A forum for kindred spirits interested in open, curious, and respectful but exuberant conversation about some of the big and small questions. Let's get down and dirty about spirituality, politics, and whether men will ever "get" women or vice versa. Sports is fair game, too.
We have one locally, at the Exton Mall. About 20 minutes from where we live, it's cleverly constructed to appeal to hipsters and rebels (or those who like to think of themselves as rebels). Zumiez advertises itself as offering clothing for those part of the snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfer "lifestyle."
Nice stuff. And expensive.
My daughter used to hang out at Zumiez. She had a friend who worked in the Mall store. Remarkable to me chiefly because of the gauges that had pulled his earlobes down so far that they would require surgery to repair, he was also a sweet young man.
So I can imagine the Zumiez at the Columbia Mall before the shooting. I have a lot of trouble imagining it afterwards.
Brianna Beniolo and Tyler Johnson died in the Zumiez today. They were both on their twenties. I know lots of parents with kids around that age. Sometimes you are an adult at that age -- sometimes you aspire.
But most times, you still have optimism, and dreams. Today a gunman took away Brianna and Tyler's dreams.
There will be inevitably, conversation about how strict Maryland gun laws didn't prevent gun violence. But that's kind of a bogus argument. Who knows where the guns came from? Who knows how safely they were kept? Who knows the mental status of the gunman (though I think we'll find out)?
The alleged shooter, who killed himself after he killed Brianna and Tyler, was 19. Old enough to buy a gun, but not yet old enough to legally buy beer.
What troubles me more, this evening, as I grieve from a distance for Brianna and Tyler, is how much violence we are willing to tolerate in our culture.
How many other nations not engaged in war with other hostile nations or in civil war with each other have kids shot on college campuses (at least two this week) and at shopping malls? How many have the rates of homicide and suicide we do?
Look in the freaking mirror, America.
How many are as complacent as we seem about the terrible toll of this violence?
There is evidence that "gun safe" zones are actually safer (I know the gun lobby will busy themselves with that argument, too, saying one more gun would have saved them).
When "your" right to own a gun, under almost any and all conditions impinges on our sons and daughter's right to feel safe on a college campus (or a kindergarten or a middle school), then I have to wonder a whether many Americans have made an idol out of "freedom." What about life and the pursuit of happiness? Brianna and Tyler won't get to do that, either.
Tonight that idol has a face. Or several faces. You'll be seeing them in your newspaper tomorrow.