Last week Dr. McCoy passed out a packet which was comprised of some of her favorite poems. While reading through the poems together as a class I was immediately drawn to one of the poems due to a personal connection. When the line “what do you call it when a man sets his own house on fire, takes up a sniper position, and waits for firefighters?” was read out loud I instantly felt a connection to Jamaal May poem “The Gun Joke.”
I decided to do some research on Jamaal May, I found that he is an American poet from Detroit. He is also the author of the book Hum which was published in 2013. In an interview regarding Hum, May explains, “Ultimately, I’m trying to say something about dichotomy, the uneasy spaces between disparate emotions, and by extension, the uneasy spaces between human connection.” Even though is was talking about Hum I found his explanation of “dichotomy” was also very relatable to his poem “The Gun Joke.”
Dichotomy being the division or contrast between certain things. When first thinking about dichotomy and “The Gun Joke” you may think that there is dichotomy between a gun and firefighters. Dichotomy between a gun and students. Dichotomy between a gun and a liquor store. Most people would not connect those things together right off the bat, furthermore making them have contrast or otherwise known as dichotomy. However, sadly May’s poem brings light to the fact that in today’s world we can not really predict dichotomy when it comes to gun violence.
This idea became prevalent to me on December 24th, 2014, the same day that two Webster firefighters lost their lives due to gun violence. This is the incident that May is referring to in his poem when he writes, “what do you call it when a man sets his own house on fire, takes up a sniper position, and waits for firefighters?” Sitting around my Christmas Eve dinner table that day there was an undeniable quietness and sadness among my family as we waited for my dad to get home from work. As a little girl growing up with a father who was a full time paid firefighter my biggest fear was always revolved around the idea that my dad ran into burning buildings. But that day a new kind of fear developed around my family and most likely many others. Now we also had to be worried that firefighters, the heroes of the community, were now at risk for being shot at on the job. Proving that the prevalence of gun violence creates an absence of dichotomy between guns and our everyday lives.
I took this photo many years ago at the funeral for the two firefighters from the West Webster Fire Department who lost their lives due to gun violence on December 24, 2014.