My children do not watch the news. We make a concerted effort to balance sugar coating their world and telling them the truth. The thing is, the “truth” to 9 and 7 year olds is vastly different that the “truth” to adults. We want to shelter the boys as much as we can while doling out carefully measured doses of reality. My God, they are pure and innocent for such a short time! Why shatter that unnecessarily?
And this is why we only spoke of the very basics of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Mac Daddy and I feared the boys would hear the story from someone else, and we wanted to provide the context. They had experienced a lockdown at school, not a drill, so we were tenuous about how much detail we shared, lest they harbor a fear of school. The boys’ first question was about how someone got guns. They became quiet, in a pensive, not frightened way. They carried on, and we assured them they were safe and to come to us with any questions. Of course, we could not truly believe they are safe at school. At least I can’t. Not now. Now anymore. Not when the unspeakable has happened. Bird and Deal’s school had a lockdown in September. There was a gunman in the area. It turns out he shot his ex-wife point blank in the parking lot of a shopping center very close to school, a place I would have been on any given day. When we picked up the kids from school that day we all squeezed our children ever so tightly and choked back tears. It had been a harrowing day, yet it pales to the events of December 14.
I’ve been trying to write about this for a month now and have yet to find the words. Words make sense to me so how I can put words to something that makes no sense at all?
Bird heard the tail end of a news story on the radio this afternoon. The reporter was talking about President Obama’s speech today, and Bird tuned in before I could switch the station. He asked me incredulously if the reporter said “military weapons.” I told him yes but did not expound. I waited for the conversation to unfold. Bird said, “But military weapons are for the military. Why would regular people have them? The whole point is they are for the military, right? Right?” Deal chimed in with, “But it’s illegal for regular people to have military weapons. They are for the military!” He was adamant. Still, I said nothing. My boys, age 9 and 7, have more wisdom and sense than half of America. Then they piped up to ask me, point blank so to speak, if regular people can have military weapons. I told them yes, it’s legal.
Then Bird, who is usually the garrulous sort, stared out the window. As I turned right out of the parking to head to the library, he asked me if the bad guy at the school had those kind of weapons. I told him yes. I told him that Daddy and I don’t agree with that law, though we are fine with responsible gun ownership for sport. Killing is not a sport, people. Bird and Deal were astonished. They asked me why it would be legal for people to have military weapons whose only purpose is to kill in wartime. They know our neighbor is a gun aficionado and they worried that our neighbor has such weapons. The truth is I do not know, but for the sake of my sons’ waning innocence I assured them that no, our neighbor has no such weapons.
My sons’ innocence, that which I hold on to, slippery as it is, cracked its veneer today.
To focus on gun rights above all else is simply inhumane. Is the price we pay for freedom doled out in the currency of innocent children? Movie theaters. Parking lots. Shopping centers. Homes. Temples. School. Is there no place sacred? To say guns are not the problem is profoundly flawed. This notion of puffing out your chest and clicking the trigger to protect your home is nothing more than a screenplay fantasy. I’m not going to quote gun statistics. Suffice it to say that most people killed by guns knew the owner, whether by accident, as a result of domestic violence, or otherwise. The NRA and its blind supporters fail to articulate why semiautomatic weapons benefit society and lift our sense of freedom. Never mind that there are reams of research to tell us otherwise. I would trade my 2nd Amendment rights in a nanosecond to stop the pain and grief and empty longing these families of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School feel.
Do we not feel the need to protect society’s most vulnerable? Why is it we diminish the worth of and investment in those who have no voice? We boost the needs, wants, and whims of the powerful while depressing the needs of children, the elderly, the disenfranchised, the poor. And what about the mentally ill? Where does this gaping hole fit into our moral compass as a society? I have a friend whose own son suffers from mental illness, and she has feared for her life and others’. Her son’s needs fail to be met due to one obstacle or another, but not for lack of trying. And this is a family of means. What happens to those who do not have the resources to pay for and advocate for care? And to think proper checks are not in place to ensure firearms stay out of the hands of the mentally ill… To think that as a society we have discounted mental illness, marking those who suffer as pariahs, outcasts, less than worthy of our compassion. The conversation is deeper than mental illness, gun rights, and the vernacular of violence. We must re-examine our moral fiber to become more a nation of We rather than Me. What benefits us collectively? What lifts us as a community?
We watch the news, we cry, we feel outraged. We vow to Make. This. Madness. Stop. Posting said outrage to Facebook, incidentally, won’t accomplish this (guilty as charged). We feel sick. We hold our kids tighter. We hunker down and resolve to be present and loving and kind. We stand tall and proud with a fresh brazen attitude in an effort to quell our fears. Eventually that too wanes, and our outrage turns to numbness.
And then we carry on.
Outrage without action is futile.
Join the Sandy Hook Promise.
Refuse to stay quiet; speak up, speak out.