I am trying to post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I was all revved up to write about Susan Rice on Friday, mixing it in with a little something about the new Majority in this country. There might even have been a little bit of something about Rob Parker being an idiot and Black on Black intellectual crime.
But then the news started trickling in from Connecticut, I couldn’t think of anything else all day. I live in Massachusetts, so close and yet so far from the crime. My children are under two. I was a teacher in an 8th grade classroom. Yet I grieve as though I was there. I grieve as a mother, a teacher, a citizen, a human being. I cannot stop thinking about the last moments of those precious children. I cannot stop thinking about those poor doomed teachers and their last moments, thoughts and acts of devotion. I can’t stop thinking about all of the innocence forever lost to the survivors.
I osculated between utter devastation and rage for hours. Indeed, as more news comes in, I am still moving between these two emotions. I have hugged and kissed my sons, I have told them I love them, I played with them and was “present” for them in a compelling way. And I sat, thankful, for the opportunity to have my children.
Then I got on Facebook and watched my wonderfully educated friends battle amongst themselves and with others about when/if/how we should have a conversation about gun control. They talked about the pettiness of promoting a gun control agenda when the nation is in mourning. They talked about the cowardice of simply praying, that we must actually do something. They talked about the selfishness of gun owners. The ignorance of our interpretation of the 2nd amendment. Our extreme and knee-jerk society that will, in the end, do nothing. The lack of God in schools. They brought up all of the complexities, in their own ways, about this issue.
Some common themes emerged: Mental health, respectful and appropriate gun control, and actual action.
Petitions are flying across the internet, and I’m not inclined to sign any yet until there is some consensus and consolidation around ideas. I’m also opting for the good old fashioned way: I’m writing letters to the people in charge. Liz Warren, my new senator, John Kerry, my old senator who is most likely leaving, the congressman of my district in Massachusetts, and my President. I will write these letters and post them here before I send them on their way.
Gun violence in this country knows no race, no socio-economic level. It does not discriminate against the mentally sick or well. It now does not seem to discern between age either. I cannot live rightly in the world with the knowledge that I can send my precious sons can be killed at school. It is unacceptable to me. There are so many things that I want my President to do in these next four years, but this must come first and foremost. There is nothing more important to me than the wellbeing of my children. I want to make sure that my elected leaders understand that.
If we choose to value silence in the face of mental illness, we choose to value violence in the face of desperation. If we choose to value the “right” to hold the power of life and death, then we choose to value the “right” to watch tragedies like this. If we choose to allow a rich organization to control the debate about two sentences in a large, important, a clear document, then we choose to place the recreation of some over the innocent life of the many. We choose, essentially, to forsake the Constitution on a daily basis.
We are better than this.
I will resume my regular posting routine on Monday with my letter. I invite you to do the same: Write letters to the people who have political power in your life. Make your voice heard. Make them work for, if nothing else, a safer place for us to live. Safety isn’t partisan. In the meantime, I will continue to pray for the families of Newton, for the children and parents of this country, for the leadership that must make a change, and for all of us. So fast on the heels of a national political discussion, we must now have a cultural one.
I wrote this to my former students, who are in high school and college, yesterday. I’ll leave it here now:
I am devastated to live in a country where, routinely, parents send their precious children to school and they don’t return home because of gun violence. I can’t express to you how utterly saddened I am today. As a teacher and now as a mother, my heart has broken. Hug your parents tonight. If you are at college, call them and tell them you love them. If you have, give. If you have time, volunteer.
Remember that, through pain, grief, rage, and all of the negative emotions in between, that you are loved and you are worthy of love. Know it, own it, spread it.
And as always, choose peace. Above all else, choose peace.
This is the season of peace. Go out of your way in the next few weeks to make it and to extend it to all who would accept it.
And know, as always, that I’m thinking of you. And I’m honored to know you. And I’m proud of everything that you all will do to make this world a better place.