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Sunday, September 22, 2013
There are lots of things in life we can’t control. I live in Colorado, where, since I moved two years ago, blizzards have come and gone, fires have devastated entire neighborhoods, and last weekend rains washed away towns.
In their wake, we feel sadness, grief and the overwhelming sense that Mother Nature can still get the better of us. There is little blame to lay in these situations because it seems like maybe the cards we were dealt are out of our hands. We don’t expect the snowflakes falling to care, the clouds don’t have feelings, and when the rains wash our things away, we hold onto those we love. We build our resolve and vow to go on. We are America.
We are kind of control freaks. We control our soda intake, taxes, sports bodies, vaccinations and other countries with our foreign policies. We strive, while sometimes misguided, to make sense of rules in the complicated world around us. We take down child abusers, we fine sports stars for end-zone dances, we offer a freedom that others risk their lives to receive. But we still haven’t figured a lot out yet, have we?
Of all the things we can’t control, we pick the issue of gun control as one to take the hands-off approach to. Today, it was the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Last year, it was Sandy Hook and the Aurora shootings. These mass shootings aren’t clouds sending down natural elements. These are our own people pulling triggers on others who, seemingly falsely, believe that they can work, learn and play unharmed across this nation. Is this America?
In the past 15 years, it seems like clockwork that mass shootings splash across our news channels and cripple us in our seats because the people being attacked are doing just that, sitting in their seats, walking through malls, celebrating the joys of democracy. I can’t sit by and be sad anymore.
I was shot three times at the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007. Almost seven years ago now. As I recovered, I gained some solace in the fact that maybe we as a country would pull together and make sure this never happened again. Instead, it’s almost as if the opposite has happened. I have grown accustomed to a mass shooting taking place about every nine months in my home, my country. I’m scared if this is America.
I am a teacher now. I teach special education to middle schoolers. I have the occasional panic attack thinking that the improbable will happen to me again. Everyone tells me the statistics make it almost impossible that it will happen to me again. In the back of my head I know, though, it is always closer than it seems.
I don’t teach history, but I wonder what in 30 years we will tell our kids about America in the early 2000s. It seems almost logical not to characterize our history by the stories of wars and legislative battles but rather patch together a story of a broken nation that can’t seem to figure it out and mass shooting is the lexicon, not just terrorism. Today, I cry for you, America.
The Navy Yard shooting didn’t make me sad at first, and it wasn’t until I wrote this that tears welled up in my eyes. To me, it’s hypocritical to expect that the endgame will change if the rules never do. We haven’t changed gun control laws or enacted major mental health reform, so maybe it’s time to accept it. Our nation looks silly. We craft and negotiate to have a country destroy its chemical weapons, but we can’t enforce on our own soil that our own citizens should lay down their arms. Not even foreign wars are won with AK‑47s, but somehow it’s still in the national psyche that they are necessary and offer protection. I sincerely hope that we evaluate our role as world police if our own citizens are wreaking havoc on the American dream. Our greatest threats are not just outside our borders. Look in the mirror, America.
Tomorrow, I will get up and go to work. I have no choice. I love my kids, and in some small way it proves that “they” didn’t win. I will dig from the depths of my resolve and vow, yet again, to go on.
We go on because we are Americans, and that is what we do. However, I deeply wish that we can move forward and enact change. Let us make changes and not excuses. The theoretical is gone. Guns kill. People kill.
So let’s tap into our control-freak tendencies and not let guns be the exception to this. If we can’t figure it out, the words “America, land of the free and home of the brave” may begin to sound increasingly hollow.
Weather JournalMidday update: More ice likely later