Thursday, January 17, 2013

Waking up EXACTLY where I don't want to be - the perfect place at the perfect time - for Dylan, Jake, Ann Marie, their Families, Aurora and Newton P. D., et. al., infinity.

This morning I woke up at about 5:30 AM with time to kill in my LasVegas hotel room. 

I swore off of cable TV news and morning shows long ago, primarily in an effort to triage the influx of hysteria into my already overstimulated psyche.   As an alternative, I listen to an internet music provider or my hometown NPR Station, 2,200 miles and currently 3 time zones away.  Over my $34 dollar pair of poached eggs, english muffin and liter of coffee (that’s right, it was 34 dollars, I prefer my eggs poached and I’m going for the full liter with not a drop to spare- you read all of that right – Vegas.) the BBC so eloquently provided the soothing white noise that can only be provided by a British radio news anchor.
All of a sudden, the voice on the airwave was no longer British, she was American. The voice belonged to Nicole Hockley, the mother of Jake and Dylan Hockley of Newtown, CT and she was telling the story of her boys.  Jake is 8 years old and was a student of Sandy Hook Elementary.  He can't sleep at night because he keeps asking when the shooting is going to happen again and no one can really answer him.  His little brother Dylan was 6 years old before he was found shot to pieces, what was left of him was cradled lovingly in his teacher’s arms, surrounded by other children hidden in a school supply closet.

I know that was hard to read, I’m sorry.   It was hard to type.  It was even harder to stop the gut wrenching sobs that had me doubled over out of nowhere this morning as I was eating my breakfast, watching the Nevada sunrise over the mountains on the outskirts of Sin City.  Listening to Nicole, a primal surge of simple shared, human pain just wrenched me out of nowhere and I found myself sobbing with a level of emotion that I have not experienced in recent memory.  

As deeply as I felt the impact of what happened in that small town several weeks ago, as much as I thought I had talked through and processed my feelings and reactions and emotions, with friends, family and the rest of the nation, I was completely unprepared for this innate emotional response to hearing a mother tell the story of her two sons and their teacher, Anne Marie Murphy.

It’s possible that I would have had the same reaction in the sanctuary of my own home in Salt Lake City, (not-so-arguably the nation’s strongest advocate for unlimited access to unlimited weapon ownership).  It’s also possible that I would have had the same reaction on a business trip in, say, Chicago (I believe the Nation’s leader in gun related violence and homicide), which is where I was the Monday after the Newtown shooting.  I will forever remember sitting in my Chicago hotel room, breaking my self-imposed cable news ban, tuned in with rapt attention to CNN’s broadcast of the interfaith service held in Newtown.  I will never forget listening to the local Newtown Rabbi chant, hauntingly, beautifully in a language that I don't understand a song of mourning so poignant that it seemed to be a cry from God himself. But I wasn't home and I wasn't somewhere else - I was here, in Las Vegas listening to Nicole.

I pulled myself together, pushed aside my breakfast, put on my brand new logoed shirt, specifically designed for the SHOT Show, opted for the pencil eyeliner in lieu of liquid, given the circumstances, and went down 22 floors to face somewhere around 70 THOUSAND of America’s most enthusiastic weapons enthusiasts.    There is no possible way for me to convey to you in words the level of inner conflict and self-loathing that I was trying to process between those 22 floors.  When I came down an additional escalator and had a bird’s-eye-view of a sea of human beings being guided by cocktail waitresses holding huge bright orange signs in the shapes of rifle scopes and targets, only those unfortunates who have experienced the joy that is a panic attack will be able to somewhat relate.

BUT HERE’S THE THING!  I spent my day in a section of the show that is exclusively targeted  to active duty law enforcement and active duty military.  8 hours, not one comment on gun rights.  Not one mention of politics, speeches, reactions, NRA, President Obama, liberalism, conservatism, or the Second Amendment.  THOUSANDS of individuals; not a word. This, as the NRA is literally across the hall, simultaneously launching an epic, internationally covered, public relations response to President Obama’s call for weapons reform.  Not one peep. 

I outfitted hundreds patrolmen, squadrons, S.W.A.T, and Medics all day long with ballistics protection, soft body armor, hard body armor, tourniquet casings, and emergency response kits  with the hopes of keeping them alive and giving them better tools to help them keep their brothers alive.  Brothers….  Brothers…  There are Jake and Dylan again.   

I spent 30 minutes talking to two adorable twenty-something police officers from Aurora, CO about a piece of $50.00 gear that their departments couldn't afford to provide.  Without thinking, I jumped on the geography of Aurora, given its proximity to UT, before I realized what I was doing.  These guys did not want to talk about the fact that they were form Aurora.  They just needed better functioning gear.  They just wanted to do their jobs.  They just wanted to not be from Aurora.

In Julie’s dream world, the one where its totally cool for me to refer to myself in the 3rd person, I have a pet donkey and live in a 200 year old colonial home on the coast with an unlimited supply of Sumatra coffee, and farm acres of lavender, there are no guns and every decision that we make as human beings, states, and nations is motivated by the furthering peace and love.   Sadly, Hunter can't stand it when I refer to myself in the 3rd person, I don’t think donkeys like cold weather and we just bought a 5 year old house in Park City where the altitude doesn't even let you grow so much as an onion.  Guns exist and so does snow and new construction.  I understand and accept these things, and this is not meant to be my proposal to impose my brilliant liberal solution to this problem.  I don’t use this blog much lately, much to my chagrin, but its name is fortuitous.  This is where I ultimately go find myself – a safe place to wrestle with these Shades of Gray.  In my heart, I know I will never own a gun.  That is a conscious, well-thought out, highly discussed and considered decision that we have come to together as a family for a variety of legitimate reasons that apply to us as an individual unit.  Does that mean you shouldn't undergo the same analysis and be allowed come to a different conclusion?  No, not really – to a point…

I found myself about every hour or so throughout today drifting off with thoughts of Dylan.  And then a young man would walk up to me and ask me very politely to direct him towards a piece of equipment that will better his chances of staying alive while he devotes his energy, time and life to keeping the next six year old little boy and his teacher from ending up in pieces – to keeping all of us from ending up a 30 second sound bite in a never ending news cycle of decimated carnage.  And while I’m trying to be engaging and jovial and informative… while I’m slipping this young man from Aurora (who would rather be anyone than “that young man from Aurora”) a “sample” from the booth display that I know will give him better, quicker, more reliable access to the comparatively tiny little magazines in his standard issue Beretta, the NRA is across the hall arming anyone and everyone as fast as they possibly can with bigger guns and more ammo. 

I’m going to sleep tonight hoping that today, I advised someone in Military/Law Enforcement towards a piece of equipment strong or efficient enough to stand up against the pin that was pulled out of the grenade across the hall by the NRA.  We have, under the same roof, orchestrated heaven for the misunderstood loaners, riled up and teetering on the edge, looking for a deal to purchase via private transaction semi-automatic weapons and at the same time consolidated resources for the heroes who will stand in the line of fire while working to get that same weapon off of the street so that it doesn't do what it was designed to do - kill someone.  These guys shop gear, not because its cool but so they can realize their goal of seeing their son graduate from high school.  I have to imagine that a few of those guys were thinking about Dylan today too.  And Jake.  And Nicole.  And Anne Marie.  And next time.   

More Information on the Hockley Family’s outreach can be found here:  here:
I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  
I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.”