Divisive Devices

My new iPhone.

Recently, my iPhone began to act erratically. New iterations of its operating system had rolled out. But the device could not effectively process the changes. Family and friends blared the horns of their newer models as they passed me on the digital expressway. The time had come to upgrade.

I visited the store of our cell plan’s carrier. My wife and I, both of our sons, and daughter-in-law share a family package deal. I learned that only three of those five can act as administrators of changes to the contract. In order to upgrade my phone, I had to show identification and have an administrator physically appear at the office and approve my decision. Furthermore, I needed to contact the primary administrator, my daughter-in-law, and obtain the last four digits of her social security number AND her account password.

Well and good: I called my wife (an administrator) and she appeared to ok the upgrade. Then I called the daughter-in-law and got her secret numbers. I picked out a phone. The tech got my password and moved data from the old to the new.

Yes, it’s a bit of an arduous process. From entrance to exit, it took over an hour. Nonetheless, given the topical hullabaloo surrounding personal data breaches, I left the store reassured.

An AR-15.

I am recounting all of this to illustrate a shameful irony of contemporary American culture. In less time and without oversight, anyone 18 years and up, can purchase an assault weapon from a licensed gun dealer. An assault weapon precisely like the one used to kill seventeen high school students in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day of this year.

I have touched on the issue of gun control in years past. Assault weapons are also devices, tools, if you will. They are designed to kill people, and to kill them fast. The proliferation of massacres in recent history prove how good they are at what they do. Assault weapons should, in a sane society, be banned. 

My wife took this photo at the Portland, OR “March For Our Lives.”

Following the slaughter in Florida, parents raged, marches ensued, and students across the country mobilized to demand common sense solutions to the violence. Some legislators hailed the protester’s courage. Yet, in doing so they unwittingly highlighted the history of their own faintness of heart in confronting the stranglehold of the NRA on American politics. Others avoided taking a position, cloaking themselves in the cynical lament of “thoughts and prayers.” The White House also failed to lead on this issue. Instead, our president spoke in support of a demented proposal to arm teachers

The inertia on an assault weapon ban is unforgivable. The ability to couch this argument in diversionary political mumbo jumbo delays action from one massacre to the next. The basic tactic is to stall any decision about change and wait out the news cycle.

I don’t know what the solution is. The ballot box? Perhaps. A charismatic leader? Maybe. More and greater massacres? Let’s hope not. Can young men and women still in school lead the way? I’d like to believe that. But already, much of the tumult surrounding the Parkland massacre has subsided. Marches came and went. Grief was processed. And, still, no legislative initiatives.

Let’s face it. American democracy is as dysfunctional as my outdated iPhone. Its operating system needs an upgrade. Currently, money determines policy. The wealthy wield power without concern for the common good. Inequality infects our society like a computer virus. Gun control, climate change, you name it: we seem content to kick the can down the road. We hope these problems will go away. But they won’t.


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