We Must Do More

I feel ashamed to be a white woman in America today. I am grieved. I am angry. The injustices and inequities that prevail in our culture are intolerable. In the last few months, weeks, days this is more apparent than ever. We’ve seen a police officer (his hand in his pocket) cavalierly cut off the windpipe of George Flloyd, a black man, with his knee and murder him during an arrest. Yet the officers involved have not been arrested themselves. Two white men chase down and murder Ahmaud Arbery, a black jogger, and walk free for months. A white woman calls the police and says she’s being threatened because an avid birder, who happened to be black, asked her to follow the park’s rules and put her dog on a leash. White men can carry semi-automatic rifles at their state capitol to protest “stay at home” orders and it’s just another day in the life.

Why isn’t everyone outraged? This has to stop. What can I do as a privileged, white woman? I can acknowledge that privilege and use it to speak out and advocate for those who are subjected to systemic racism, outright hatred and apathy toward others simply because they were born with a darker skin tone. Twitter was flooded with angry, self-righteous comments when a football player peacefully demonstrated for change by taking a knee during the national anthem. They passionately argued it was disrespectful to those soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom. The very soldiers who gave their lives so that we could peacefully demonstrate when our citizens aren’t all free. They aren’t free to jog in a neighborhood and stop at a construction site out of curiousity or free to bird watch without fear for their lives. How is the symbol of American freedom more important than the freedom of all our citizens, than the lives of all our citizens? Everyone should be taking a knee during the national anthem until these horrors are addressed.

I can do that by supporting and voting for candidates that promote unity, equity, tolerance and kindness. I can do that by speaking up when I see injustice in my every day life. But, I know I can do more. I am called to do more. I am excited and priveledged to be taking Diana Patton’s Pivot and Rise Mastermind course that starts Saturday. I will be learning more about advocacy and what that means. You will definitely be hearing more about that in the coming weeks.

I need to do more. So do you.

Note: I posted a link to this post to my social media feeds that opened some good dialog and wanted to add some notes to expand my thoughts.

Where does my sense of shame come from? It comes from being associated with a race and culture that has historically and is currently involved with enslaving people, putting them in internment camps, putting them in cages, discriminating against people that look, pray and love differently that makes me feel that shame. Mostly, though it come from being ashamed of myself for letting fear prevent me from speaking up sooner, louder, and more often.

Also I did not mean to place judgement on people who choose not to take a knee during the national anthem. I understand that there are those who have lost family members for those fighting for our freedom. What I was trying to articulate was that others doing so does NOT mean they are being disrespectful of the flag, or the service men and women who fought for American freedom. Rather, if those who feel it is disrepectful for themselves to make this gesture to not judge others or project their values onto others, who do feel this act of demonstration is a way to show solidarity as the flag does not mean “justice for all” and it making people aware of that fact instead of pretending that it does. I do not think peacefully kneeling before the flag, as you would in prayer, can be perceived as being unkind. Wielding guns at protests, name calling, waving confederate flags and swastikas, and senseless violence are all soundly in the unkind camp. Kneeling during the anthem makes people uncomfortable, but I don’t see that as an act of unkindness. I fully believe kindness towards others is the path to change. Shying from something because you or someone else might feel discomfort does not affect change. We should be uncomfortable until all Americans are treated with dignity, respect, empathy and equity.

The Power of Voting

I voted sticker

Recently I signed up to participate in a letter writing campaign that encourages Americans, who normally don’t vote, to register to vote and head to polls on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 to cast their votes (or mail in their ballots if it’s still not safe to vote in person). The letter doesn’t promote any candidates or policies or parties. Instead, it encourages the recipient to simply vote. As part of the letter, I am to write why I vote in every election. And, I have voted in every election since I turned 18 back in 1988. I can remember that very first time I voted at Plain Congregational Church, standing in line, signing my name and punching the card board ballot. A sense of pride in being an American flowed through me as I placed the “I voted” sticker on my chest. It still does.

