Target Practice

Readers: This piece is full of metaphor. Please don’t go shooting anyone. Thank you.

Where’s the bad guy?

Been going to the gun range once a month. Not in a flag-waving, Second-Amendment, don’t-tread-on-me way. Just a nice thing to do with friends, then we go out to dinner, talk about our kids, families, stuff that really matters. It’s a better Friday date night than a movie or a church potluck.

At the range, and it’s a nice one, Pacific Indoor Tactical, aka the PIT, your paper target is a silhouette of a big scary pretend man pointing his pretend gun at you. You hang him up, punch a button, and he slides out to five, eight, ten, twenty-five yards, wherever you send him.

When you’re new to all this, getting the feel of the whole thing, you keep your scary pretend man up close. Five, maybe eight yards. You aim for “center mass.” That’s gunspeak for torso. The head is tiny and you might miss. The high-percentage shot is center mass, plus in real life you’ve got hollow points so you can pretty much just wing that thug and he’s down. It’s about stopping power.

Oh, there you are. Hold on while I get my gun.

You look him over, say ‘scuse me a sec mister burglar, mugger, jewelry store robber, I need a minute to load my ammo, check the safety, take a deep breath…

You empty your clip into your scary pretend man, punch the button again to get a closeup look at the damage, and by God it feels great.

You took that sucker down. Saved your kids. Saved a store clerk. Whatever. Blow a little smoke outta the barrel. You’re John Freaking Wayne.

“Nice grouping,” your gun friends say. “Let’s grab some dinner.”

Easy target. Metaphorically.

Larry Nassar is a big target, a silhouette on paper at close range. The American public just pulled out their collective nine-mil and pumped hot lead into him, center mass, and boy do we feel good about ourselves.

We even tweet about it. That monster’s going down.

It was easy, that point-blank shot at five yards. But we won’t admit that. Not at the PIT, and not in the news.

We won’t admit Larry Nassar was low hanging fruit. We won’t admit that for every Larry Nassar, we ignore thousands of hard targets, the ones in the shadows at twenty-five-plus yards. They surround us every day, they put our children in danger. They are the very people we trust the most.

Boyfriends. Uncles. Stepdads. Friendly neighbors. We better gird up and train and study and chase and duck and cover because they’re hiding behind logs and shooting back, they’re around us, they’re everywhere, and they’re not going away.

We seethe with righteous anger at Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State U. The USOC, FBI, and Karolyi Ranch are next in the crosshairs.

We congratulate ourselves for every front-page bad guy tossed in prison, from a Stanford rapist to sick priests to scoutmasters to schoolteachers.

Hey judge… nice grouping.

We applaud hundreds of brave young women who confronted Nassar in court. It sure as hell wasn’t easy for them. All we did was stand and cheer. After they fought so hard to win, will we just pump our fists and change the channel?

Where will we be tomorrow when a girl breaks down on the witness stand because her stepdad sits accused and whispers “I love you” across the courtroom? Where will we be next week when a single mom can’t bring herself to believe her boyfriend raped her daughter? Where will we  be, the next time a  defense attorney sinks his bulldog teeth into a victim’s clothes, how much she had to drink, and who she slept with the week before?

Has Brock Turner‘s case even changed a damn thing when nearly one in four college women are sexually assaulted?

That’s what happens at the back of the range, out of the point-blank dazzle. We need education, focus, patience, practice, and tenacity to take those guys down. But that’s hard work.

Snohomish County is just down the road. You can see it from here. It’s mixed metro and rural, population 700,000.  Dawson Place serves the county’s abused kids, and they take in over 1,000 new cases a year. They cite evidence that one in four girls, and one in six boys, will be victims of sexual abuse during their childhood. That means 36,000 children in that small county alone need focused intervention from advocates with the patience, tenacity, and compassion to target abusers and heal victims.

Think about those stats for a minute. If those numbers apply across our nation, looking the other way is unconscionable.

Think about it for a minute. In the three years since the Brock Turner case broke when a brave young woman told her story, while we filled headlines with a pussy-grabbing president, while we shone the spotlight on Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein and #metoo and #timesup, while our hungry media pumped five-yard lead into cheap easy targets, in just those three years while we were caught up in that news, think about this:

1,500,000 new child abuse cases walked into beacons of safety like Dawson Place across the country. And our nation is home to 18,000,000 children who are victims of sexual abuse.

Think about those numbers. Read that again and let those numbers sink in. Those are the shadows we ignore while we put that nice grouping into five-yard low-hanging fruit.

Think about those numbers. Larry Nassar deserves every bit of venom we send his way. And the rest of those kids, those 18,000,000 hurting ones in the shadows? They deserve our vigilance, our caring, our protection too.

Look a little farther down range. Get educated. Challenge yourself. Be vigilant. There’s always a new threat, and he’s not just a pretend man on a paper target.

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