor is OK. I certainly vote this issue and will again in the fall.

As a suggestion, I think the schools need to reimplement old fashion shop class and sewing for boys and girls in middle school . These where cut out decades ago in the US and the physical activity and the creating fostered a sense of tangible accomplishment for the nonacademic kid.

Yes , " we got ourselves a hell of problem "

Gail From PA.

Beth Waltz said...

I grew up with WWII handguns in drawers and rifles under beds, shotguns in trucks, all of them loaded. (We kids would no more touch Daddy's guns than peek in Mother's handbag.) To my eyes the difference between the adults who handled "farm firearms decades ago and the violent packs and lone wolves running amuck in cities today is far greater than the difference in the weapons themselves. Then, loading a gun was a solemn occasion involving check lists; now, it's literally child's play. I don't know the ultimate solution, Goody, but I believe you are 100% correct about the place to start. There is no reason for a civilian adult to own body armor or assault weapons, much less a juvenile.

Señora Allnut said...

It's particularly shocking when this kind of monstrosity happens in a place you lived (even if it's a place you run away from). It makes the whole thing more Real and makes one feel there's no safe place on Earth. I lived in a city where violence was 'usual' back in the 80's and 90's, until I could run away from the claustrophobic atmosphere and lack of future. Not the same thing, but the feeling of not understanding a fucking thing is the same.
Sending hugs, dear Goody!

Emily said...

I'm just checking in to see how you're doing this week.... I keep thinking of you every time I hear news updates about the Highland Park incident.

The news of Shinzo Abe's assassination was another thought-provoking event that made me think of you. Japan has very strict, sensible rules for gun ownership that would put the U.S. to shame, and somehow a deranged man still managed to find a workaround by building his own gun from scratch.

The takeaway I got from the Shinzo Abe story is that a government can do a pretty good job of preventing criminal behavior, but the one thing a government can't do is prevent criminal intent. For that to happen, the government would have to literally be able to read people's minds and then intervene to prevent a crime before it happens, just like in the Tom Cruise thriller, "Minority Report."

These headlines are sobering and very sad, and I definitely share your frustration.

Sending you big hugs and wishes for peace and safety,

Goody said...

I'm sorry that's happening there too.

I suppose people are like that everywhere, we only notice the ones with guns. Thanks for the kind words.

The driving into a crowd thing is terrifying. We seem to have imported that tactic from Europe where there's less guns. Not much to stop someone hell bent on violence, but we have to find ways to make it more difficult.

We had a mass shooting in Omaha at a department store about 15 years ago. I'm not sure why this is more upsetting to me other than it is such a small town.

Letting people have automatic weapons for sport doesn't seem like much of a hunting challenge. Can't think of anything less challenging than firing 50 fast rounds at a deer!

Strange looking back at places we've lived and be thankful to have moved on. I do wish life weren't viewed as so meaningless that people are willing to kill so easily.

I agree with you on the trades. Dan's school offered shop and welding, both of which he took out of interest rather than an occupation, but had he wanted a job, local employers are desperate for people that know how to weld. He was so proud of that table from woodworking.
It is too easy to get an automatic weapon in Nebraska. When we moved here 20 years ago, we changed the registration on the car and were asked if we wanted to apply for FOID cards at the same time, so we did. a few days later they came in the mail. We never renewed them as we don't hunt, but it still seems wrong to me how quick and easy it was. There's no way they could have done a proper out-of-state check in that short of time in early internet days.

Right! And as kids we all knew some basic firearms safety rules starting with, "if you find a gun don't touch it, get an adult." There are legit reasons for owning firearms, but you don't need an automatic weapon for squirrel hunting or rabid raccoons.

Living with violence from guns or otherwise is not a good way to live. I'm glad you were able to find someplace safer,

I'm doing OK-thank you for thinking of me.
I'm surprised more people aren't using 3-D printing to build weapons. I remember the gas attack on the subway in Japan and how shocking it was in a country with so little violent crime.
I don't suppose it is easy to know who will act on violent impulses, but with a few of these recent shooters there were red flags all over.
I've calmed down quite a lot since the shooting, but it is still hard to process when I see headlines.
Hope you are well too.

Mim said...

I thought of you when I saw the news as I knew you'd grown up in Chicago, but had no idea it would be that close to home for you. The shooting was so awful - people just out to have a nice day with their families, a little fun and laughter.