So Indianapolis is $65 million in the hole. Our mayor, who got himself elected by running against taxes and crime, now finds himself in the awkward position of trying to fill a big hole in the city's budget without looking like ... well, like a guy who's just been hit in the face with a reality pie.
So what does he do? Among other things, he backtracks on a promise he made to give cops and firefighters raises. Oh, and it looks like there won't be a new class of recruits joining the police force in the next 12 months because the city can't afford to pay them.
The Indianapolis police force is already understaffed. Last year we added park police to the rolls so we could make our numbers look better than what they actually were. As current cops retire or quit for greener pastures, the number of officers patrolling our neighborhoods is likely to decrease.
You've heard of the thin blue line? It's getting thinner in Indianapolis.
But don't worry about that. Think of this as an opportunity. Indianapolis is known for its volunteer spirit, so go out and buy yourself a gun. Or two. Or three.
What else are we supposed to do? If, like me, you've been trying to make sense of the national hemming and hawing about the most recent spate of gun violence — shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin and Texas, not to mention the daily death toll piling up in Chicago — it seems the course of action being recommended to everyday, law-abiding citizens is to head for the nearest gun store so that all of us can start amassing our own personal arsenals.
Apparently what went wrong at that movie theater in Colorado or that Sikh temple in Milwaukee was that no one in either of these places was packing heat. In the case of that shooter in Texas — one of his victims was a cop, so we can forget about that. You've heard about how, sometimes, an exception proves a rule? Just think of what happened in Texas as one of those times.
America is so smitten with guns that, rather than talking about what we should be doing about guns, the American media has spent weeks now talking about how we can't talk about guns anymore. Joe Klein wrote a cover story in Time called "How the Gun Won." I read it because I wanted to know how this happened. But Klein's title was misleading. It turns out Klein is as flummoxed as any of the rest us unarmed folks. He sees Americans killing each other with guns at a mind-boggling rate. He sees us accepting this as business as usual. But as to how we got here — your guess is as good as his.
Personally, I think our love affair with guns has to do with our national obsession with youth. When I was a kid I loved nothing better than to play what we simply called "guns." Every boy I knew owned a box full of toy guns: Fanner 50s and faux .45s, plastic M-16s and takka-takka Tommy guns. We whiled away the hours, happily slaughtering each other in backyards and vacant lots.
A large part of our economy is dedicated to congratulating young people on their lack of age. And if you aren't young yourself, there is a never-ending stream of products designed to make you think of this as nothing but an oversight, a trick of the light.
America itself might be thought of as a kind of adolescent country, oversized and moody. The way we elect politicians from the left and right, you'd think our national voice was constantly changing. We want things simple and direct. We love our heroes and hate our villains.
So guns make sense to us, I guess. The rich may be getting richer and the poor poorer. The middle class may be getting screwed. Perhaps you find yourself with a college degree in philosophy — good luck with that! — grateful to be making the minimum wage.
But if you have a gun, it doesn't matter how old you are or how poor or misguided. You have an answer for any question or slight.
This, at any rate, seems to be the message we're now getting about guns. Gun control laws don't work. Owning them is a right, since each of us apparently counts as our own militia. Any attempt to constrain the sale or use of guns equals a certain step toward tyranny.
Since Indiana has become known as a gun salesman to the rest of the nation (and parts of Mexico), it follows then that Indianapolis is better prepared than most cities to deal with a shrinking police force. Neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, household by household, let the guns bristle! Make weapons training part of the school curriculum, the way driver's ed used to be. Let boys and girls compete to see who can be the best shot.
Our streets will be safe because no one in their right mind will want to step outdoors.
And if the mayor needs to raise revenues, he can put a tax on ammunition.