His pain was so searing it left me gasping. I’ve not seen anything in a long time so crushing and heartbreaking as the sight of that poor shattered father, Richard Martinez, wailing with unshakeable, unrelenting grief about the murder of his 20-year-old son.
And yet he did not cry or crumble, but managed to summon words, loud, anguished, hear-me words, even at the pinnacle of his suffering beyond all suffering, to say goddamn the politicians and goddamn the National Rifle Association -- and goddamn all of us for letting these atrocities go on.
His words: “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: not one more.”
Like Chris, I too, was a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara, many years ago, and lived on the very street, Del Playa Drive, in Isla Vista, where the deranged misogynist Elliot Rodger, sped down as he continued his rampage that left six dead and 13 wounded.
I also have a 20-year-old daughter, a college sophomore, as was Martinez’s son.
So, this latest visit to Bedlam resonates and infuriates. But it also makes me worry that we’ve become immune. We can only endure so many Auroras and Sandy Hooks without turning away, dismissing it with no more than a long sad sigh.
I also worry when I hear what Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, had to say after watching the same mourning Martinez as I saw on Saturday. Here’s how he responded in an open letter on Barbwire.com: “I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But, as harsh as this sounds — your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
That sentiment also resonates – and the fact that it does, is scary as the hell Richard Martinez will likely occupy for a long, long time.