I was just doing something ridiculous. Actually, at present, I still am because I’m sitting upright in an uncomfortable chair, in my daughters’ room, waiting for my oldest to fall asleep. I’ve made her a promise that I’ll stay because these nights, she just feels better when I’m there. I don’t mind. I usually read, or jot down some to-do’s for the next day, or in the case of tonight, I try to figure out what the hell I can do to change the world.
That’s the ridiculous part: I actually just Googled “How Can I Change The World” because I’m tired of living passively in this one, specifically in this area of the world, where people are killing people with guns. Every day.
I care very little about politics and shame on me for admitting it, shame on me for not being more connected. But I lived in the DC area for a long time and tired of the back and forth, the jargon, the same old story. I call myself a “democrat” but what I am is an educator, someone who has taught a lot of kids in a variety of classrooms. I like kids: kids in Fort Green, Brooklyn, kids in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, kids in McLean, Virginia, in Annapolis, Maryland, in LA and DC. I can say with assurance that there have been incredible students in every school I’ve ever taught–bright, funny, poetic, emotional, loving, curious, driven, hopeful, the list goes on. I’ve taught in both private and public schools. Politics aside, EVERYTHING aside: color of skin, socio-economics, religion, race, sexual orientation, age, ethics, upbringing, your God, my God, what does it matter.
What matters–every single child.
I’m a fairly laid-back mother, I think. I worry about the usual stuff: my daughters making friends, doing well in school, feeling confident. I worry about money, about keeping my family healthy. We went to see The Good Dinosaur on Saturday, and I wondered what I would do if a gunman entered the theater. Would I shove the girls under the seats and cover them? Would I rush at the shooter?
You know, the same worries my mother had for me, and her mother for her.
I was raised in a middle-to-upper class family, in a quaint town; I went through a great public school system. No doubt I’m writing this from a position of privilege, so I’m sure my perspective is somehow flawed and misguided. Probably naive. Or entitled. Or something, but the irony is, from this upright seat in this darkened room, with two beautiful girls breathing peacefully in front of me, I feel powerless.
Perhaps I’m missing something–perhaps a different perspective would help me understand our inaction here in America. I’m sure someone from the NRA can sit me down and explain to me why we here in America cannot keep each other safe from gun violence. Perhaps a politician can explain to me why she is more concerned about shutting down the opposing party than she is about getting ahold of the gun laws.
Politicians have to change gun laws because citizens have to be as safe as possible. This is a priority. A no-brainer. National security. This disregard for human life: children murdered at school. A mother dead today instead of Christmas shopping. A father just gone.
“Was it indiscriminate rage?” “Radicalism?” We figure it out–we identify the killers and the reasons why. We bury the dead. And then it happens again.
I understand that this has been happening for a long time. I taught in areas of the country where the children were primarily Black and Latino, where guns were killing primarily Black and Latino people. Tragedy is tragedy–when I take the time to process an incident, when I imagine a family torn apart, it devastates me.
But all the more devastating is when a story hits the news and I am numb to it.
I understand the guns aren’t doing the killing, that people are. But I cannot understand why we in America make weapons so easily accessible while we so sparingly provide our children with decent educations in comfortable schools. An education can open up a person’s mind; a real chance can stop a person from picking up a gun in the first place.
We love our children. We want for them what is best. Any parent I’ve ever met feels this way. We want to protect our sons and our daughters–each one of us does. A dad approaches a coach on the sideline; a mom stays up at night reviewing math problems; a dad checks for the bike helmet; a mom studies ingredients on food labels; a grandmother takes over when a mother has to work two jobs. We have epi-pens and car-seats and driver’s permits and water filters and dentists and doctors and braces and glasses and swimming lessons and classrooms upon classrooms upon classrooms.
We make promises: that we will be there at night when they have trouble sleeping.
Why can’t we assure our children of this–that we will work together to make their world as safe as possible. That we will do all that we can do.
And why can’t we then just do it?