Jerome was a Counselor-in-Training after years of coming to camp as a camper. He was fifteen and always smiling, bright white teeth standing out against his dark skin. He laughed a lot, too. He laughed the day I yelled at him for diving headfirst from the dock into the shallow lake. At twenty years old, I was the head lifeguard. I felt a wave of panic as I waited for him to resurface. As soon as he did my panic was replaced with fury; the last thing I needed was a CiT modeling dangerous behavior. I started to holler but couldn’t sustain my anger. He laughed and laughed and laughed as he apologized profusely and swore he wouldn’t do it again.
He was so joyous, so young, so beautiful, so classically invincible.
From “Our Moloch,” by Garry Wills:
“We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?”
During orientation we had to try out the full rotation of camp activities. I balked at the riflery range – one of the most popular activities the camp offered. I don’t believe in guns, I explained. I was raised not to trust so much as a water pistol, let alone a real weapon that shoots real bullets. I quibbled with some of the staff. I couldn’t understand why we promoted interest in guns at all, especially since our campers were almost entirely residents of troubled urban neighborhoods. The argument: gun safety was a valuable lesson for the campers.
I didn’t have to shoot the gun, but I did. I don’t remember why; I’m sure I could have managed conscientious objector status at my summer camp counselor job. Maybe I wanted to see what it was like to pull the trigger, just that once. After a brief safety lesson, I pointed the rifle in the direction of the target and took my shots.
I had excellent aim. And the accuracy of my shots only made me feel sicker about it. I immediately regretted the decision to shoulder that ugly weapon at all, let alone well.
“Gun Religion” by A.E. Kieran. Used by permission of the Creative Action Network.
Jerome was shot and killed on the street about a year after I screeched at him that he was going to break his neck diving into shallow water. The teenage kid who shot him had also been a camper, the older brother of one of the girls I’d had in my cabin.
I hate guns.
I hate the assault rifle Adam Lanza carried into Sandy Hook Elementary School. I hate every single bullet that pierced the flesh of every single one of the 1,883 people who have been shot in Chicago this year (as of 11/1). I hate all the guns that were fired on accident, killing the very children they were kept on hand to protect.
God damn guns is what I want to say, and I mean this in the truest sense of the phrase. I would rejoice to witness every single firearm to ever emerge from a weapons assembly line thrown into an everlasting Lake of Fire. Truly, I cannot imagine that there is a place for guns in the new Creation. If there is no more mourning nor crying nor pain, that must mean there are no more triggers.
How long, O Lord?