INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 58: Fear goes around armed.


INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 58: Fear goes around armed.
FOX4 News Kansas City via Youtube

People With Guns Kill People

THE SHOOTINGS KEEP happening in the news. Yesterday it was the carload of teenage cheerleaders getting shot at and wounded after a mixup about one of them accidentally trying to get into the wrong car. Before that it was the young woman who got shot and killed in a car that mistakenly turned up the wrong driveway, and before that it was the teenager who got shot in the head but survived when he went to the wrong address to pick up his brothers.

Every one of these was an awful shooting, but people get shot this way all the time. These few just happened to cluster together, and the awful details happened to catch people's attention, in a way that allowed them to grab a little place in the news cycle.

Nothing is going on now that anyone hasn't seen before. Nearly seven years ago, after a more sensational kind of shooting, I wrote something that already said the main thing I would say about this week's gun news:

Most people, good guys or not, do not need or deserve the power to kill other people. People are confused or bad-tempered or careless or impulsive, especially under stress. They get mad about a stupid, forgettable traffic dispute and shoot somebody. They get scared by a knock at the door and shoot somebody. They get angry at their spouse or partner and decide to shoot them. They get excited about seeing a shoplifter and try to execute the shoplifter by spraying gunfire with innocent bystanders all around on a parking lot. They lose track of where they’ve left their guns until a child finds one and shoots itself, or shoots another child. Or, most often of all, they shoot themselves, making a fleeting impulse into an irrevocable decision.

Who wouldn't be afraid for their life, with all those guns around? When I hear about someone who did something panicky or idiotic with a gun, I think sometimes about two different incidents, or things that could have been incidents, in my own past.

One of them happened while I was driving, around the turn of the century, on Rockville Pike. I was at the wheel of my brand-new Volkswagen Golf, the only new car I've ever owned, at a stoplight on a slight uphill slope, when I saw the car ahead of me start slowly drifting backward. I honked and flashed my lights, but it just kept rolling until it tapped the front of my car. I threw the Golf into reverse and backed up as far as I could, and the car came rolling back at me again. Again I honked and flashed the lights, and again it front-ended me at low speed.

Flabbergasted, I opened the car door and got out, waving my arms, trying to get the driver's attention. I started walking toward the other car, and the woman in the driver's seat—a small, older woman, in a big car—glared at me in terror and started shouting "WHY ARE YOU HITTING ME? STOP HITTING ME!"

It took another driver, and a lot of effort, to convey to her that she, in fact, had been the one doing the hitting, that her car was rolling backward when she took her foot off the brake. In her mind, she believed absolutely that she had been sitting still, and that I was some maniac who had rolled up into her, repeatedly, honking and yelling and finally leaving my car to accost her. Clearly, this was a person who had no business handling something as dangerous as a car—but, I realized afterward, if she had also been a person who carried a gun, she would definitely have tried to shoot me. In her scared, incompetent version of reality, it would have been self-defense.

Who has that much confidence in their own judgment? The other incident was a few years before that. I was in my early 20s, in the house I grew up in, sleeping late after a production night at the weekly newspaper, when a sound from outside woke me up.

It was footsteps in the leaves below the window. The house was in the woods, on a country road, where almost no one ever came to the door. I lay still and listened. More footsteps, moving slowly along the outside of the house. Hushed voices, talking indistinctly. Someone was lightly fiddling with the latch on the front screen door, then walking around the house some more

I couldn't see from upstairs what was going on out there. I got the phone and called my next-door neighbor, my old friend and fellow Cub Scout, whose family lived up and down the road, and I told him what I knew: somebody was outside the house, and I wasn't sure who.

I got dressed, steeled myself to go quietly downstairs, and stepped out the kitchen door just as my friend came strolling out from among the trees and a strange car pulled out of the driveway and turned up the road, departing. I didn't see my friend’s shotgun at first because it was down behind his hip, out of view, broken open for carrying rather than shooting. I knew my friend had guns when I called him; I also knew he had sense and patience, raised not to point a gun at anything unless he knew what it was and meant to shoot it.

In the door, we found a copy of The Watchtower. The Jehovah's Witnesses apparently hadn't tried the doorbell with enough conviction. Maybe the rural isolation made them uncomfortable too.

It's easy to imagine the worst. The question is whether you try to bring about the worst—whether you imagine yourself the hero of some confrontation, bringing it to a sure and final resolution. If you do, more often than not, you'll be wrong. What's haunting about this country, as the dead and injured keep piling up, isn't even how many guns there are. It's how little everyone thinks about what it would mean to use those guns.


New York City, April 18, 2023

★★★ Under green trees, the gutter held a streak of pink blown in from somewhere else. The promising early morning turned gray, and it was too cold to have the windows open. Blue sky appeared among the whitening clouds by early afternoon, though the sun still needed more time to find its way through it. Tree sex parts lay in smooth-edged drifts of tiny brown and green and tan granules. Despite the brightness, it was chilly enough for full-length socks and the heavy hoodie, but the house sparrows sang some of their less grating songs. The vague and tentative day-old forecast of possible showers posed no threat to the sixth-grader's vivid new sneakers. Toward evening the sky was fully clear and the leaves of the honeylocust were generously backlit.

Indignity Morning Podcast No. 49: Back to the business of making money.
Listen now (4 min) | The Indignity Morning Podcast is also available via the Apple and Spotify platforms.

The Indignity Morning Podcast is also available via the Apple and Spotify platforms.


WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from Brewster Book of Recipes, by the Woman’s Association of Brewster Congregational Church and their friends, published in 1921, found in the public domain and available at for the delectation of all.


Toast bread; butter. 1/2 lb. cheese, chopped with 2 pimentoes. Spread on toast; put in oven until cheese begins to melt. Serve hot.
—Mrs. Harry M. Freed.

Moisten the grated yolk of 1 hard boiled egg with 1 tablespoon of softened butter; add 1/2 can crab meat, chopped; 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Mix to a paste. Spread on thin slices of buttered brown bread.

One bunch cress, 1/2 cup pecans, chopped fine. Mayonnaise to spread. Cut slices very thin and spread with peanut butter.

Spread bread with any kind of jelly, add chopped nuts. Philadelphia cream cheese and 1/2 glass currant jelly; mix well together.

Soak Spanish onion in water; drain well. Salt, and juice of lemon squeezed on slices.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, kindly send a picture to us at

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