…is for honoring those who have fallen in defense of their country. “Country” is a complex word. It can mean the very land on which we live. It can mean the state. It can mean your fellow citizens. It can mean the ideals for which your country stands (and this is especially true for the United States since it is, as Chesterton noted, the only country founded on a creed and not on an ethnos, whatever the white supremacists in Charlottesville may think). So you can, paradoxically, die for “We hold these truths to be self-evident” while making war on the state of Virginia and bivouacking your troops in the home of the slaveholder who wrote those words.
It is not just soldiers who have died for their country. Abraham Lincoln died for his country. John F. Kennedy died for his country, murdered by a Commie at the height of the Cold War. Martin Luther King died for his country, murdered by a miserable little racist for calling America to repent its original sin.
A couple of weeks ago, two beautiful young men died for their country by deliberately sacrificing their lives to save their fellow Americans from the umpteenth beneficiaries of an insane gun regime that fights tooth and nail to make sure that 40,000 human beings will again be slaughtered on American soil by 12/31/19. Kendrick Castillo and Riley Howell gave their lives in the service of their country just as much as any heroes at Gettysburg or Normandy. They fought real enemies of America just as much as troops on Okinawa or at Anzio did. And they gave the last full measure of devotion, not after having a chance to think about it, sign up, go to boot camp, and prepare, but on the spur of the moment and with their bare hands. They were the best of us and in a civilized country, their names would be carved on a memorial just as much as those inscribed at the Vietnam Memorial as the very least we could do in gratitude.
But they will not be remembered, any more than the forgotten heroes who stopped shooters in the countless other mass shootings that have come and gone since Columbine. The reason they will be forgotten is that mass shootings are now a literally daily occurrence in America. And the reason they are a daily occurrence is because a Gun Cult in the service of white Americans who are overwhelming conservative and Christian have fought tooth and nail to make sure that nothing will ever change.
The Gun Cult exists because white conservative American are afraid of brown ones. The proof of this, in addition to the NRA’s documented campaign to stop brown people from having guns, is also seen by the blame the NRA fixed on the victim when a twelve year old black boy in an open carry state was murdered in cold blood by a cop. It is seen in the stony silence they accorded Philando Castile, who was also murdered in cold blood by a cop while act totally within his second amendment rights. It is supremely seen in the way the Cult, for years, said (while a black man was president) that “we need the second amendment to protect ourselves from the government”. The NRA aided and abetted the obscene lie that Sandy Hook was a conspiracy by parents in cahoots with Obama to fake their children’s death (or to actually murder their children) so that the black bogeyman could take our guns. They fed the nutty paranoia of white Texans that Operation Jade Helm was the Black Muslim in Chief’s plot to “take our guns”. (Ironically, these defenders against tyranny were being manipulated by Russian trolls and bots.) At the back of the whole thing was the absurd claim that the Framers wrote the Second Amendment so that nuts could make war on the Constitutional order if it was not to their taste. That absurd claim was dramatically refuted both by George Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion and even decisively tested and found wanting from 1861-1865.
But the real proof that even the NRA knows it is a lie was given by its own members, when Donald Trump told a gathering of NRA members that he is giving billions of dollars of military equipment to the police. The NRA, which up till oh, January 2017 was endless warning about the need for guns to defend ourselves against the state suddenly cheered at the thought of a state with overwhelming military fire power aimed at its citizens. Why? Because they know which citizens Donald Trump is aiming at.
And so, the Gun Cult continues to reign supreme and, for the foreseeable future, our children are on their own. Nobody will save them. They have to save themselves.
People ask what I mean by “Gun Cult”. It’s really quite simple. It has nothing to do with gun ownership per se. You can be a gun owner and an enemy of the Gun Cult, as for instance, Sean Dailey is. You can own no gun and still be a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Cult. Here is a quick diagnostic to determine if you are a member. Read this:
If your response to this is horror and shame at the country we have created and a desire to do whatever is necessary to end the nightmare to which we are subjecting this and every other child, then you are a normal, decent person whether you own a gun or not. You are thinking about the good of other people and not simply and solely about yourself. Glad to have you in the human race. Let’s see what we can to do to end this nightmare.
If your one and only response to this is “Don’t blame me! Don’t touch my gun! There’s no point in trying to change anything. MOAR GUNS!” then whether or not you own a gun, you are a member of the Gun Cult and you–you personally–are an accomplice in subjecting this child and every other child in the United States, along with every adult, to an unending nightmare of human sacrifice to your selfishness, narcissism, fear, and nihilism.
The two fine young men who gave their lives to save their fellow Americans from murderers whose access to the technology of slaughter has been passionately defended by the Gun Cult for decades died because they thought first of other people. The Gun Cult thinks always and only of itself. May the day finally come when heroes like these boys are remembered and the Cult goes down in ignominy and is forgotten forever.
Father, remember your brave servants Kendrick and Riley and bring them to eternal life though him who said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”