By John Cullen
It’s not easy writing fiction right now. I find it hard to use my imagination ever since a 20-year-old sicko decided to use his imagination to conjure up one of the most unthinkable mass murders in human history on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn. How do you look a frightened 6-year-old girl in the eyes and blow her away with a rifle multiple times at close range? And if that weren’t horrific enough, how do you do that again and again and again?
Words can be powerful, but sometimes they are completely useless.
“Stop! Please don’t shoot!”
These are no match against the power of a Bushmaster rifle unleashed in a classroom full of terrified youngsters.
And now, in this equally brutal aftermath, we are left with paltry words like “Why?” and “How?” Sadly, no spoken or written explanation will bring back the wasted lives of 20 first-graders and their six heroic protectors — none of whom ever thought they’d need to arm for war inside the halls of an American elementary school.
No, there’s plenty to write about regarding the real world right now — fiction seems like pointless escapism from a place where innocent children and teachers are gunned down in broad daylight just 11 days before Christmas.
Ah, Christmas. I wonder how many young Americans found “Call of Duty” under their Christmas tree in December 2011. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? The birth of Jesus, a message of life and love, is celebrated by giving gifts that involve killing as many people as possible. No, those virtual people aren’t real. But there are 20 sets of parents in Newtown whose first-graders didn’t come home on Dec. 14, and the young recluse responsible was reared and coddled in a dark basement by “Call of Duty” and, just for added danger, a mother with a fetish for real guns. That’s not fiction. That’s America today — mass killings for play and mass killings for real. There’s no sugarcoating how far the human race, and more specifically America, has sunk with this latest atrocity.
There are no words to write our way out of what we’ve become. There are no words. None. This blog post may be some attempt at therapy, but it will fail miserably in the face of the horrors witnessed by those poor first responders on Dec. 14. Imagine if one of us had to walk into Sandy Hook Elementary School that day. Imagine trying to go on with your life after that. That’s not fiction. That happened — IN AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL — not very far from where I live with my wife and twin toddlers. I’m glad they are young enough right now that I don’t have to try to explain to them what happened to those little kids and their teachers. Because there are no words. None.
We all have to take a look in the mirror. I’ve written three novels in the last four years and all of them have involved guns to varying degrees. Am I any better than “Call of Duty?” Sure my books are 1/1 billionth as popular as that video game, but aren’t I contributing to this same American culture that treats gun violence with such a cavalier attitude? Guns are so embedded in our way of life that it never even dawned on me to think about how I included them in my fictional stories in a negative light.
Right now I’m thinking and writing about 26 tragic endings that should never be forgotten. How do we writers honor their memory?
Words Against Guns.
No, words are no match against a Bushmaster rifle, but we’ve got to try.
If we don’t, some day soon we may be forced to write words we never thought we’d have to — the obituary of our own child — just like 20 sets of parents in Newtown did in the days leading up to Christmas. Imagine an empty chair at your Christmas dinner table.
Words Against Guns.
Start writing now!