At the risk of giving my readers whiplash, I’m following up my romantic short story from last week with a brief commentary on the Newtown tragedy. Let me begin by saying there are no words to describe the horror and grief that go along with a massacre of this magnitude, and my prayers are with all those who suffered such great losses and all of us who are affected by the repercussions. It will take many lifetimes to study all the aspects of this event, and even then there is no way to understand or explain it. For today, I want to focus on what I call the fairy tale of gun control.
I’ve lived all my life in a culture where gun ownership is taken for granted, and I’ve never felt threatened by the fact that someone in my household or in my neighborhood owned a gun. On the other hand, I do not now nor have I ever owned a gun, and I don’t plan to ever own one. I have shot a gun at a target a few times, but I’ve never pointed one at a living thing, and I don’t plan to ever do that either.
When I became a mother, I made the decision that guns wouldn’t be part of my child’s life. I bought him games and books and the Incredible Hulk and Stretch Armstrong, but nothing with guns. When asked for gift ideas for him, I steered the giver away from weapons of mass destruction. But the inevitable happened. First he picked up a stick, and in his active imagination, it became a gun. Then he found a rusted toy pistol with the cartridge cylinder missing. It was a pitiful sight, but in his mind, it was the pearl-handled six-shooter of a famous Wild West sheriff. Knowing that forbidden fruit is always the most tempting, I let him keep his treasure, but I made sure he didn’t point it at me or any of his playmates, including the family dog. The gun soon found its way to the bottom of the toy box and was forgotten in favor of toys that produced a more positive reaction and interaction. As an adult, Christian has shot a gun at a target a few times but doesn’t own one or ever plan to as far as I know.“Sleeping Beauty” has been around for centuries in one version or another, from one of the 1001 Nights tales to the Brothers Grimm to Walt Disney, but the gist of the story has remained the same. A beautiful princess was born, and there was trouble at her christening celebration. An evil fairy was slighted in some way, and she placed a curse on the princess. She said that at some point before she reached adulthood, the princess would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. One good fairy had not yet used her wish for the princess, so although she couldn’t completely revoke the curse, she modified it to say that the princess wouldn’t die but would sleep for 100 years. But the king was a powerful man, and he had a solution. He banned all the spinning wheels, gathering them together and destroying them in a huge bonfire. But on her 15th birthday, the princess was wandering unattended in the castle and came across an old woman in a deserted tower who was busily spinning thread on a spinning wheel that had been overlooked in the purge. The inevitable happened, and the curse was fulfilled.
I wonder what would have happened if the king, instead of banning spinning wheels, had taken a different approach. What if he had taught his daughter from the beginning that spinning wheels were dangerous, especially to her. Even in a fairy tale, the best efforts of the king to eliminate the danger were unsuccessful. And all it took was one. If the princess had known what she was looking at when she found the spinning wheel, she would have known its potential danger and perhaps would have left it untouched.
A lot of fairy tales end with a moral. I guess the moral of my tale today is that, even writers of ancient fairy tales knew you couldn’t destroy or hide all the weapons of evil in the world. We can try our best, but eventually we all come face to face with choices. Perhaps the best we can do is to educate ourselves and our children about the potential evils in this world and pray that, when we come face to face with these evils, we will choose to leave them untouched.