In W. Somerset Maugham’s 1933 retelling of the ancient parable, “Appointment in Samarra,” a servant who has been sent on an errand in Baghdad comes back trembling after seeing Death in the marketplace. “Lend me your horse,’’ he begs, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.” The merchant agrees, and off the servant rides. But when the merchant later sees Death, too, she says she wasn’t threatening the servant, but was only “astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
You can’t outrun death, as everyone knows. And especially if you live in the United States of America in 2017, you may not be able to outrun gun violence, either.
Twenty-two-year-old Leah Brown, who was home in Shawnee while on leave from Navy boot camp, tried to do that on Saturday night. She took her mother Gretchen Brown’s advice and went out on the town in Lawrence instead of Westport, so as to stay safe from “all the violence” there. But then, simply walking down the street early Sunday, Brown became one of three young people killed in gunfire in the safe-as-Samarra Kansas college town.
Her friend, Courtney Germany, posted on her Facebook page, “A stray bullet from another senseless act of gun violence murdered my best friend last night….This madness needs to end! WE DIDNT GO TO WESTPORT BECAUSE WE WERE TRYING TO AVOID THIS!!!!!! ….because what’s the worst that could happen in Lawrence.”
Same as the worst that could happen in Las Vegas, where dozens of people out for an evening of country music were murdered by a maniac with more than 10 rifles. And though the body count is a record, that in no way changed the conversation.