Monday, April 23, 2018

That joke isn't funny anymore...

Another day, another shooting...

That joke isn't funny anymore...  It's too close to home... And it's too near the bone...

Last night, I read about the latest shooting, this time at a Waffle House near Nashville.  I learned about James Shaw, the 29 year old man who managed to disarm the shooter, identified as 29 year old Travis Reinking of Morton, Illinois.  To be honest, there have been so many shootings in America that I don't even bother to read about most of them anymore.  I think I read about this one because James Shaw, the hero who stopped the shooter from taking more than the four lives he did, is a black man.  And for once, the headlines aren't about an unarmed black man being shot.  This time, they are about a brave black man who saved lives.

I shared the story on Facebook and my former shrink, a very cool guy who does great work, made this comment.

I can't decide which would be the better headline: "Unarmed black man disarms white man with AR-15" or "Good guy without a gun overcomes bad guy with a gun" or "Man with AR-15 and no pants disarmed by man wearing pants but no gun".

I often hear gun enthusiasts say we shouldn't limit access to weapons because, they reason, criminals don't obey laws.  If we outlaw guns, they'll still use them, but so-called "good guys" will then be unarmed.  And yet, here's a story about an unarmed man who disarmed a "bad guy" with a gun.  Granted, Shaw was remarkably lucky, quick to think, and even quicker on his feet.  The shooter had to stop and reload, and that's when Shaw made his move.  Had he hesitated, the story might be very different.

Another friend made this astute comment...

I hate to say it, but I'm just glad he didn't get shot by the police by mistake. That was my first thought if they pulled up and he was holding a gun.

That thought hadn't immediately occurred to me, but she's right.  Quite a few people, young black men in particular, have been shot for less reason.  I'm just relieved that this time, the police got it right and Shaw was left with just a bullet graze on his arm.  And all because he decided to have waffles at 3:20am.

The funny thing is, right before this story broke, Bill and I were riding in the car, listening to my wildly eclectic music mix.  A song by David Wilcox came on called "Waffle House".  I hadn't heard it in, literally, years.

As we were listening to this, Bill said, "This is a really cool song."  Actually, if you read the lyrics, they're almost surreal, in light of what happened at the Waffle House in Tennessee.  

At the Waffle House
At the edge of the dark abyss
The confusion decends like this
Just deeper and denser 

This morning's post comes courtesy of a random memory that popped into my head.  I belong to a Facebook group dedicated to 70s and 80s nostalgia.  My friend Joann is also in that group.  She posted a picture of her and a couple of friends at their senior prom in 1989.  I was suddenly reminded of a novelty song by Julie Brown that was popular when I was about 12 or 13 years old.  It was called, "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun".  I remember that whenever that song came on the radio, I'd get very excited... and then I'd be sad because my tape recorder wasn't prepped for recording the novelty hit, which would only come on during morning radio shows when people need a laugh.

Julie Brown's video about the gun toting homecoming queen.

In the early 90s, I finally got a chance to tape that song and I listened to it enough times to memorize the lyrics (and later bought a legit copy).  In those days, the idea of a homecoming queen on a shooting spree was absolutely ludicrous.  That's what made the song so funny.  When I was younger, we didn't hear about so many people going on shooting sprees.  That might have been, in part, because we didn't have the Internet and the news wasn't necessarily a 24/7 thing.  Sure, we had CNN when I was 12 or 13, but not everyone subscribed to the news channel, and not everyone watched it.

Even so, it just seemed like people weren't as unhinged back then as they are now...  So a song about a crazy homecoming queen killing people at the prom, a la Stephen King's Carrie, seemed especially laughable.  I wouldn't think to be sad because the song was about a murderous, batshit crazy homecoming queen who killed people in the prime of their lives.  I'd be sad because it was a very funny song (at the time, anyway) and I wasn't prepared to tape it off the radio.  How innocent I once was!

