** Please note that I have many conversations with myself and do much writing in my head. Sometimes this leads to fractured thought and prose. This may be one of those times. **
After the last mass shooting that made the international news I thought to myself, “I’m not going to write about this, everyone else will be doing it and I don’t know that I have anything different to say.” And I didn’t. Write about it.
Yesterday afternoon, shortly before 3pm, when I heard about Newtown, CT, I thought to myself, “I can’t write about this.” This thought only occurred after my immediate reaction, which was a mish-mash of horror, nausea and resignation. Oh, and I was stunned for a bit. Then, while struggling to win the battle over the gnawing, spinning pain in by stomach I scrolled through a number of news stories and tried to keep myself from reading all of the comments people were posting (I’ll come back to this in a bit). Within minutes I realised it was time to go get BoyGenius from school.
A small knot of parents and grandparents were waiting by the doors, as we always do. There were a few comments, a small recounting of events for those who hadn’t yet heard and a collective shaking of heads. There were those who stated, as so many on facebook had, that all they wanted to do was hug their kids, go home, and hug their kids some more. I stayed away from all of that because that’s not the feeling I got. BoyGenius came bounding out the doors, we shared our signature greeting (him jumping into my arms and holding on for dear life while I spin him around until we’re both so dizzy we can barely stand), he told me there’s no school on Tuesday — 1 day teacher strike [a whole ‘nother story] and then asked if he could go to the park. I said “sure” and zipped up his hoody for him before he ran off into the woods. I didn’t pull him any more tightly to me than I usually do, I didn’t hug him longer and I didn’t tell him I needed him to stay closer to me. I told him I love him and sent him off to the park, alone, to play with his friends. That’s what I felt like doing. (Well, that and throwing up … and the throwing up part is still present, almost 24 hours later.)
I don’t want to be afraid to send my son to school every morning. I don’t want to be afraid to take him to the mall to do some shopping. I don’t want to stop going to public gatherings in fear that some gun-wielding, grievance-carrying asshole will pick that day, that gathering to attend. So I’m not, and I won’t. HardWorker thinks of these things every day. I don’t. HardWorker has way more anxiety issues anyway, and things like this just feed her fears. Then again, so do television shows about bacteria on chicken or germs in hotel rooms. I won’t live in fear. I won’t have BoyGenius live in fear. Some of HardWorker’s fears have already rubbed off on him and I fight every day to keep him from absorbing any more. I don’t want my friends with small children, my friends with grown children, my friends with soon-to-be-arriving children to be crippled by fear of the world around us. I, like others I admire, choose to live in hope. I hope that the world will someday be a better place, that everyday it is indeed becoming a better place. I hope that we will stop hurting each other. I hope that we will cure disease. I hope that we will conquer famine. I hope for a lot of things. I choose hope over fear.
There is much talk when something like this happens; in comments on news stories, on facebook, on talk shows. There is much talk about gun control, as always happens at times like these. There is much talk about holding your children tightly. There is much talk about health care and mental illness. There is much talk about the US constitution and its amendments. There is much talk about how horrible that this should happen just before Christmas. People are saddened, devastated, shocked, stunned and horrified. Some are callous and self-serving. There is much talk.
Well I’m here to tell you that talk is cheap. Talk about gun control leads NOWHERE. You know why? Because the bigger picture in that discussion is one about power and lobbying and that picture is painted in very broad strokes with brushes made of thousand dollar bills; the details are the really important considerations and those details always get painted over. Talk about holding your children tightly is all well and good, but PLEASE don’t leave it until a tragedy happens to think about doing so. Talk about health care and mental illness needs to happen but again, those talks always become about politics and power and those money-brushes whitewash everything so not enough gets accomplished. Christmas — the season of love and light, goodwill towards men; does it really matter that this happened at this time of year? Would this horribly unnecessary tragedy be any easier to bear in May? Should we not be sad or shocked or horrified? No, I’m not saying that … what I’m saying is that more importantly that any of those things, we should be angry. Angry enough to take the necessary steps to ensure that this stops happening.
Gun control? Hell yes. You want the right to bear arms? Go right ahead. But be put on notice that every time something like this happens, every time there’s an armed robbery at the corner store, every time some gang shooting occurs, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. Societal ills? Hell yes. Sure, everyone should be held accountable for their own actions but it’s pretty hard to swallow that what you or I or the politicians do has absolutely no bearing on the person standing next to us. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER. Loving your kids? Of course. Love them, respect them, listen to them, teach them. KNOW THEM.
Whenever there is a mass shooting, particularly when school-aged children are involved, those who knew the perpetrator(s) have the same things to say. Either “he/she was a loner; he/she was bullied a lot; he/she always seemed to have problems or issues,” or “we never noticed anything wrong.” Both of these perspectives need to be examined. It’s like people are either saying “we always knew there was something wrong” (and nobody cared) or “we never cared enough to get to know” if things were really as good as they seemed. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR EACH OTHER. We need to accept that. Talking to someone might change their life. Smiling at someone may flip a switch in their head. A touch on a shoulder might let someone know that you actually see them standing next to you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that bad things won’t still happen just because you smile at someone. I’m not naive enough to think that the whole world can be healed with a hug. But neither am I callous or cynical enough to think that human kindness, human touch, human-ness won’t make a difference, either.
Today, though. Today. It’s not about guns. It’s not about mental illness. It’s not about money or power. It’s not about your kids or my son. It’s about the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Parents that lost their children. Children that lost their parents. Students that lost their friends and teachers. Teachers that lost their students. It’s about a small town that will be forever changed. It’s about people whose lives have been turned upside down. Lives that may never be righted again. Let us hope collectively that they can all find peace.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. May hope always wield the mightier sword.