Voting is one of the ways I can make my voice heard. I admit at times I wondered what the point of standing in line to record my vote actually was. My attitude waivered as what difference does one vote really make. I questioned whether voting for a third-party or independent candidate was a waste of a vote. Was it really better to vote for “the lesser of two evils?” or just skip voting all together. Seemingly who was the president, my senators, house represenative or governer didn’t have much effect on my day to day life. I still voted, but the power of the vote lost it’s luster.

Now though, more than ever I realize how important voting really is. If everyone casts their one vote, together we can make changes. Are the current politicians corrupt? Are people underserved? Are you unhappy with the current policies? Vote them out. You can’t win the lotto if you don’t buy a ticket and you can’t change the government officials if you don’t vote. According to Pew Research Center only 55.7% of voting-age Americans, actually did in the last presidential election. Of voting-age Americans that were registered to vote, only 86.8% voted. 24% of voting-age Americans are not even registered to vote. Those numbers are disheartening. I know that people face long lines (although people camp out over night for Black Friday sales and stand in line for hours to ride a roller coaster!) and other obstacles prevent people from voting (being turned away as not being registered, not having proper ID, not having transportation to the polls, polling hours that don’t match their work schedules, etc.), which is why we need to pass laws make it easier for people to register to vote and actually vote without fear of voter fraud. I am confident that we have the technology to make this happen.

While I may not have admitted it back then, but government was one of my favorite classes in high school. For a brief moment, I even considered majoring in polical science. The foresight of the founders’ system of checks and balances and the three separate, but equal branches intrigued me. The perserverance and sacrifice of the activitists the secured my right to vote inspired me. That’s one of the reasons, I vote in every election. I owe it to the women that came before me, who never had the opportunity to vote to do so.

Over the past four years, I’ve become much more aware of politics and our government. I have woken up from complacency to want to make a difference. I’ve written to my senators and representatives, participated in a march and a demonstration. I want to do more, but the idea of going door to door or cold-calling people left me feeling bereft – both are way out of my comfort zone. So, when I saw this letter writing opportunity, I got excited!

So….

  • If you haven’t registered to vote yet, make sure you do! You can do it online! Go here: https://www.vote.org/register-to-vote/.
  • If you haven’t filled out your 2020 census, do that too! The census determines funding and how many represensentatives we have!
  • If you are interested in writing letters to encourage others to vote, you can check out the details at Vote Forward.

Finally, if you are like me you may struggle with knowing what news is real and what news is fake. I worry my biases are preventing me from seeing the candidates for who they are. As humans confirmation bias is strong. So, I was excited to find Ground News. It is an app that uses an algorithm to give you links to the same news story from multiple points of view from the various political biases. I’ve found it helpful to read the various “takes” to help me form my own opinions instead of relying on one source.

Conundrums

unsolveableWhen I close my eyes and think about the all-loving God that I grew up knowing, I feel comforted like a warm blanket around my shoulders. The idea that if I pray hard enough, am good enough and it’s God’s plan everything will be OK, is one that I’ve subscribed to most of my life. The thought that having a “mustard seed’s” worth of faith can “move mountains” sustained me when questions and doubt have plagued me. Especially now — in such uncertain times when the COVID-19 pandemic, our government’s response to it and our actions and reactions to that dominate headlines and our social media feeds—this should be enough to see me through, but it’s not.

In my personal life manifesto, if you read it to the very end, I wrote, “Religion isn’t always truth. God is love. Fear is the enemy.” I believe this. I feel disillusioned with religion and have so now for several years. I’ve been afraid to write those words for fear of what others might think. Yet, my mind won’t let it go. If God has a plan and knows me, then He knows what paths my mind takes. He won’t let me rest until I write. And so here it is, my conundrum… Maybe like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, “God” is just another imaginary entity humans created to give us comfort in the knowledge that someday we all will die and hope that we will see our loved ones who have passed away again.

Even more so now, I’ve come to think that the world would be a better place with less religion rather than more. How many atrocities occurred and continue to occur in the name of a religion? It is just random happenstance, that I was born into a Christian family in the United States. I could just as easily have been born to a Muslim family in Iraq, a Hindu family in India, a Jewish family in Israel, a Buhdist family in China or an atheist family anywhere. People think strongly that their religion is the “right” one, but no one really knows definitively whose religion is the “right” or “wrong” one. Maybe they are all right or maybe none of them are. We are all biased. We believe what confirms our biases and dismiss or ignore the rest. My religion isn’t better or more right than anyone elses.

