Something wicked is already here l Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Feb 21, 2018

Hrishikesh Hirway is a 39-year-old musician and designer, a composer and podcaster extraordinaire, hosting the very popular “Song Exploder” as well as co-hosting “The West Wing Weekly” with actor Joshua Malina.

“The West Wing” is probably my favorite show, although I say that because I've probably seen it the most times. I'm a big fan.

So is Hirway, of course, and he sometimes speaks to this on the show, his familiarity with characters and episodes seeping into his everyday life. With 150 hours' worth of moments, it's easy to wander across a situation that seems similar to when, say, C.J. had that thing with Danny and Leo came in and did that other thing. The show seeps.

So this is what I thought, last week: It was like Equatorial Kundu.

Kundu is a fictional Ivory Coast nation on the show, a country that quickly devolves into civil war and, even more quickly, into genocide. This was obviously a reflection of reality, a callback to the 1994 Rwanda genocide that caught the rest of the world sitting on our heels, stunned by the rapidity of the horror and (primarily) uninterested in venturing onto the continent.

So our fictional president, about to be inaugurated for his second term, is troubled by this fictional nation. His advisors are also torn, no one is all that eager to see U.S. troops engaged in any way in that part of the world.

At one point, President Bartlet murmurs to a speechwriter, "Why is a Kundunese life worth less to me than an American one?"

"I don't know, sir," the aide replies (played by Mr. Malina, in fact), "but it is." It was a stunning example of speaking painful truth to power, a civics lesson the show taught many times.

Later on, at a prayer breakfast, an actor clearly meant to remind us of archbishop Desmond Tutu gently chastises the president, asking him if, instead of Kundu, the violence had broken out in a small European country, would his administration be acting differently? Bartlet acknowledges that, in fact, it would.

So I wonder if this is where we are.

The perpetrator of our latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was a white teenager with an AR-15. There are some murmurs of mental health, but mostly shrugging and sighing. Some people break bad, whatcha gonna do?

If he had darker skin, it would have been different. If he'd been radicalized in some way, particularly by Islamists (as opposed to white supremacists, as seems the case here), it would have been way different. We all know this. It’s hardly worth mentioning.

But there's another detail I wonder about. A detail that nudges my “West Wing” trivia repository and produces the above Bartlet quotations.

It's the detail about the victims, not the shooter. That's what I wonder about.

We've been saying for a few years now that it's a lost cause, or at least many of us have been. After Sandy Hook, the theory goes, we know what will happen. If we can't come up with some sort of meaningful correction to the mayhem being carried out in our common spaces after little kids were gunned down, it's not gonna happen.

This is a genie that won't fit back in the bottle. There are soon going to be more guns in this country than people, most of whom don't own them. That is, most people don't have guns; the ones that do, have lots. This doesn't sound like a good idea, but nobody is asking me.

We live in a country awash with deadly weapons, then. Most of them will be used lawfully and responsibly.  It’s possible that Parkland will be the tipping point, spurred by the activism we’re starting to see by the people who matter most, the high school students who are soon going to be of voting age. Maybe we can find some sensible solutions. I’m not particularly optimistic, but I watch.

I keep coming back to Newtown, though. In the past 20 years, we’ve seen the massacre of innocents, over and over again, and so I wonder: What will be our small European country? If the slaughter of 7-year-olds doesn't do a damn thing, who has to die to make a difference?

It's a morbid, horrible question, with worse imagery. Shoppers in a mall? Nursing home residents? Nuns in a convent?

Yeah, that's an ugly thing to ponder, but it's all I've got. Guns aren't going anywhere, and I can't see that this is the issue anymore, anyway. Ban the AR-15s, fine, whatever. Lock up the monsters, sure.

But something wicked this way has already come. It's in the water, in the soil, in the air. Spare me the hand-wringing about violent video games and movies, lack of parenting, all manner of nonsense that evades reality. Most teenagers are good and decent, even as exposed as they are to the world today. Most people with brown skin are, too. The vast majority of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists. Americans. They see what the scary people see, and they're just fine.

As are the vast majority of gun owners, too. It should be noted.

So I'm left to just wonder what it will take, if there's anything to take. I wonder about a tipping point, and what possibly could change all of this. I wonder about blood money greasing the skids and how that might be fixed.

But mostly I just wonder who's next.

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