Welcome back to The National Political Theatre, where the writing is bad and the acting is worse, but what we lack in quality we more than make up for in length! Now that intermission has ended, the theatre darkens and we return to The Gun Debate.
A single spotlight shines stage left on Dem and GOP, two old white men in cheap-looking, expensive suits. The couple is slow dancing within arm’s reach of a slot machine lever. They whisper sweet nothings into each other’s ears, somehow oblivious to Uncomfortable Truth, a glowing and pulsating red orb filling up the rest of the stage, shouting at full volume.
GOP: Gun laws don’t work.
Dem: Well, actually the 10-year assault-weapon ban from 1994 to 2004 decreased mass shootings.
Uncomfortable Truth: The ban was almost completely ineffective because of loopholes, exceptions, and the fact that we don’t actually have settled definitions for “mass shooting” or “assault weapon.” Oh, and since the ban had a goddamn expiration date, it’s hard to believe anyone was taking this very seriously to begin with.
GOP: Nah. Gun laws don’t work. Look at all the gun violence in Chicago. They have very strict gun laws but look at all the gun violence those nig— I mean, in Chicago.
Dem: Well, actually most of the guns seized by police in Chicago come from other states with terrible gun laws, like Indiana, so gun laws actually do work.
Uncomfortable Truth: Chicago has been 15 miles away from Indiana for 185 years and if your law doesn’t account for an inevitable 30-minute Uber to a Cabela’s, again, it’s kinda difficult to believe your heart’s really all the way in on this one.
GOP: This is quite a conundrum we’re in.
Dem: It could very well prove to be impossible to figure out.
Uncomfortable Truth: According to airlines.org, since 2010 in the U.S., only two people have died in commercial airline crashes. Two. If you’re telling me our society can soundly defeat the elemental force of gravity but is somehow eternally stuck fucking around at the margins of some dumbshit rules you two assholes made up, once more I gotta tell you it feels like you’re just not thinking it through.
GOP: [Sliding his hand to Dem’s hip] What we need is more guns.
Dem: [Shuddering excitedly] Don’t talk like that. We’re gonna pass a law so there’s fewer.
Uncomfortable Truth: There are already more guns than people in this country, so we’re a little bit past full saturation. Also, in Uvalde, as of this writing, law enforcement officials have changed their story at least 12 times in an attempt to absolve themselves of their own involvement as accessories to child murder and whatever else hasn’t even come out yet, but you want to police your way out of this? Cool! See you in the camps, I guess?
GOP: The important thing is that we still listen to and respect each other.
Dem: I’ll never let our differences pull us apart.
GOP: Our poor, innocent white boys are being brainwashed.
Dem: Radicalized. Do you think it’s…?
GOP: I do…
GOP, Dem: [Simultaneously] Social media.
Uncomfortable Truth: Right, right, right. That poor lost soul in Buffalo was just mesmerized by whatever colors flashed brightest on his phone. Sure, the Columbine massacre happened well before the days of social media. And just four years earlier, Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people in Oklahoma City without firing a single shot, when only .04 percent of the world was online, but so what if the killers don’t exactly line up in a way that can be singularly addressed? Aside from them all being white supremacists, I mean.
GOP, Dem: [Simultaneously] I guess there’s nothing more to be done…
Uncomfortable Truth: No! Don’t listen to them! The number of guns in this country is a symptom of the hate in this country, which is what we actually want to change! And we can if we pay attention locally, where those cookie-cutter political frameworks don’t necessarily apply! There’s an election happening in Portland on June 14! Your candidates have social media pages! Like in the rest of the country, some Portland school board candidates are terrifying! Stacey Hang posts about how justified the police are in killing Black men. Last year Amber Shertz posted a birthday fundraiser for an anti-abortion fund. Joshua Haefele’s online pastimes include promoting the police and talking shit about locally elected officials, especially if they happen to be women of color. Richard L. Ward is a self-proclaimed American Patriot Activist whose posts vary from anti-LGBT to pro-confederate statues…
GOP, Dem: [To audience, simultaneously] Pay no attention to Uncomfortable Truth. We are the only answer.
GOP and Dem kiss, slowly reaching out and pulling slot machine lever. Curtain falls.
Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller. He is also a contributor to the recently released How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling, from The Moth. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.