EDITOR’S NOTE: Skye Hunter has been an active member of The Shinbone Star for some time, producing the banners for our weekly Trumplandia feature. This article marks her debut as a writer for our site.
By SKYE HUNTER
I can’t believe I had to write this, but on what was supposed to be the most peaceful day of the year, gun violence decided not to take a holiday.
Love was in the air and everything was right with the world at sunrise on Feb. 14, 2018, when Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day hooked up to form one beautiful day of peace and love.
Hopeless romantics and the religious faithful alike were in the midst of celebrating their respective traditions when at about 2 p.m. EST, the lives of students and teachers at a high school in Parkland, Fla. were forever changed.
You know the drill.
Just another day in the United States of America, where guns again claimed the lives of the innocent. Just another day and another headline about a mass shooting.
While the outpouring of grief, prayers, thoughts and emotion over another senseless tragedy was understandable, we were also served another round of right-wing platitudes about how now is not the time to talk about it, how we shouldn’t politicize the deaths, and how we need to focus on the shooter, who couldn’t have been in his right mind.
If you haven’t gathered from my title that I’m angry, you’re an idiot.
I’m not just angry, I’m FUCKING angry.
After Sandy Hook, I talked to several of my Facebook friends about the need to make things better in regard to our gun laws and of course, the same old statements found their way into the dialogue:
“You need a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.”
“Criminals won’t abide by the gun laws and if they want guns will get them.”
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
This rhetoric is getting old.
You’d rather keep your guns, your precious guns, which you probably treat better than people, while these mass shootings go on and on and on???
When is enough bloodshed enough?
No matter what is brought to the table, the Right boohoos about their god-given Second Amendment rights to bear arms, and nothing ever changes.
For your information, GOD didn’t create guns!
Shoot, GOD didn’t offer any blessings on the use of guns, and had absolutely nothing to do with these violent incidents. GOD has much more important things to worry about than whether you can complete your 50-plus gun collection.
You’re probably wondering, “Who the hell is this libertard?”
This snowflake was the victim of a home invasion at the tender age of 14.
It was the 1990s and I was a high school freshman and band geek from northern New Jersey who had just returned home from an amazing marching band/choir trip.
I am part Vietnamese, so my mother didn’t exactly trust the banks after the fall of Saigon and collapse of the currency. She worked in direct sales at the time, so whenever she couldn’t get to the bank, she would keep her earnings in her room.
That night, I remember watching “Stand By Me” in the spare bedroom while polishing my Keds into mandatory “freshness.” In the bathroom, my dad was taking a shower.
Mom was downstairs cooking dinner when the doorbell rang and a group of Asian men gathered on our front stoop. The men told Mom they wanted to purchase some products from her business, and before I knew it, she invited danger inside and let innocence out.
While polishing my shoes, I had accidentally got some polish on my hands, so I walked out of the bedroom to the bathroom across the hall to wash them. When I walked back, I noticed a stranger coming up the stairs. I’ll refer to him as the “man in the gray cap.”
I had no idea who this person was, but I wasn’t scared. Don’t ask me why.
However, I did walk back into my room and lock the door.
Dad and I were the best of friends, sometimes it seemed like he was more like my brother than my father. We would routinely do silly things to piss off my mom, who can be pretty serious.
One of the goofy things we used to do was knock on doors in a way that would sound like a bunch of people were knocking at the same time. Since we were the only ones who would do that, my dad and I would know it was the other when we heard our “group knock.”
Soon after locking the door, I heard that very distinctive knock. I thought it was my father, and thought he must have finished his shower. But when I opened the door, I saw it was not my dad, but the man in the gray cap, and he pointing a gun at me. I thought it was a joke and laughingly smacked the barrel and asked who he was.
He started speaking angrily in Vietnamese, stuck the barrel of the gun back in my face and forced me into the closet. I didn’t speak Vietnamese since abandoning my mother’s native tongue amid the taunts of my mostly white classmates. After demanding to know why I didn’t speak Vietnamese, Gray Cap proceeded to duct tape my eyes and told me in English not to make any noise. I heard the closet doors shut.
In the darkness I began to pray, asking God why this was happening. I was so scared and was crying uncontrollably at this point. I grabbed my legs, put my head on my knees and just rocked back and forth. I had no idea what was going on with my parents, and was so scared that I would never see them again.
It was then that I heard my dad yelling, “Who are you? Where is my daughter?” I learned later that the man in the gray cap placed his gun in the small of my father’s back and forced him down the stairs.
It was just me then, sitting in the darkness with all the crazy thoughts running in my mind. As I was contemplating death at 14, the closet doors opened again. Someone yanked me up and forced me to walk. Through the bottom slit of the duct tape, I could see the red wall-to-wall carpeting. That soft, fluffy carpeting always felt so wonderful under my bare feet.
