I try never to ignore the news. No matter what’s happening in my life, no matter what’s happening in my own home. What happens in my city, my country, my world, that impacts my life. Maybe not directly. But when I learn about the plight of Syrian refugees walking across continents carrying their babies on their hips, it’s not hard for me to pull an old Baby Bjorn out of storage and send it to aid agencies waiting in Greece. When I learn about the ways my governor is hurting special needs children by slashing early intervention services, I know better how I’ll vote in local elections. When I hear yet another asinine and offensive comment about what some male politician thinks Planned Parenthood does, I take my week’s chocolate bar money and send it to PP instead. I am enriched and empowered by educating myself about the world. The news connects me to the farthest corners of Earth, reminds me that humanity is a constant, that I am not alone and I am not helpless to do things to make our world a little better. But it’s a lot of work. Writing letters to politicians might only take up an hour out of my month, but sometimes it feels like too much. Some days, it’s too hard.
Like when when I’m making a birthday cake for my twins’ sixth birthday, preparing their favorite dinner, wrapping presents and getting the house ready for an onslaught of kindergardeners intent on screaming and laughing until they’re ready to pass out.
October first was the sixth anniversary of my transition to motherhood, and I didn’t want to listen to the news. It was too terrible. Too dark. Too sad. Too damn much. With a shiver of shame I turned off my radio, closed down my computer. I didn’t have it in me to keep up with the body count. Not again. Not again. Not again. Not on my daughters’ birthday. Not now.
Every week it seems like my heart breaks for some other mother who’s child has been ripped from this earth in a mass shooting somewhere in this country. And I just couldn’t look one more time.
But the day ended, my children aged, and the news didn’t go away just because I couldn’t face it. That’s the thing about news, whether or not you bury your head in the sand, it’s still happening. One piece of information about the epidemic of gun violence in our country sticks in my craw more than any other. My three year old is three times more likely to be shot to death than a police officer. In 2013 alone, three times more preschoolers were shot to death than police officers in the entire country. With that piece of information lodged in my soul, I drove my preschooler and my kindergardeners to their school, and I left them there. Because that’s what you do.
You send your kids to school and you hope for the best, whether it’s preK or junior high or community college. Whether it’s Virginia Tech or Columbine High School or Sandy Hook. You send your children to a school where now they rehearse gun drills, locking down the doors and cowering under tables. Because we as a country seem to think it’s more important that anybody can buy a gun anywhere at any time than it is to keep people safe from angry people with guns.
Not mentally ill people with guns, just angry.
Most of these mass shootings, they’re not deranged, mad gunmen. They’re mad, alright, but they’re not suffering from mental illnesses. They know right from wrong. They just want to wound. To kill. To inflict as much hurt on the world around them as they can, because they feel the world owed them something and they didn’t get it. And that means killing the sons and daughters of people just like me.
That means shooting people just like me. Like that thirty year old father who tried to stop the shooter, telling him, “It’s my son’s sixth birthday,” over and over again. On my daughters’ sixth birthday, I didn’t want to think about how I would put my body between a bullet and another person’s child, when all I wanted was to celebrate how big and strong and full of potential my children, on their sixth birthday, had grown.
My three year old is more likely to die from a gunshot than a police officer, and that is wrong. That is so unfathomably wrong that it feels perverse even to type it. Like some elaborate prank. Like a horrific social experiment gone utterly wrong. And that’s precisely what it is.
Our social experiment with arming civilians pell mell has failed. It’s not about the second amendment anymore, it’s about selling as many guns to as many people as often as possible, and it’s wrong. Our second amendment is clear- “A well regulated militia” is not the same as angry twenty year old white men stockpiling assault rifles. And “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” does not mean as many as they wish, whatever they wish, however they wish.
It doesn’t mean any person should have access to a tank, to rocket propelled grenades, to AK47s, or even to hand guns.
We have to face the fact that we are the only developed country in the world that suffers these routine, yes, routine mass murder sprees. We have to face the facts that the millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of guns Americans buy and stockpile and leave minimally attended in their homes are not making us safer from anything at all. They are not making us safer from our mythological deranged lunatics. They are not keeping us safer from a government takeover of our homes. And they are definitely not making us safer from other guns.
My three year old is more likely to be shot to death than a police officer.
This year, a little boy’s sixth birthday present was that his father took seven bullets in an attempt to slow an angry man determined to hurt people, who had ample access, ample opportunity, and none of those regulations our founding fathers mention to keep him from threatening the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of nine other sons and daughters. That boy’s present was that his father, unlike nine other people, lived.
I gave my daughters stuffed animals and new pajamas.
Happy birthday, girls.
Read more about how to make the world a better place: You Need To Talk To Your Kids About White Supremacy
Read my latest post here: I Have The World’s Dumbest Phobia
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