Politics and religion are typically two topics I’ve tried to avoid. Our country’s founders were clear on separating “church” and “state,” but they’ve become very entwined. Maybe, they always were? What’s the point of talking about something that riles everyone up and that you can’t really change anyway? Why should I care about public policies and agendas if they don’t affect me directly? Everyone has a right to their own opinions. Correct? On the flip side, why should I be afraid to share my thoughts and opinions? Our country was founded on freedom of speech. Why be afraid? Because, hate and retaliation are very real today. Name calling and belittling are not far-fetched responses to expect from those who disagree. Ignorance is bliss. Right? Am I better off not knowing what others’ political and religious views are? I long for the days of not knowing. However, I realize that this is not a luxury I can afford. I was privileged to not have to know as it didn’t really affect my life one way or the other. However, over the past few years I find it harder and harder to tamp down the uneasiness within me and remain quiet. Silence equals complicity. I believe this. Yet, reading posts and comments that are hateful, untrue and biased cause my blood pressure to rise, my stomach to turn and uneasiness to flow through my body. Responding doesn’t change anyone’s mind and seems to feed animosity. And so, I unfollow negative people, stop myself from reading comments on articles and limit the amount of news I view out of self-preservation. But does doing this, then make me complicit? This is where I struggle.

One of the basic teachings of Christianity can be found in Matthew 25:37-40

 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. “

Matthew 25:37-40  – NIV

Jesus did not teach that you only have to help the least of these if they are Christians and U.S, citizens. Thus, I have a hard time understanding how people can reconcile supporting President Trump and still consider themselves to be Christians. You only have to actually read the president’s Twitter feed or listen to one of his speeches to know that he does not remotely align with any of these core teachings. What does the economy matter, when people are hungry, sick and seeking shelter and we turn them away? Will a great economy, make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren if our water and air is polluted? What does it matter if taxes are lower, when our national debt grows? What does it matter if business is booming, if people are dying from COVID-19 and our health care system is overwhelmed?

When do his supporters finally wake up and admit they made a mistake in voting for and supporting this man? He is more concerned about his ratings, blaming others (the Democrats, the Fake News, the elite academics, Obama, Clinton and on and on), than he is in taking responsibility for his mistakes and being an empathetic leader. Yes, we should rally around our president in times of trial and put partisian politics aside. However, there is also a time to take a hard look at whether this president can look beyond his own ego and selfishness to do what is best for our country. Yes, both political parties have their flaws. There is name calling, lies and corruption all around. However, two wrongs have never made a right. I may not agree with all of Governor DeWine’s policies, but he makes me proud to be an Ohioian. He embodies the leadership and empathy that we need right now.

I would rather pay higher taxes, if it means helping those less fortunate, ensuring everyone has affordable healthcare and housing and protecting our environment.  Sure, there will always be people that would take advantage of said help, who don’t really need it, but I’d rather the help still be available to those who do. If that makes me a liberal, socialist, elitist or any other “ist” so be it. I own it. I would much rather live in a kinder, less selfish world.

Silence Equals Complicity

silence=complicity

Not long ago I attended a lecture at Bowling Green State University as part of their “Beyond the Dream” series in conjunction with Black History Month. The speaker that evening was Opal Ayo Tometi, one of the co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter. Her speech and dialogue with the audience was inspiring, thought-provoking and to me more than a little unsettling. Since hearing her speak, a little over a week ago, her words have tumbled over and over in my mind, causing me to reflect upon my own fallacies, biases and re-evaluate how I can be on the just side of history.

