I recently finished reading Jerome Charyn’s I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War. It was an excellently researched, intimate portrayal of Lincoln narrating his own experiences and struggles from the time he washes up in an Illinois river as a young man. That’s where I was introduced to the word scarifying.
It’s one of those informal, archaic words that has morphed into a different use. It isn’t used at all to connote terrifying or frightening. No, now it connotes making small incisions like She was scarifying her snakebite with her jackknife. Frankly, I’d be scarified either way!
All this is a long, round-a-about way of saying I read two scarifying news articles this week. Both involved guns, which was particularly disturbing because my brother’s birthday was this week. He would have been 54, had he not had his own encounter with a gun. It doesn’t matter which side of the gun debate you are on, a lot of lives are forever changed when someone dies by a firearm, no matter the circumstances in which that firearm was discharged.
First scarifying article: School Mourning Shooting Victim. A ten year-old boy was accidentally shot by his uncle when he was showing his nephew his gun collection. The laser was fixed to the boy’s forehead when the gun discharged. The uncle didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber. A young boy is dead. The entire family is devastated, including the uncle who is now up on homicide charges. The boy’s school friends and families are now thrust into the explaining and coming to grips with such a senseless death. Horrible.
Second scarifying article: In Youth’s Death, Some See a Montana Law Gone Wrong. A 17 year-old German exchange student was shot by a homeowner when the homeowner went to investigate the intruder in his garage. The local teens called it garage hopping. Stupid and illegal, but death-worthy? Even if this homeowner is not charged for homicide or is acquitted, his life is forever changed. And so is his infant child’s and, possibly his relationship with his partner, the child’s mother. We already know the German family’s life is forever changed, as is the host family’s. Then there are all the teens who have been garage hopping and the communities in which all these people live. Devastating.
The overall scarifying fact that statistics don’t address is that life is hard and complex enough as it is. One gun death impacts countless people who now have an additional burden to bear because someone they may or may not have known died from a firearm. Scarifying.
Photo: This was the back page ad that came in today’s mail.