Are We Driving That Train?

Each day in the U.S., 90 people die by firearms. This isn’t gun violence. This is population control.

It’s like Joon-ho Bong’s postapocolyptic film The Snowpiercer, in which a dictator balances a segregated class system by occasionally encouraging popular rebellion. Because a good firefight culls the numbers. In not acting to abate gun violence, we too are complicit in if not explicitly encouraging small scale rebellions that end in more deaths for the disenfranchised.

To see the population control in the U.S.’s lack of response to gun violence, it’s important to look at who’s dying.  Continue reading


Guns For Southern Boys And Black Panthers

The New Black Panther Party is patrolling neighborhoods in Dallas. I wonder if this is what my usually white, usually conservative university students mean when they write essays arguing for our God-given and constitutional right to bear arms?


New Black Panthers

The Huey P. Newton Gun Club members march through the Dixon Circle neighborhood of Dallas. Photo by Bobby Scheidemann.


When I encourage writing students to choose their own topics, young men in my classes often turn to guns. They’re personally and politically invested in their freedom to own, carry with them, and shoot guns. Or at least they evidence an almost or a vague political engagement. For instance, they’re usually critical of “the government” or of “the president” for trying to control their gun ownership. When I ask which president, they look curious or confused, as if they’re trying to figure out whether or not I’ve asked a rhetorical question.

When I had this conversation last semester with a student who didn’t answer my not at all rhetorical question, I suggested Ronald Reagan, who supported the landmark Brady Bill among other gun control laws. I don’t think my student, who seemed offended at my suggesting a Republican legacy as his antagonist, believed me. Continue reading

Dear Dolly Parton: An Open Fan Letter

Dear Dolly Parton, I’m a big fan. I love “Islands in the Stream.” Even more, I love your Imagination Library. Thank you for both.

I don’t listen to country music. But I love Dolly Parton. In 1996, she began giving books to children in her hometown. Now, her Imagination Library program delivers books to children throughout Tennessee and in other states, too.  Each month for the first five years of their lives, children receive a free book in the mail.

A book is a lovely gift. But here, it’s a more than a gesture. It’s a difference. This is Tennessee. For those of you not familiar with us, we’re in the mid South. We caught the nation’s attention with the infamous Scopes trial. And when Glenn Miller recorded “The Chattanooga Choo Choo,” with those now uncomfortably racist opening lyrics. And a few years ago when Rhae County commissioners banned gay people. Continue reading