Today I had to drop off a cable box at a customer service center. The place was empty, which I had never seen before in this location. People seem to love their cable TV, and there are always long lines of people whenever I have gone there in the past. But today was a nice change of pace.
As I explained to the lady working behind the counter what my issue was, the TV that was on in the room had a CNN story about guns, asking whether we would ever be able to find some common ground about what to do with them. The lady behind the counter asked me what I thought about guns, and in particular the story of the fire fighters who were killed while responding to a fire alarm in western New York. The lull in business to the customer service center made this conversation possible, and I was glad it did. As anyone who knows me or reads my blog can attest, I’m always happy to share my opinions.
I told her that it was a tragedy for the families of the firefighters, and for us a nation as well. On the heels of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, it proves that something needs to be done. What exactly that is isn’t clear, but we can’t accept the status quo any more.
I also told her that news outlets like CNN are part of the problem. The 24-hour news cycle that makes an event from three days ago feel like ancient history allows us all to forget about things like firefighters killed in the line of duty. Life doesn’t ever return to normal for the victims of these crimes and their surviving families, but as soon as a big storm comes along, or a political scandal takes place, or any of a hundred other distractions occurs, we’re focused on that, instead of remembering the tragedy that just took place. Until, of course, the next gun tragedy comes along, just as it always does.
The lady behind the service window agreed with me, and told me that we need to keep this issue in the forefront of people’s minds. We parted by wishing each other a good day, and a happy new year as well. It sucks that such a set of circumstances had to occur in order to have a conversation like this with a stranger, but it’s one that I’m happy to have had.
I walked out of the service center, and thought about the ending of Santana’s song “Smooth.” It’s one of my favorite songs, from one of my favorite albums, and I’ve not written about it before in this space. Near the end of the song, Rob Thomas–who wrote the song, but only sang it after Carlos Santana suggested it–sings “let’s don’t forget about it” over and over again.
It’s Thomas’ frenetic insistence that helps to bring a truly great song to its conclusion. I didn’t want to forget my conversation with the lady, whose name I didn’t even learn, because we forget about important things too readily in our society.
Gun violence keeps on happening, and when we forget about this–or become sidetracked by what Lindsay Lohan is doing, or other such trivial matters–then assault rifles will continue to be sold to civilians, high-capacity magazines will continue to be stockpiled, and the NRA will keep working to normalize guns in our society. We’ve let it happen for too long already, so let’s stop it while we’re already far, far behind. Or as Rob Thomas suggests, “Let’s don’t forget about it.”