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Gettin' Rankled

I have a lightbulb story.

Lightbulb stories usually involve some sort of epiphany and this one is no different. But it came to me slowly.

When I was growing up, we were taught to turn off the light when we left a room, the idea being that, if you weren’t in the room, it wasn’t necessary to be wasting electricity, resources, money.

At some point in my adulthood, upon having “left the light on,” the question posed to me was, “Is there a reason that light was left on?”

My response was, “Yes.”

The next question was, “And what is that reason?”

And my answer was, “Because.”

Now, I consider myself fairly articulate and a reasonable communicator.

To me, when someone offers “Because” as a response, and nothing further, it basically means “I don’t want to have this conversation because it’s not going to lead anywhere that is going to get me a favorable outcome. Basically, I don’t have a good reason. I don’t have an argument.”

The reality of my having left the light on was I neglected to turn it off. I am not a wasteful person and yet, I also know that leaving a light burning is not going to drain my bank account.

Interestingly, that conversation did not go any further, but upon reflection, I realized there were numerous layers to it so I allowed myself to drill down deeper into what might be underlying my neglectfulness because I felt rankled. Rankled that someone was telling me what to do.

The definition of rankle is “to cause annoyance or resentment that persists.”

And I was feeling persistently annoyed that now, as an adult, I was having to be reminded to do something that I knew I should be doing anyway.

A voice came up in my head. It was my voice, as a child, from the past saying “You are not the boss of me.”

And there it was; on some subconscious level, I was leaving the light on as a protest, a beacon, as it were, of my independence.

This brings me around to our most recent tragedy in Florida and assault weapons.

Drawing the widest brushstroke possible, I know that evil exists. Evil and bad people and just a general darkness, just as there are wonderful, kind, benevolent people and a general sense of light.

But I look at our culture compared to the other cultures around the world and we seem to be having a problem with members of our society mowing down other members of our society in a manner that is far disproportionate to the rest of the world. That is, specifically, through gun violence.

I know people get angry and frustrated. If I can get rankled about getting reminded to turn a light off, imagine the rankling that goes on about issues that people SHOULD get rankled about.

What confuses me is the argument about individuals having to own weapons of war in our country and then feeling free to use them to vent their frustration. And yet, we allow it to happen.

This has always been a land of individuals. Well, that is, once the Europeans got here. The indigenous people seemed to have been more collective and in tune with their surroundings. Many of those Europeans came here because they were saying “You’re not the boss of me” around religion and politics and personal freedom. And they came and took over this land and made it the most powerful country on earth. With incredible freedoms and a quality of life unsurpassed in history.

I love those freedoms, and I love our quality of life. But there is no good argument for people getting frustrated, upset, yes, rankled even, and being able to procure a weapon that will allow them to go out and kill mass numbers of innocent members of our society.

The excuse of “I don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t do based on my second Amendment rights” is not cutting it any more.

Of course, the argument is not that simple; there are political aspects of gun lobbies and politicians getting paid off. You can even throw race into the equation and individual power and how the world is changing and how some of us don’t want it to.

But innocent people are dying because “we” don’t want to be told what to do and all of us have access to weapons that can kill dozens of others in a matter of minutes. Where is the tipping point in this argument? When is too many dead too many? You would think it would have been Sandy Hook. I mean, c’mon: those were elementary school kids.

We’ve gotten inured to violence in our culture (and don’t tell me video games haven’t played a part in all of this) and it’s not OK.

These are troubled times but there are big changes coming. The light is being shown on aspects of our culture that have been hidden in the dark for a while. Things we should be rankled about.

So, let’s KEEP the light on. But not just because somebody told you not to. Pay attention. Get rankled. But be conscious about it. Know where your anger and frustration are coming from.

Then go out and do something about it. Speak up. Say “no.” Take action. Get involved. Vote. Make a difference.

Celebrate our freedom.

Leave the light on for a reason.

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