As the man forced me to the stairs, covered in the same red carpeting, I remember walking down, carefully trying to memorize how it felt in case it was the last time I would experience it.
For the next two hours, my parents and I lay bound with duct tape, our lives hanging in the balance while the thieves ransacked our house in search of money. Mom was eventually whisked away upstairs to the master bedroom, where she pleaded for her life and ultimately gave up the cash she’d stashed away. The sound of the men’s scuffling feet and threats seemed to linger long after they finally fled.
After what felt like an eternity, one of us called the police. Units came to the house to take our statements and fingerprint the scene. I can still remember the black powder everywhere.
For those who have never had their lives threatened, fantasies about what you would do usually boil down to scenes from that movie, “A Christmas Story.” Maybe you’d have been “pranging ducks on the wing and getting off spectacular hip shots.”
But in reality, when you’re in the heat of the moment, all bets are off.
There was no time to imagine ourselves as the good guys in a Wild West movie. There was only time for praying and fear.
Some people have asked if we had a gun in the house. Yes, Dad owned a gun years ago, but not at the time of this incident. But what if he did have a gun?
Would he have been able to take out four or five bad guys before one of them turned his gun on me or my mom? What if Dad fired a shot and accidentally hit one of us? Dad was a Navy veteran who grew up with guns, and even though he was comfortable using them, he could have make a mistake. Haven’t you heard the term “friendly fire?”
I don’t know why this happened to me and my family, but I do know we were grateful to have made it out alive. We have internal scars that will never heal, but manage to place one foot in front of the other every day and live life to the fullest.
Times have certainly changed in the last two decades, and I can’t believe how much anger and hatred are running rampant. Due to the growth of social media and technology, we have forgotten how to communicate face to face or “belly to belly,” as they say in the sales industry.
Instead of looking someone in the eye, we cast downward glances at our mobile devices. Instead of calling someone on the phone, we send a text message. Subtle nuances that occur during the course of a normal conversation — like tone of voice, facial expressions and body language — are lost and what is left are characters in a tweet or posts on Facebook.
Common courtesy and decency are gone. We no longer communicate effectively or solve problems civilly. Some people don’t know how to handle their anger, and resort to other means in which destruction is the only outcome.
Too many innocent people get caught in the crossfire of violence and hatred. Too many innocents die at the hands of those who no longer feel a connection to humanity. Too many innocent lives are forever changed in ways that only people like me can truly understand. It’s membership to a club that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
What to do?
To be honest, whatever I suggest will probably be frowned upon as being “too emotional,” “too irrational,” or the rants of a “Bleeding Heart Liberal.”
I would remain silent, but I am so fucking tired of being silent. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem, so here is what I feel should be done:
- Require all firearm manufacturers to stamp or etch the serial numbers of weapons onto places within the gun where they cannot be easily scratched off.
- Write laws that treat the ownership of firearms the same as obtaining a driver’s license or a CDL. Mandatory testing on proper gun ownership, usage training and storage, with required refresher testing every few years that also includes testing of the owner’s current mental state.
- If a person wants to own ANY type of military firearm or weapon, they must pass the same training given to law enforcement and military personnel.
- Make mental health a major priority of healthcare (like the Head First campaign in England), re-establishing facilities to make care readily available.
- A uniform system across all law enforcement and military databases to identify offenders and prohibit them from purchasing firearms, with maximum sentences handed down to those who would assist in providing weapon(s) illegally to those offenders.
- Limits on the amount of ammunition or firearms anyone can own without an investigation as to why anyone would need to maintain an arsenal.
- Stricter rules from social media companies against those who bully or troll other users, especially those who threaten bodily harm, with a requirement that law enforcement be notified.
- Posting on any platform of social media of videos that depict violence of any kind should trigger immediate reports to law enforcement.
- Programs in schools to promote empathy and inclusion so students can help other students who might currently be excluded or bullied. Acknowledgment of those students who stand up to bulling should be encouraged.
- If a child reports bullying incidents and the school administration does not instigate an investigation, severe fines and/or penalties should be enforced.
My list might seem extreme to some people, but we live in a trigger-happy society that is quick to anger. Yes, it’s also meant to be a free society, but there are some with no regard for societal standards and who exhibit a blatant disregard for human life. We must make sure that change happens for the better, and we must make sure that those who choose violence and hatred are punished to the fullest extent of the law.
My mother is a very wise and strong woman. She has a saying, “When you look up, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. When you look down, there are so many people worse off than you’ll ever be. The best thing you can do is look straight ahead and keep going.”
Mom has another saying, too: “You will never truly understand how much it hurts until you cut your own finger.” My finger was almost severed, but I am still here.
Remember that one day it could happen to you.
I hope you never cut your finger, but unless you’ve been there, shut the fuck up!