In the two weeks between writing and turning in my last column and writing this one, there have been two mass shootings, which is devastating and horrific and commonplace.
I thought about asking the cards what 2e, as a country, could do about this, but the answers are obvious and politically unpopular: it’s gun control laws, it’s banning weapons of war, it’s increasing mental health counseling, it’s re-evaluating campaign finance laws so groups like the NRA cannot choke out the opinion and will of the people.
So instead, I asked: What do we do about the soul of America when it comes to guns? I drew five sets of two cards, set in a circle, to look at the progression from where we’re at to where we could go.
The first set was The Lovers reversed and The Knight of Swords.
As a country, we love and value our image as the Good Guy with The Gun. We’re the rag-tag group of farmers that overthrew the British Crown with muskets and then took the lion’s share of this continent through God’s Will and ammo. We’re the sheriffs that killed every outlaw in the streets at high noon. Some of the more zealous history textbooks will even suggest that we’re the sole reason everyone in Europe isn’t speaking German. We love this romantic idea of the armed protector. It’s why gun rights activists lament that they, The Good Guys with The Guns, are the only thing stopping The Bad Guys as if we’re a nation made up of a million John Waynes.
And it is this ego that is blocking us, with the Five of Swords reversed and Four of Swords.
The Five of Swords is a petty, self-serving, winning at all cost type of ego, leading to isolation and distrust. That’s why there is a conflict between “our individual right” to own guns and the need to remove that ego and see the situation for what it is (Four of Swords.) That rugged individualism is, for better or worse, one of the strongest parts of our cultural DNA, making it difficult to set aside ego.
But we are a nation that is both unified in grief (Five of Cups reversed) and divided on action (Five of Wands reversed)
I don’t believe that even staunch supporters of gun rights aren’t affected by the death of children; with the exception of sociopaths and true cynics, we all are. But, the divide of what to do about it does feel like opposite sides of a war. It is an ideological bridge that we have faced multiple times and cannot cross. In good faith, people suggest that we arm teachers, still believing that a Good Guy with A Gun is the only true answer, instead of banning weapons that allow The Bad Guy to commit what are essentially war crimes multiple times a year.
But then, there is a hope that something will change.
With The Star and The Empress, both reversed, there is a belief that some sort of epiphany will come.
The Star is a card that speaks about the harmony between the self, the imagination, and the world around us, a harmony that helps build the future. There is hope that we will have a reckoning between our ideal self, what we are, and what world we have created. It doesn’t surprise me that this is joined by The Empress, the card of the earthly mother. This debate is happening again (and again and again) because children were murdered and traumatized in two different mass shootings in 10 days. It is children, our literal future, that is driving our need to have harmony.
I do think there can be a sea change. That might sound naïve, but it’s true. Despite how deeply gun culture is baked into the country, I think our romantic idea of being A Good Guy with A Gun has more to do with the “good guy” part and less about “the gun.” We want to be the hero; perhaps we just need to change what that looks like.
The final outcome is The Hierophant reversed and Ace of Cups
The Hierophant represents many things—institutions, cultures, traditions, faith—and while that is the major arcana, I don’t think it’s as crucial as the Ace of Cups. The Ace of Cups is an agape type of love, supernatural and all-encompassing. It is a love for the collective and our future selves. It is the antithesis of a lonely, petty existence, a love that builds an ideological bridge between two camps.
Our culture isn’t big on loving the collective “We.” It doesn’t show up in how we decide public policies, and talking too much about it gets you labeled a pinko. But for a country that likes to refer to itself as “We, the people,” that idea isn’t totally out there.
I don’t know what it would look like for our culture to decide to love our future. I can suggest voting and direct action and donating, but that’s not quite the whole picture. We have to decide to be the hero and save ourselves as a collective of individuals who do not agree about damn near anything. It’s a fine needle to thread. But I have to believe that we can figure out a way to do it because the alternative is annihilation. We have to believe in a future, we have to love ourselves and our children enough to guarantee a future. I don’t know how but there has to be a way. There has to.