Tometi said that we are living in a history-making (with a capital “H”) moment in time. She talked about some of the other capital “H” time periods of the past. Like her, I can remember sitting in history classes learning about the horrible injustices and tragedies of our past. I too, read about the underground railroad that helped people escape from slavery, the bravery of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus and the senseless, horrific murder of Emmet Till. I tried to picture what life would have been like back then and who I would have been. Would I have been brave enough to be part of the underground railroad? Would I have marched in solidarity with the people in Montgomery? I would like to unequivocally say of course I would have! I know that I would have seen the injustice, but I’m not so sure that I would have been brave enough to stand up to it. I was relieved to think that at least these atrocities and injustices were history. They were events that happened before I was born in a “different” time. Yet I only have to turn to my Twitter feed to be reminded that these types of atrocities and injustices are still very prevalent in our society today and that I am living in “this” time that will some day be my grandchildren’s “different” time.

One of the talking points that Tometi hit on hard was that acknowledging injustice and being aware of injustice is not enough. She went on to say that if you are silent and do nothing (even if you are not the perpetrator of the injustice) that you are complicit. Silence equals complicity. Those words won’t stop haunting me. Those words were my wake up call. From my earliest blog posts/newspaper columns, I’ve tended to focus on the silver linings of life, the little things that make you feel warm inside and smile. I’ve tried to avoid writing about topics that stir up feelings of anger, pain and despair. My philosophy has always been to remain uninvolved and refrain from commenting in social media or sharing my opinions in conversations if they differed or would cause conflict. My notion that if I quit reading the news, stopped following people whose opinions were different than mine and just kept my thoughts/comments to myself I would be a lot happier was shot to hell by that statement – silence equals complicity.

My conscience won’t allow me to be complicit. I want to not only acknowledge and stand against the many injustices in this world, but I want to make a difference and do what little I can to bend the arc towards justice (even if it is just as small as writing a blog post like this one). I would never in a million years consider myself an activist. I am an introvert with a loathing toward conflict. In my mind, conflict has always been bad, but complicity is worse. So on this last day of Black History month, I vow to myself to stop being quiet and speak up against injustice of all kinds. I admit I’m afraid, but my “ignorance is bliss” or “if it doesn’t affect me directly, it doesn’t matter” mentality scares me more.

Kindergarten Throw Back

Do you remember kindergarten? How about when your children or grandchildren were in kindergarten? No, not really? Is it all a bit foggy? Surely, though while we may not actually remember being a kindergartner, we do remember what we learned at that young age. And while, what we learned in kindergarten became the foundation of our education, I think especially now after a week filled with so much hate and violence, we could all use a refresher course. 

In between recess and naptime, we learned our ABC’s and 123’s, but more importantly we learned how to be good classmates, friends, neighbors and children. Among the rules we learned as 5-year olds are five of the most important to remember:

  1. Listen when the teacher (or someone else) is talking.
  2. No running in the halls. (Slow down!)
  3. Keep your hands to yourself. 
  4. Share with others.
  5. No name calling.

While all of these “rules” are important, I find that #5 may need the most review among American adults today.  Even as precoicious 4 year-olds, my daughters both knew that the word “Duh” was disrepectful and that the word “stupid” was a “bad” word and would call me (rightfully so) out if I used one of these words. Yet, when someone disagrees with one of our values, beliefs or opinions, many of us are quick to assign judgement and call each other names. 

political sign

I passed this political sign (to the left) on my way to the dentist this afternoon. I felt physically ill as I passed by.  I am glad that my  youngest daughter wasn’t in the car with me to read this hateful sentiment. While it is a wonderful example of alliteration, it would have been distressing to explain to her what a douche bag and douche are, and even more so to try to explain to her why these words were being used in this context. I am not offended by this sign, but am disappointed and saddened by it. A more effective sign might have been to tell me the positive reasons why I should vote another way instead (Republican maybe?). The writer of this sign does just the opposite of what his or her intent was – to influence me not to vote democrat. Yet, the off-putting aura of hate that surrounded the message makes me want to vote democrat even if I weren’t intending to before I read it.

While I whole-heartedly support our right to free speech as proteted by the first ammendment, even the Super Bowl halftime show is censored and music, videos and movies are rated based on content. I do not agree with the content of that roadside sign or for that matter of various tweets and contents on any given social media platform, I would never call the author a nasty name because of it (even though I may momentarially think it). While the old childhood rhyme may be “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  They do. Words do hurt. Words instill hate in our hearts. Words insight violence. Words matter. 

