My wife and I celebrated our 20-year anniversary this month. For the occasion, we decided to drive out west and see as many places as we could.
Over 16 days we drove more than 4,500 miles through the heart of the country. We drove through deserts, mountains, rolling hills and over rivers. We traveled through cities, along Old Route 66, visited small towns, even ghost towns and over areas so flat you could see for miles. We got to enjoy the diversity of topography this country offers.
The trip, however, also traveled along the country’s social and political spectrum. Our first stop was St Louis, Mo., one day after riots broke out after a white ex-police officer was acquitted for the killing of a black suspect. It was an up-close view of the racial tensions that still plague this country.
From St. Louis we headed to Oklahoma City. Along the way, friends of a friend were attacking me, calling me an idiot and other expletives (which I am now used to) because I had the audacity to suggest that terrorists come in all colors and ideologies. After he shared a video of ISIS members proclaiming their hate for America, I sent a panoramic photo I took of the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, the second worst terrorist attack on this country — committed by a white supremacist. The conversation quickly went silent.
After leaving Oklahoma City we traveled to Flagstaff, Ariz., so that we could tour the Grand Canyon. Along the way we saw hundreds of wind turbines, which was encouraging. Unfortunately, we could also smell the factory farms miles before we saw them. We took a train ride from Williams, Ariz., complete with a staged train robbery, to the Grand Canyon. It was one of several national parks we visited. We also visited the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and Aches National Park. We rode scooters through Red Rock Canyon and quickly drove through a very crowded Zion National Park.
Next was the mainstay of our vacation — Las Vegas.
We had never been to Las Vegas, and it was someplace we wanted to visit at least once. When you’re getting older, you start thinking about these things. We’re not much for gambling, though enjoy a little from time to time, but wanted to experience the environment, energy, and shows. One of the days we spent touring the Hoover Dam and enjoyed a boat ride on Lake Mead. I enjoyed Las Vegas much more than I anticipated. The hotels and resorts are gigantic and just amazing. Over the course of out vacation, we took over 5,000 photographs.
We left Las Vegas on Thursday, Sept. 28. Stephen Paddock checked in the same day. We could see Mandalay Bay from our hotel, and my newlywed niece stayed there just a week before we arrived.
Every single terrorist attack or mass shooting is both heartbreaking and infuriating. However, it does feel a little different because we were just there. The randomness of these senseless acts triggers feelings of helplessness.
As a country, maybe we are finally fed up with this. I don’t want to hear any more prayers, or cliche hashtags like #vegasstrong. Obviously, I support the communities and their way of dealing with the tragedies, but we keep allowing this to happen. I was having lunch with my mom when a politician got on television and said that we should not use this to further a political agenda. Others have said it is too soon to discuss gun control. I physically start to shake at the stupidity.
For those who were killed, it’s already too late. Preventing mass shootings or at least making them more difficult is not a political agenda, and it is hypocritical to even suggest otherwise. Had the shooter been Muslim, President Donald Trump would have been on Twitter within minutes lauding himself and promoting his Muslim bans. Fox News would have salivated at the opportunity to promote its conservative agenda. For an outstanding article on this subject, read Thomas Friedman’s, “If Only Stephen Paddock Were a Muslim.” It is a flawless examination of this hypocrisy.
Those who continue to do nothing in Congress, regardless of party and regardless of how much money he or she receives from the NRA, are, in partly responsible for each mass murder. Our founding fathers, when they wrote the Second Amendment, could not have anticipated the weaponry that exists today. Paddock had a ridiculous arsenal of weapons and nobody needs an automatic rifle or semi-automatic rifle. As the joke goes, if you need a AK-47 for hunting, then you suck as a hunter and need a new hobby. Of course, it’s not just gun control; it’s the American culture that promotes and glamorizes violence. It’s not unpatriotic to suggest that this country needs reasonable gun control.
We finished our trip driving through Colorado on Saturday night on our way back to Ohio, and just a few hours later they got 14 inches of snow, closing the road we just traveled. We had great weather, cooler than it was here in Ohio. We were lucky to have a wonderful trip and celebration of our 20-year anniversary.
It’s true, timing is everything.