Revisiting 2019: Not an essay about guns

Revisiting 2019: Not an essay about guns

I want to revisit an essay I wrote in 2019 after the El Paso massacre, where a 21-year old man drove 9 hours to kill Mexicans (his words) at a Wal-Mart. This essay could’ve been written on any day of any year, even today, because it keeps happening. It’s now just another weekly headline. The latest murderous rampage in Nashville (at this writing) has no racial aspect to it like El Paso did, but it does have much in common, including a manifesto and plan to murder folks. I lost friends after daring to say we should have more common sense gun laws. I reaffirm that stance today.

From ‘No, this essay is not about guns” 2019:

I’ve watched the lines on the ceiling of my bedroom every morning for the past 23 years. My beloved installed the wood with his own hands, connecting the tongue and groove in a pleasing pattern, finishing them with the surest of brush strokes. The hands he works with are my safety.

Some mornings the knots swirl in my sleep-filled vision, like the famous painting “Scream” by Edvard Munch. The swirls come alive, pulling me into a nightmarish sky. I’ve lain under these ceilings, morning and night, my troubles floating upward, absorbing into the soft wood, and I know they’re being held close, sacred.

I’ve lain under them for the past several nights with nightmares on the edges of my vision, sleep far from me, and the slumbering form of my husband beside me, where he’s been for the last 30 years.

This essay isn’t about guns. I’m told it’s about a heart problem.

On Aug. 3 a young man drove to a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, having driven nine hours from Dallas, Texas. There he murdered 22 people with extra magazines in tow: children, teenagers, adults.

After the shooter was taken into custody, he told authorities he’d wanted to “shoot as many Mexicans as he could” and that “their invasion must be stopped.” The case is now being treated as domestic terrorism.

Hear me. I am one of many raised in a place we thought racism far from us. What if I told you the very core of us is inhabited by bits and pieces that have silently been ingrained over hundreds of years? That insidiously it has been shuffled from the mentality of our forefather’s ways to the back of our brains, brought out in words we ourselves do not recognize as demeaning? Will any of us believe the error of our ways if we’re not told?

I’m told it’s a heart problem, not an anything else problem. But what if — what if — when that very heart that has done so much damage to so many people is sliced open and nothing but hatred for others oozes out? A black, writhing heart that has been radicalized against anyone who doesn’t look like him?

If we do this and still cannot look at the cause of why his heart has gone bad and we tuck one more day of carnage into the annals of history, doing nothing to change what’s at his fingertips to use against others, we have failed.

If our tunnel vision only allows us to see that ISIS or the Taliban or Al-Qaeda radicalizes its young men, then we have doubly failed.

My husband is Mexican, and because of our joyous, perilous union, our children are too. Their culture, both cultures, are beloved and have been taught well and deep in our household.

For several years I have been hearing how my beloved Mexico and its people are no good. I see the flocking to Mexican restaurants to eat voraciously, the vacationing at her beaches, the tipping back of her very finest beers and tequilas. And then I’m told “but we love you! We love your family!”

And in the next breath I see the walking of lines and the liking of incendiary social media posts on the incoming invasion, the takeover of America and a young man, 21 years old, wanting to kill as many Mexicans as he can, which includes my family, my very beloved mixed family who is my center. And my lament rages into anger, and all that can be said to me is don’t talk about regulating my hobby. Me. Mine. My. Because it’s a heart problem.

This essay isn’t about guns. It’s about the hatred we are failing to recognize as harmful and immediate. There’s an ache in this country. What do we name it? What words do we speak? How many deaths will we tolerate?

To quote an unknown to me person that commented on a thread I was reading after the massacre, “The argument I often hear is some version of guns don’t kill people; people kill people. There is some truth to that. I would simply like to add that people with guns kill more people.”

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees based in Holmes County. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at

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