We live in an increasingly impersonal world.
Take the vegetables you buy at the grocery store, for example: They’re nurtured and picked by individuals, often in foreign countries, we’ll never meet. We take the fruits of their labours for granted — we may even complain about the high prices being charged by the distributors of those products. But we give little or no thought to the men and women toiling in the farm fields . . .
No, this is not a guilt trip. It’s just a fact of life — though, I have to admit, sometimes in the winter when I buy tomatoes imported from Mexico, I wonder about the folks who grew and picked them.
I wonder, too, sometimes about the people who work in slaughterhouses, taking the lives of animals day in day out. I suppose they must numb themselves to the killings by compartmentalizing their feelings.
But what about the individuals who make bullets? I wonder if the following scene will take place at their kitchen tables on Monday morning, in the wake of the deaths of 50 people in a mass shooting by a lone gunman at an Orlando nightclub this weekend:
Scene in the kitchen of an American family: father, young daughter and teenage daughter seated, eating cereal, while mother butters toast at a counter.
Young girl: Daddy, teacher asked us to talk about what our fathers do at work today. What do you do?
Father: I make ammunition, sweetie.
Young girl: What’s that?
Teenage sister: Bombs, grenades, bullets . . .
Father: I don’t make bombs or grenades . . . just bullets.
Young girl: You mean, bullets like they use in guns?
Father: Yes, that’s what bullets are for, to be used in guns.
Young girl: But guns are used to kill people, aren’t they?
Father: (A little uncomfortable) Sometimes, but they’re mostly used for target practice and hunting.
Young girl: But what about the bullets used to kill all those people in the nightclub in Orlando on Saturday . . . did you make those?
Father: (Clearly uncomfortable) Um, I don’t think so, sweetie.
Teenage girl: But they could have been, Dad.
Father doesn’t respond; mother brings a plate of toast to the table, saying nothing.
Young girl: Daddy, why do you make bullets?
Father: (points to the toast) To put bread on the table for you to eat. It’s a job, sweetie.
Young girl: You mean those people died . . . (tears start to roll down her cheeks) . . . my toast . . . I don’t want any more toast . . . (she stands up and runs from the room, sobbing)
Mother leaves room to go comfort young girl
Teenage girl: (Tears start to roll down her cheeks, too) I don’t want any more toast, either … Sorry, I’ve lost my appetite. (she leaves the room)
Father: (alone at the table, pushes his plate of toast away from him) I don’t want anymore . . . No more . . .
Mother returns to the kitchen
Mother: I’m going to keep the girls home today. They’re very upset . . .
Father: (nodding, pulls cellphone from his shirt pocket and presses dial button) I’m not going in today, either . . . (into the phone) Hello, this is Ed. I won’t be in today. I’m not feeling well.
Loud voice at the other end: Jesus, Ed, you’re the fifth person to call in sick this morning. We won’t be able to run the production line . . .
Father: I’m sorry . . . I’m sorry . . . (He hangs up the phone, looks up at his wife) I can’t go back there . . . I couldn’t face our daughters if I did . . . no more (he starts to cry)
Mother: (she bends over and hugs him) Don’t worry, honey. You’ll find another job . . . We still have my income. I think there’s an opening in the fruit and vegetables department at work . . . I’ll ask my boss today . . .
Two daughters come back into the room
Father: (still sobbing, tells them) I’m quitting my job . . . I can’t do it anymore . . . No more bullets . . . I love you so much . . . (he stands up)
The scene fades with the family in a group hug . . .
In memory of the Pulse Orlando victims