The state song of Colorado is “Where the Columbines Grow.” Columbine, in this case, being a subalpine and alpine lavender and white flower that blooms in July and August, just before school starts.
The state song of Texas cites the battles of San Jacinto and The Alamo as part of Texas history, and Alabama’s state song praises rivers named by or for Native Americans, although it fails to mention how they were removed from those rivers.
The state bird of Alabama is the yellowhammer, or Northern flicker. Alabama’s state game bird is the turkey, and Alabama hunters shoot them every year for roughly two months in the fall and one in the spring. Mississippi, Massachusetts, and Missouri also have state game birds, as do Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee, as if the inhabitants of those states decided they would choose one bird for beauty and one to blow up.
Mississippi’s state motto is “Virtute et armis,” which means “By valor and arms,” and New Hampshire’s is “Live free or die.”
Tennessee is the Volunteer State, a reminder of when men volunteered to go to war.
Connecticut was once called “The Arsenal of the Nation,” and Colt, Mossberg, and Ruger firearms are still manufactured there. Kansas is bleeding, and Nevada is battle-born.
The state mammal of Alabama is the black bear. The moose is the mammal of Maine. Both can be hunted and killed, as can the coyote of South Dakota, the raccoon of Tennessee, and the gray squirrel of North Carolina, which makes me think being given such an honor doesn’t mean much.
Kansas and Wyoming share the bison, which was hunted almost to extinction when white men with guns began shooting them in great numbers from the windows of moving trains. From horseback. Simply walking into their schools—herds, that is—and opening fire.
Ten states—Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina—share the white-tailed deer, of which six million are shot each year in well-regulated hunting seasons. Over ten million people spend almost six billion dollars buying guns and ammo and four-wheelers to haul the carcasses out of the woods and into the backs of trucks to be eviscerated, their pink tongues hanging out and their eyes glassed over in the unsight of forever.
The mascot of Oklahoma State is Pistol Pete, who carries two revolvers and wears an ammunition belt. The West Virginian Mountaineer wields a musket, and Raider Red from Texas Tech holds his hands like pistols he may soon point at someone. At quite a few colleges, as well as the high school I went to, cannons are fired when the home team scores a touchdown.
Twenty-two states have an official coat of arms. Of those twenty-two, almost half depict a weapon of some sort.
Eight states have an officially designated firearm. Let that sink in: Eight states love guns so much they’ve picked one to represent them.
Arizona chose its state firearm—the Colt Single Action Army Revolver—less than four months after US Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head during a constituent meeting. Six people died, including a nine-year-old girl named Christina-Taylor Green.
When Utah adopted the M1911 pistol as its official firearm, the state representative who sponsored the adoption said the pistol captured a portion of Utah history. “Even bigger than that,” he said, “it captures a portion of American history.”
Six of these designations have come since 2011. Reason given: history.
Texas’s state slogan is “Don’t mess with Texas.”
South Carolina’s is “While I breathe, I hope.”
Of state shootings, then, let’s say Connecticut’s is the Sandy Hook. The state shooting of Nevada is the Las Vegas. The state shooting of Virginia is the Virginia Tech. Florida is the Orlando. Arkansas the Jonesboro. California the Isla Vista or San Bernardino. Texas is the Fort Hood or the San Antonio or the University of Texas or the Sutherland Springs or a hundred others too small to be considered.
Each state must adopt its own.
The state flower of Maryland is the black-eyed Susan. Alaska is the forget-me-not. The state flower of Colorado is the Rocky Mountain Columbine. Let me say that again: the flower that commemorates Colorado is Columbine.