When you grow up white trash in the South, everyone around you smokes. My mother smoked like a carton a day, and you couldn’t get into her car without gagging from the smell of it. Growing up was like living in a goddamn casino — there was a cloud of smoke wherever I went. I told myself that I would never end up a smoker.
And then law school came. I made it 22 years, y’all, but let me tell you something about the typical law school: The people who go to law school, by and large, are not cool. They’re assholes. But in law school, there was this very small group of people who were not assholes. People who read books and watched movies and didn’t dream of growing up to become a corporate tax attorney. And for some reasons, they were all smokers. And I really wanted to hang out with them. So I picked up the habit. It took days of trying, and I hated it, but eventually I developed a taste for it. Years and years later, four of those smokers — none of whom smoke anymore — became my lifelong friends (one is Seth, who co-owns this site).
A couple of years after law school, I quit when Boston passed a law banning smoking in restaurants. That was 2004. I don’t smoke anymore, but before I bought life insurance last year, every five or six months, I’d get a really powerful urge after a few drinks, or after a shitty day, and I’d sneak out in the middle of the night and hide behind my house where no one could see me smoke a cigarette. I’d regret it for days.
The point is: There’s a reason why I’d hide. There’s a reason why I wouldn’t be caught dead in public with a cigarette. Because of the shame. People will fucking judge you, and you know what? I judge them for smoking, too. If I see a regular smoker, they lose a few points. If I see a parent smoking around their kids, well, fuck you. What the fuck is wrong with you? Someone should call fucking child services on you.
There is a lot of shame in smoking. And you know what? It works. Smoking rates have fallen from around 45 percent to under 15 percent. People quit, and while I’m sure some quit over health concerns, and some quit because of the expense of cigarettes, my guess is that the large majority of quitters did so out of shame. Smokers are ostracized in America. Pot smokers we love; cigarette smokers? Fuck that, right? Drinking is still “cool,” but smoking? No fucking way. There’s like 30 percent of you reading this who thought less of me when you found out I smoked for four years in the aughts. That’s OK.
Shame is a powerful motivator, and we’ve spent the last 20 some odd years making people believe that smoking is something to be ashamed of. Now, most of those who do smoke probably won’t admit it. They sneak around. They drink lots of mouthwash and wash their hands repeatedly (it doesn’t work, bro; we smell it on your clothes).
Here’s my point: When it comes to guns, our politicians aren’t going to help us, not as long as the gun lobbies continue funding their campaigns. We’ve got to take matters into our own hands. We’ve got to use shame. We need to shame Congress into passing gun restrictions. We need to shame gun shops that sell automatic weapons. We need to shame the owners of those guns.
But mostly, we need to shame Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. Yesterday’s tragedy in Las Vegas was terrible, and we should hold our representatives accountable. We should shame them. “Oh, you voted to allow mentally disabled people to own guns? What the fuck is wrong with you?” “You passed legislation to allow silencers on automatic weapons? Holy shit, you’re the reason people keep dying in mass shootings. Shame on you!”
Guns don’t kill people, people do, right? People like McConnell and Ryan, who allow people to own automatic weapons. Shame on them. Fucking shame on them.
Kimmel gets it. He gave a powerful, teary monologue last night about the deadly shooting yesterday in his home town of Las Vegas. He took our Congressional leaders to task, too. He put up their pictures. He shamed them.
“It’s good. They should be praying,” Kimmel said of the Republican leadership, who offer only their thoughts and prayers after these mass shootings. “They should be praying to God to forgive them for letting the gun lobbies run this country.”
Exactly. Shame on them. Shame on them for letting this happen over and over and over, when tragedies like this are preventable. The guy who killed 60 people and injured over 500 is a sick and deranged person, but shame on Congress for letting him gain access to those weapons. Fucking shame on them.
Call your Congress people, but don’t say, “We want common sense gun legislation.” You say: “Shame on you for letting these tragedies happen. There is blood on your hands. You are partially responsible for this. There are children without parents today because of you. There were police officers dead because of you. You and the NRA contributed to this. Shame on you.”