Change the World

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?

5 Comments on “Change the World”

  1. Rach says:

    Yes. Maybe when I share this post one person’s perspective will shift. Maybe another person will write to a third person. I have to believe that change can happen…and I have to believe that this kind of thinking and writing helps. It’s your tool, and you wielded it beautifully here. Oxox

  2. Liz Thibodeau says:

    Peace. Love. Wow. Xo

  3. Kell Andrews says:

    Great post. Thank you.

  4. Yasue says:

    Beautifully written, Katie. I’m not overly political. But recently I’ve been feeling like that frustrated man in the movie who goes to the window and sticks his head out and yells” I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”
    I find it incomprehensible that our government is so cowed by the NRA. They seem to use a combination of threats and bribery to get what they want.
    I feel like now I have to do something. I’m not sure what, though. I’ve contacted my senators and my congressman. I’m in a state with very strict gun laws, thankfully. Here I had to go through a month long process to get registered to get pepper spray. (!) But that’s ok. While it seems a little extreme to require going through a background check for pepper spray, I don’t feel I have a God-given right to own pepper spray!
    I’m not just shocked and sad from these senseless shootings – I’m now angry. As a (now non-practicing) lawyer, I’m amazed at how the 2nd amendment has been twisted into this crazy justification of all guns for all people. I’m tired of feeling helpless and I think a lot of people share that frustration. I hope the pendulum is swinging back from our society’s utter extremist gun love.

  5. Dave Jackson says:

    Good if not great questions posed and my bet is that not one politician would be able to answer any questions without first thinking of what affect which answer would have in what group of their constituents, and how would that in turn affect their chances of re-election. There in lies one of the biggest problems we all face is that the people we put in charge, whether Republican or Democrat really are not interested in solving problems, they are interested in getting reelected and what their stature is and how they look aesthetically.
    It is such a sad state of affairs that we can not just teach our children what a mystical and wonderful world we can live in but instead we hide atrocities every day from them. It wasn’t that long ago when I was in Grade School in that same wonderful school district and walked 2 blocks with my friends to Rosemont Elementary School where we were insulated from the terrifying aspects of daily life. Some of the best and most comforting times were spent in that time period with my friends at home and playing or at school with friends and it is with a great deal of sadness that my 5 year old lives in a vastly different world today and can’t just enjoy life as life.
    The first part of any solution comes with tearing down the Partisan walls that have been constructed so well and setting term limits of 6-8 years for all politicians so their legacy can be WHAT THEY DO, not how many times they get reelected. Let them actually do what’s right for the majority of people, ideas that are practical and make sense and solve the real and tough problems we have in this new age we are dealing with.
    I could go on forever but that’s a start, thanks for making us think Katie!!

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