America is a gun

On my walk this morning, I approached a tidy bungalow and heard a baby crying from the front porch. Even though I couldn’t see the child, I knew it was quite young. I’ve never been a mother, but even I know that the cry of a newborn is different – like the mewing of a kitten – fragile and needy.

Front porch lullaby.

I slowed down my pace for a bit and over the cries, heard the soft sound of a woman speaking Spanish to the baby. I don’t know Spanish (major regret that I took French instead) but I didn’t need to be fluent to translate that the words she was saying were gentle and comforting – almost like a spoken lullaby. The woman’s voice over the baby’s tiny cries produced a sweet harmony and I realized that my feet were no longer moving. And just like that, I was crying.

I thought about Jordan Anchondo – the 25-year-old mother of three who was shot and killed while shielding her two-month-old son from the gunfire at a Walmart in El Paso on Saturday. Her baby was treated for broken bones – likely caused by her falling to the floor while clutching him to her chest. She had gone shopping that morning for school supplies and party decorations for her six-year-old daughter’s upcoming birthday.

Her husband Andre, 23, was also killed in the massacre.

I stood there on a sidewalk in Pleasanton, CA, far away from my own home, crying for the harmonies that would never be heard.

America is a gun.

Those aren’t my words, but I wish they were. It’s the title of a poem I first ran across in 2016, after the deaths of 49 people in the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. You remember that shooting? It was the largest mass shooting in US history – until the very next year when 58 people were killed in Las Vegas at an outdoor musical festival.

Brian Bilston, the author of the poem, said the idea for it was generated by this tweet from Jeb Bush:

Bushwhacked.

Bush was a presidential candidate at the time and was apparently trying to bolster his weak standing in the polls by pandering to pro-gun voters. He was immediately eviscerated on social media and his tweet became an epic meme. Oh, and four days later he would drop out of the presidential race. Self-inflicted wounds suck.

Here’s the poem:

“America is a Gun”

England is a cup of tea.

France, a wheel of ripened brie.

Greece, a short, squat olive tree.

America is a gun.

Brazil is a football on the sand.

Argentina, Maradona’s hand.

Germany, an oompah band.

America is a gun.

Holland is a wooden shoe.

Hungary, a goulash stew.

Australia, a kangaroo.

America is a gun.

Japan is a thermal spring.

Scotland is a highland fling.

Oh, better to be anything

than America as a gun.

As I gathered myself on the sidewalk and made my feet start moving again, the sweet duet of that young woman and the baby was drowned out by a Rufus Wainwright song in my head –” Going to a Town”.

I’m going to a town that has already been burnt down

I’m going to a place that has already been disgraced

I’m gonna see some folks who have already been let down

I’m so tired of America

When did America become a gun?

America used to be a front porch.

Jordan Anchondo and her son.
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