CRAZED, GUNLESS FANTASIES

One of the first stories I read this morning – from that vaunted news source disguised as the Facebook stream – was teased with this attention-getter:

 

It started with a father texting his daughter during movie previews. It ended with the 43-year-old man shot dead amid the theater seats, and a 71-year-old retired police officer in custody. See the latest:

 

I was a bit startled and outraged, and also a little bored. Perhaps, there’s nothing more invigorating than bored, startled outrage. I clicked and read the story from cnn.com.

 

Perhaps, new details have emerged, but at least one close eyewitness observed that the 43-year-old man (attending the afternoon movie with his wife) was texting his three-year-old daughter (or the daycare facility where she was) during the movie’s previews. The 71-year-old retired police officer (also attending with his wife) – with whatever degree of politeness or hostility – asked/told him to stop. The retired officer left to (apparently) find a theatre manager, and failing in that mission, had some kind of angry exchange with the texter. Apparently, angry words and even…gasp…popcorn flew, and before anybody really knew what happened, the retired officer fatally shot the married father of that three-year-old girl.

 

Yes, I know that others talking on cell phones, or even texting, during the movies can be annoying, but I’m not feeling the need to go on a rant in this direction – serious, self-righteous or otherwise. I’m still floored by the fact that the retired cop felt the need to bring a loaded gun to an afternoon matinee. Well, it was in Floor-ida, and lots of things that happen there floor me.

 

One can only imagine the conversation between the assailant and his wife that preceded that momentous decision.

 

Hey hon. Lone Survivor’s playing at The Grove at 1 this afternoon.

Wow. We haven’t been to the movies in ages. I’ll go get dressed.

Okay. How ‘bout just like old times. You wear your black top and I’ll bring my black-handled concealed weapon.

Sounds like a plan.

 

In truth, I know next-to-nothing about the assailant or the victim, but like (I’m sure) 99% of those reading or viewing this story (even those who have come to hate a world in which we can never escape other people’s conversations)  feel some outrage that somebody died over something that seemed to be so damn trivial. And, tell me again (and I know all about the July, 2012 terrible mass killing at the theatre in Aurora, Colorado) why the retired cop felt the need to go packing for the afternoon matinee.

 

Every day, we’re bombarded by news feeds or TV newscasts that seem to exist just to shock or anger us. Mostly, we just accept the world as it is, although every now and then, a particular story may move us to write, discuss or do something about it.

 

In this case, I’m at least moved to write about it, because I don’t know where the answers lie. Maybe, we’ll learn that one of the two men was a psycho or a sociopath, but I doubt it. Until then, I see this as a tragic event that seemed so incredibly, frustratingly ordinary. As common as texting during movies, somebody getting annoyed, another one defending his “turf”, some kind of an escalation, and then, the man with a gun deciding that the other guy was either threatening his life (or his right to enjoy the previews of a movie) or, simply, deserved to be shot.

 

Insert your favorite word in just a few: What the _____ ?!!!!

 

And yes, this was in Florida, so maybe the assailant will claim self-defense, citing that an unpopped kernel of corn can be considered a deadly weapon. The combination of that, along with the hard, uncarpeted theater floor, and those un-cushy seatbacks. Hey, with the right attorney and the right/wrong jury, no problem…

 

But, I’ll digress from satire to complete fantasy. No, this is not strictly an anti-gun piece, but pardon me while I dream and share my dream of a world without guns. Not for good guys and gals. Not for bad ones. Not for the emotionally challenged; not for the 1% among us that may be balanced a little better. And, who can really tell when somebody is about to snap… Let me finish my list: Not for the government, or even for the police. I am fantasizing that nobody on the face of this earth will own a ballistic weapon. Not for keeping peace, nor for killing animals or for any other conceivable purpose.

 

Yes, you may say that I’m a dreamer (sorry, John), and perhaps, I’m not too balanced, but I’m just sick to, um, death of all of these senseless shootings: whether they happen in Florida, Illinois, New Jersey or Moscow.

 

Now, before you attempt to destroy me with your own truths or fantasies, I know that I am being incredibly simplistic here. I’m not advocating that the government ignore true Second Amendment concerns and just round up all the guns. This is not a policy paper – just a bored/outraged rant and hope for a saner, less violent world.

 

I also realize that humanity (okay, human beings, some of whom act with civility and humanity) will continue to find ways to kill one another. We have knives and cars, and fists of fury, and even microscopes, and apparently, popcorn. I get that, but forgive me while I dream that my fantasy world is a lot safer than the one we live in, and one that I’m trying to help make sense of to my five-year-old-boy.

 

And yes, as young as he is, a girl two years younger than him just lost her father because he was texting her at an afternoon movie – at the wrong time, and in front of the wrong man. Perhaps, she would have lost her father if that other man didn’t arrive at the theater with a loaded gun. No, let’s be real here: He would still be alive, and she would still have her daddy if the other guy didn’t bring a gun into the cinema.

 

I just mentioned that this is not a policy paper, and of course, any discussion whatsoever about gun control deserves to include well-meaning people from all sides of this issue. Any such discussion will need to include rational, open-minded people with good listening skills who really want to make our world a safer place.  Such discussions must be guided by compassion and respect for other points of view, no matter how indignant or loud our voices can be. Any such discussion must not be driven by lobbyists, greed or those beholden to a particular politician, party or corporation.

 

You may label this last paragraph Fantasy Number Two. Perhaps, it’s even wilder than my first one. It may even be crazier than a man getting shot to death for texting his three-year-old daughter from the multiplex.

It just may be.

Matt Goldberg, the author of five books and writer/presenter of dozens of speeches, is also available to help you craft the article, speech (and even book) that will help you best reach your intended audience. Contact him via matt@tipofthegoldberg for all inquiries.

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