Trying to fight hopelessness with hope has been a challenge these last few days—weeks, months, years ... decade. I did a search in my archives for "gun control" and "shootings" and so many pieces came up, it would take the entirety of this post to reference them. I don't even know what to say anymore. Do I repost? Find and replace "Newtown" with "San Bernardino?" "Aurora" with "Colorado Springs"?
Will this ever end? Is America too far gone to even HAVE a reasonable conversation about gun control? Are we at war against ourselves?
I would like to think most of us are on the same side of the gun control issue. Most of us believe that background checks should be FAR stricter. That those on "no-fly" lists shouldn't be able to purchase militar-grade weapons. And while I do not want to discourage anyone from fighting tooth and nail to demand change on gun control, I also believe that the people of the U.S. are products of our government—and that our fundamentals are the REAL problem here.
I look at the above graph and feel that REAL CHANGE can only come with a cultural shift. A naive sentiment, perhaps, but one I feel is important to put out there because we live in a violent society and are products of a violent nation doing violent things. Shootings happen every day and they do not surprise me.
But they should. They're supposed to.
THEY SHOULD AND THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO.
Color me naive, but as long as we're spending MORE THAN HALF of our federal budget on defense (which also means "offense," let's be clear), we cannot expect ordinary citizens not to do the same. "Do what I say, not what I do" does not work, as most of us parents can tell you.
"I'm gonna be like you, Dad. You know I'm gonna be like you."
If it isn't clear, I hate guns. I always have. I abhor them. I abhor ANYTHING that was created for the sole purpose of KILLING HUMAN BODIES but I also realize that I live in a country that is historically and notoriously violent.
Between the shooting at Planned Parenthood and the shooting in San Bernardino, I feel discouraged and angry and overwhelmed by the war that is happening here in America.
Because, indeed, we are at war. Pick a side because there is no gray area when it comes to issues pertaining to human rights. There is no room for nuance when a terrorist opens fire on a Planned Parenthood, killing three.
In the past when I've written about gun control, I have been assaulted by an onslaught of pro-gun trolls—who, I will admit, are petrifying. Standing up to gun enthusiasts is essentially pissing off people with guns. Which is pretty scary. The only time I have ever had to close my comments on my blog in 10+ years, was when I wrote about gun control.
That is what we're dealing with. That is what people in power are dealing with. I cannot imagine a more frightening and convincing lobby than the NRA but there is. And it's called KBR/Halliburton:
It's trickle-down intimidation. And it starts with our government and ends horrifically in our terrorized communities. We are at war against those who stand in opposition to a woman's right to choose. And a child's right to go safely into her school. We are at war against those who put their right to own military-grade weapons before their neighbor's right not to be accidentally shot by one. We are at war against those who suggest we close the borders of OUR IMMIGRANT NATION to immigrants.
I used to feel the need to hide the news of shootings from my children. But as of late, I've felt the importance of discussing these events with them so that so that they can participate in a conversation I feel we should all be having with our families, our neighbors, each other. I have always believed that a child's ideas are FAR more revelatory than those of adults. If we shut our children out of these conversations, we are shutting out their voices, their opinions, their willingness to participate in the greater good.
So we discuss. We talk about contributing, about helping others in the name of lives that have been lost. After the shooting in San Bernardino, I asked the kids if they had any ideas for how to make change.
Fable's idea: "We need to build wells in villages without them so that girls can go to school."
(Her class is raising money right now to provide a well via charitywater.org so she has become very passionate about wells and water and girls going to school, just like boys.)
Archer's idea: "We need to fire everyone in Congress because they're mostly old and corrupt. And we need to replace them with young people who aren't afraid."
And this, I guess, is where I wanted to go with my post. Because he's right. Children can see what their parents cannot: Our generation is fucked. Our parents' generation is fucked. But our children? As I wrote back in 2014: Our children are the change-makers and I strongly believe that it is our responsibility to raise the future by (age appropriately) educating them about the present. Giving them the opportunity to fight the good fight themselves. We need our children to advocate for change. Let us not turn our backs on their ideas.
There was an op-edwritten by Josie Duffy on Daily Kos last week and I would like to end this post with her words and a list of places you can call and support, to voice your opinion against those in power who see "defense" as our first and foremost priority as a nation, as a people, as a culture.
"If you still bristle at the idea of gun control, fine. All I'm asking is that you call a spade a spade. To you, the right to own a gun—including one of those assault weapons that looks like what a robot might utilize to kill the enemy in a movie called "Robot War 3"—is more important than people's lives. People's lives matter less than your gun.
"We can argue the philosophical merits of gun regulation, we can expand or shrink the sociopolitical, and yet we will end up exactly where we are ... Ideology gets us nowhere. We will meet here again, probably tomorrow. We will keep meeting—same time, same place.
"I'm watching a livestream of the local news, where a bewildered reporter tries to swallow his tears. It's raining outside, and clear across the country in California there are a dozen dead bodies, each end brought by bullets. Parents are calling, frantic, hoping that their child is alive. At this moment right now, survivors are just embarking on a long journey of pain, guilt, trauma, regret, flashbacks. The loss is tangible. The pain is forever.
But you still have your guns! So It's all worth it to you. You have to remind yourself. Go ahead, say it out loud—'Those deaths are worth it to me.' Days like today, you have to remind yourself that this is the cause you are (literally, chances are) willing to die for. Is it worth it?"
- TALK to your friends and family members. LISTEN to your friends and family members. So many of us (even those of us who are vehemently opposed to guns) know gun owners. Engaging in debate is essential if we ever want to make any sort of progress. Everything feels especially fucked up right now but IT HAS TO FEEL THAT way in order to change. I do not believe in anyone's right to legally purchase an assault weapon. And I will stand by that opinion for always. But I also believe that if we are to blame someone for the gun epidemic, we are to blame ourselves, our government, our culture and our collective hard-on for war and weapons. Nothing will change unless we tell it to. Unless we stand up and speak out and fight. With words and action and conversation. With love for those who have lost their lives so senselessly, and those who inevitably will.