Alice in Looking-Glass America
(with apologies to Lewis Carroll)
Once upon a time and place in Junction City, Kansas, a young girl named Alice was sitting quietly, petting a kitten in her lap. A chessboard sat on the table beside her. She was absent-mindedly looking at the Cheval floor mirror, watching Looking-Glass Alice petting her kitten. “I wonder what it’s like on the other side, in Looking-Glass America?” She set the kitten down as she stood. “Kitty, you stay here,” she said, then approached the mirror and slowly reached out her hand to the one reaching towards her. As she touched the mirror the glass shattered with a terrific crash, and Looking-Glass Alice was like a shower of diamonds clattering to the floor. “Oh, my!” exclaimed Alice. She looked down and saw a spent slug, and picked it up. “Well, this is peculiar!” The bullet had come from the other side of the mirror, but she didn’t know that. She took a deep breath, then slowly stepped through the empty frame. Alice also didn’t know that in Looking-Glass America everything is topsy-turvy, higgledy-piggledy, bass-ackwards.
The first thing she noticed was a pop-pop-popping sound which seemed to come from everywhere, and sirens blaring somewhere far off. Then she saw that not only were the chess pieces alive, they each had a piece of their own, which is to say they were all packing heat. Even one of the Bishops had an AK-47 slung over his shoulder. Next to the chess board stood the White Queen. Alice saw a piece of paper nearby, and put it into her dress pocket. You never know when you might have to write something down.
She leaned over and asked the White Queen, “What is all that popping?”
“Oh, you know, drive-bys, police arrests, or the daily mass shooting,” replied the Queen. “It’s nothing to get excited about.”
“My goodness,” said Alice, “does everyone here have a gun?”
“What a foolish girl!” said the Queen. “Of course we all have guns. Where are you from, child? Americans are in constant danger, so we all have to protect ourselves.”
Alice was quite confused. “But wouldn’t everyone be safer if there were fewer guns?”
“Imperial fiddlesticks!” said the White King. “What’s the matter with you? The Constitution guarantees everyone the right to keep and bear arms!”
“Well, not everyone!” laughed Alice. “I mean, you wouldn’t want a mentally ill person to have one, would you?”
“Why not?” asked the Queen. “They have the same rights as everyone else, don’t they?”
“But surely, someone on the FBI terrorist watch list —“
“There you go again!” The Queen eyed Alice suspiciously. “Discrimination against other people is shameful. How do people buy guns where you come from?”
“Well,” she said, “it’s very much the same as buying an automobile, where you must pass both a written and driving test, to show that you’re competent to handle a potentially dangerous machine, but in this case you have to take safety classes, go to a firing range. . .”
The Queen looked at her with eyes wide: “Sakes alive, we don’t bother with all that around here! It’s very time-consuming, you know.”
Alice continued: “. . . and then you have to get liability insurance, because guns are even more potentially dangerous than automobiles. It makes perfect sense.” She thought for a few moments, and added, “Naturally, that’s all presuming you pass the background check.”
“Background check!” gasped the Queen, looking at her in total disbelief: “Well, people must be crazy wherever it is you come from.” She raised an eyebrow and asked, “Where exactly is that, anyway? You’re not one of those liberals or something, are you?”
Alice wasn’t sure, now. Was she in Looking-Glass America or the real one? And if this was the real one, then who was she? Maybe she was Looking-Glass Alice, merely a reflection of the real Alice, whoever that was. A tear rolled down her cheek and she felt like crying.
“There, there,” said the Queen. “There’s no need for all that. Look over there at the Red King. He’ll keep us all safe.”
She looked at the Red King, and did a double-take. “Holy Topeka! It’s Wayne La Pierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association!” she cried. He was speaking to all the pawns, telling them that the more guns they had, the safer they would all be. “You don’t want the government dictating what kind of weapons you can have, do you?” he was saying. “You should be able to buy a tank, a shoulder mounted rocket-propelled grenade launcher, or anything you like!” As he was speaking a well-dressed man came in and set down a large stack of money next to him.
“Who is that?” asked Alice.
“Oh, he’s from the gun manufacturing industry.”
Alice shook her head; she felt awfully dizzy. “So, anyone can buy a gun without getting a background check, without any kind of training, without liability insurance, and just carry it around anywhere?”
“You still don’t understand,” said the Queen. “We believe in freedom and liberty. Taking the occasional stray bullet is just the price we have to pay for freedom!” As if to emphasize her point a stray bullet ricocheted off the White Knight’s helmet — Ping! — and he fell off his horse.
Alice grew very frightened and ran away into the forest. Pop-pop-pop went the sounds in the distance. She entered a small clearing, where she saw a pair of quite corpulent twins. “Who are you?”
“I’m Senator Tweedledum,” said the Republican.
“And I’m Senator Tweedledee,” said the Democrat.
“We cancel each other out,” said Senator Tweedledum.
“So nothing gets done, don’t you see?” said Senator Tweedledee.
She was even more confused now. “Well then, how do you ever get laws passed?”
The twins both laughed, then said in unison, “Laws? Who cares about laws? This is all about the money!” They laughed again as they walked away, hand in hand.
She watched for a few moments, then looked around. “I’ve got to find my Looking-Glass house and try to get back home.” She stuck her hands in her pockets and felt the paper. Taking it out she noticed there were bits of verse written on it. She thought it must be part of a poem, as she read
‘Twas Congress, and all the cob-webbed bones
Did tweet their thoughts and prayers again;
While bodies piled up at their doors,
Children, women, and men.
Beware the AutoGlock, my son!
With shells that tear through flesh and bone,
Beware extended magazines,
Each clip holds thirty rounds alone.
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The bullet wounds went snicker-snack!
It left them dead, with holes that bled,
The Glock recoiling back.
“It seems very pretty,” she said, “but it’s rather hard to understand. Somebody killed something, that’s clear.” She put the paper back in her pocket and tried to think. If only she could find the Looking-Glass house. It should look just like her own, only backwards. Was the mirror on this side of things still intact? She couldn’t remember. Would she be trapped here forever? One thing seemed evident; she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Or was she? Alice looked back at the Red King holding forth, the pawns eagerly listening. It was then she understood why he’s called the Red King: he was covered with blood. Just then another stray round knocked off a small branch, which fell close by. “Perhaps I’ll have to buy a gun, too,” she thought, “just for my own protection, of course.” Then she remembered she had no money. “Oh dear,” said Alice.
She woke up in the chair, the kitten asleep in her lap. She looked around the room, at the chess set, then at the mirror. Looking-Glass Alice seemed equally surprised. “Was all that just a dream? But it seemed so real!” She petted the kitten. “You know, Kitty, I guess we’re pretty lucky to be . . . well, wherever we are.”