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Thomas Wictor

I shot a bullet into the air

I shot a bullet into the air

Well, I didn’t shoot the bullet. But somebody did. Ever seen video of people shooting weapons in celebration? Like this? People do it all the time where I live. It’s a cultural thing.

The show Mythbusters did an episode called “Bullets Fired Up.” They concluded that if a bullet is fired perfectly vertically, it’ll fall to earth no faster than if it were dropped from about six hundred feet, thus losing its ability to seriously injure you. However, if the gun is fired at an angle, the bullet maintains a ballistic trajectory and can kill.

I could’ve saved Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman a lot of work. My parents found the proof of lethal celebratory gunfire on their cement front porch.

Here it is. A 9 mm bullet, fired from a handgun.


See how the nose of the round is flattened on one side? That’s because the bullet came in at angle of exactly forty-five degrees. It hit the porch so hard that it deformed, and the copper jacket picked up the impression of the rough concrete surface.


Whatever holiday it is, we always spend it indoors. That bullet could easily have killed anybody it hit.

The residents of our city love fireworks and shooting guns into the air. That’s what they did back home, and that’s what they do here. They simply refuse to change their ways, because what they do defines them. Their actions have become their identity.

I learned in 2013 that some people are utterly unreachable. It’s because they’re so damaged that they don’t actually have a core personality. So what they do is collect a basketful of mannerisms, slogans, actions, and habits. Those acquisitions substitute for the self. Asking them to give up any one of these acquired traits is like asking them to cut off their own feet.

This is why people vote for politicians they know are liars and frauds. It’s why people eat food that gives them heart disease. And it’s why they reflexively belittle ideas contrary to their own. There’s nobody home. Everything that they think comprises their personality actually has nothing whatsoever to do with being a person. As Tim says, “they’re just a bunch of tics flying in formation.”

They’re assemblages, not people.

That 9 mm round came from a handgun. Imagine what a rain of bullets from assault rifles fired at forty-five degrees could do to innocent passersby. The whole notion of consequences has been banished. If you say to someone, “What you’re doing is wrong,” it’s a form of attempted murder.

Of course it shouldn’t be, but to assemblages that have no core personality, it is. When someone is comprised entirely of mannerisms, slogans, actions, and habits, they lack the ability to engage in critical thinking. If you can’t think, you have no values or principles. Everything in your head came from someone else. In your entire life, you won’t have a single original thought. Everything you express—your every effort at communication—will be no different than this.

I’d rather be alone forever than not understand why I did, thought, or said things. Anyone who’s ever shot a bullet into the air without the slightest concern for where it came down is not precisely human. At least not by my definition.

Knowledge is always good, even though it’s sometimes horrible. I’d rather know what I learned in 2013 than not know it. My knowledge separates me from most people, but that’s not my problem. I believe that almost everybody has the ability to stop, if they want. They’re just too afraid. I understand that they’re afraid, but I don’t understand their fear. What’s so scary about admitting that something doesn’t work and then changing it?

Especially when it’s just mannerisms, slogans, actions, and habits that you’re being asked to change? How is that bad?

The sad answer is that they won’t change because they don’t have anything to replace the mannerisms, slogans, actions, and habits. Being a real person means accountability, and that’s terrifying, apparently.

I’ve learned that people will indulge their fears right up until the last seconds of their lives. Accepting that so many are unreachable is hard. I struggle with it daily. The main reason it gnaws at me is that refusal to do anything different is why my parents died. I can’t count the times Tim and I had the same conversation with Mom and Dad.

“Does it hurt to eat?”


“Does it make you nauseated?”


“Then why won’t you eat?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you want to die?”


“If you don’t eat, you’re going to die.”

Dad said, “I know!” while Mom smiled and said, “That’s not going to happen.”

They simply would not change their behavior, which had come to define them. Any change whatsoever meant a negation of the self. They backed themselves into a corner and then frantically thrashed until their lives ended. And there was no reason for it, any more than there’s a reason for celebratory gunfire in populated areas.

The fact that there’s no talking to most people upsets me. I hate feeling this way.


It isn’t healthy.