But at least no one has yet developed telekinetic powers...  But there are plenty of weird religious folks running around, probably more than there were in 1976.

As I thought about Julie Brown's song this morning, I was reminded of that old song by The Smiths, which titles today's post.  Although I haven't been personally affected by a shooting, at least not yet, it's getting to the point at which I realize that one day, jokes about shootings will "hit too close to the bone".  And maybe I'll think of Morrissey singing...

I've seen this happen in other people's lives
Oh ...
And now it's happening in mine

That is, if I'm still capable of thinking.  The world gets weirder every day.  Incidentally, in 2015, I wrote a much shorter post on this same topic for my music blog.  That particular post was inspired by yet another shooting, that time at Northern Arizona University.  It seems that no community is immune to this insanity.  

Thank God James Shaw was there at the Waffle House and ready for action.  I'm sure quite a few people are grateful to him today, realizing that had he not sprung when he noticed the opportunity, more people might be injured or dead.  But how sad it is that the bright side of this situation is that only four people are dead and the unarmed black man who stopped the shooting wasn't mistaken for the perpetrator.  Morrissey is right.  That joke really isn't funny anymore.


  1. The only one of those songs I had heard before was "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun." You're so right that the song was hysterical because it was so implausible, but it's not implausible anymore, which in turn makes it less funny, which is, in turn, unfortunate for so many reasons.

    I read something during my meal break about some local sheriff's deputy supposedly having taken four firearms from Reinking, given them to his father, and told his father to keep guns away from him. The reporter speculated that laws perhaps may have been broken if the father gave the firearms back to his son. Sometimes I wonder about the intelligence of reporters. I have zero legal education, but even I know that a deputy sheriff doesn't have the authority to permanently ban individuals from possessing firearms. While I'm reluctant to place blame for the incident on anyone other than the shooter himself, if anything serious enough to warrant a sheriff's deputy removing firearms from the possession of a citizen, the proper channels should have been followed so that a judge made the ruling. Maybe then, the man could have been evaluated for 51-50 purposes and perhaps even held for treatment. I don't even know if one of the guns taken away from Reinking by the sheriff's deputy was used in the shooting. Perhaps Reinking owned twenty firearms, and maybe only four of them were confiscated by the deputy. That would have been another reason to have gone through proper channels. A search warrant could have been executed and possibly all of his weapons could have been removed from his possession. The world has many unbalanced individuals, and because a person cannot be locked up before committing a crime unless he or she presents evidence of being a danger to self or to others, he cannot be deprived of his liberty. Sometimes those unbalanced individuals will commit crimes before they are known by the legal system to be dangerous. In this particular case, however, the law enforcement personnel chose to operate as though he were Barney Fife or Goober working under the direction of Sheriff Taylor. Such should not be the case any longer in today's world.

    Regarding James Shaw, some people are incredibly competent under extreme pressure, and he seems to be one of them. I don't know what line of work he is in -- perhaps he already has a really good job and needs no help -- but if it's not something that provides him with a relatively good standard of living, it would be nice if some individual or company with the means to facilitate such would offer him employment, providing education or training as needed, so that his talent could be more fully utilized. He's one of the good guys.

    1. Actually, I believe he's either in college or recently finished a degree. According to Time Magazine: "Shaw Jr., a 29-year-old Nashville native, is a technician for AT&T and a father to a 4-year-old daughter. He attended Tennessee State University and Brightwood College."

    2. Either way, I hope he ends up with a decent job because he deserves it.

    3. Yeah, he's looking pretty awesome right now. He's repeatedly said he's not a hero and only tackled the guy to save himself. That may be true, but he also saved a lot of other people's lives in the process.

  2. I don't really care what his motivation was. It doesn't matter if he was acting solely to save himself. His actions benefited many other people as well.

    1. Right. I think we agree. I think it's pretty cool that he's being very humble about it, though. He sounds like a man who is very grounded in reality.


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