Last week my daughter was upset because someone in her class supposedly her a “mean name.”  We talked about the saying of “I’m rubber and your glue whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”  As Taylor Swift sings, “Shake it off” as the “Haters are gonna hate, hate, hate.” We agreed that when someone calls you something mean, it’s more about their lack of self-esteem than it is about her. This is true. It doesn’t matter what people think about you in theory. But pratically, speaking I can replay in my mind more exactly the hurtful things people have said to me more easily than the positive ones. While I shake it off, a sliver of pain is still left behind.

Words can inspire. Word can affect positve change. Words can lift us up. 
Words matter. 

Are there any other kindergarten rules you think we should revisit?

It’s Called Empathy

When my oldest daughter was around 3 years old, I went on a girls’ weekend with my mother and sister. I left my daughter with her dad.  He was on call that weekend and wouldn’t you know it, he got called into work.  He asked a neighbor boy to come stay with her. Not wanting to wake her, he left without introducing her to the babysitter. She woke up to a virtual stranger, terrified. The babysitter called my cell as he couldn’t get her to come out from under the covers or to stop crying. I tried to comfort her over the phone, but could tell from her whisper of a voice that she was still afraid and I was four hours away. Grandpa came to the rescue that day (as he was only 45 minutes away).

The pain and distress my daugher felt that day shot through my heart. It took her several months, if not, longer to get over it. I felt like the worst mother ever. Would I have knowingly, on-purpose caused distress to my child? No way. Unless…her life was in danger, then absolutely.

This is why I can understand why immigrant families come to our border knowing they could be separated from their children – better in an internment camp than dead?  I can’t imagine how horrible the conditions must be in their home countries that they would rather their children live without them in a foreign country, than die with them in a country overrun with violence. Sure I could be separated from my children, if I committed a felony or was deployed in the military, but in both cases the decisions would be mine. One could argue crossing an imaginary line in the sand is a choice as well, but is it, if the alternative means death for my children? This is called empathy. Would I make that same decision in their place if it meant my children would live? Yes. What would you do?

Sitting on a hard wooden pew as a child, I remember hearing this parable many times:

“‘For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” (Matthew 25:42-45 (NIV))

In my heart of hearts I never wanted to be the one that passed by someone in need with a cold, hard heart. I strived to be like the Good Samaritan (another parable ingrained in my mind). In my mind I really wanted to be kind-hearted and help those less fortunate than me. I grew up believing in loving my neighbors as myself and in praying for my enemies. This is where I learned about empathy.  “What would Jesus do?”  Do you remember those bracelets from back in the 1990s? I had a green one.

A few months ago a woman approached me as my daughters and I were getting out of the car to go into the mall.  She asked if I had any spare change to give as she’d run out of gas and didn’t get paid until the following week. I gave her what change I had in my pocket and knew my daughter had $10 in her coin purse. I asked her to give the money to the woman. She reluctantly gave the woman the money, who was very grateful. I assured my daughter I would pay her back the $10 as soon as we found an ATM. Yet, she was still salty (yes I just used teen lingo there) over the whole episode.

I asked her what was wrong as this is my child that has bible verses posted on her bedroom walls. I expected her to want to help others. As it turns out she thought the woman was scamming us or could have robbed us. I told her that yes, she was absolutely right. Both of those things could have been true. On the other hand, the woman may have been sincere in her need. I said I would rather assume she truly needed help. It was broad daylight and many people were around so I didn’t feel unsafe doing so.  I told her I would rather ten people scam me, than not give to one person who could really use it. If I were in need (and I have been), I would and am truly grateful for those that have helped me.

I share this story not to shame my daughter or anyone else for that matter. Her fears come honestly.  We live in a day and age where our society assumes the worst in others instead of the best. Imagine what life might be like if instead, we assumed the best by default? I’m not a theologian or a philosopher or a politician, but I honestly think it would be pretty damn awesome. In my cheesy, alter-universe, we live in a world full of empathy, compassion, tolerance and love. We are all human. Each and every one of us. We all have the same basic human needs (anyone remember Maslow?) Why can’t we move away from fear and hate to love and acceptance?

Whether you are a conservative, right-winger or a liberal, leftist, it doesn’t matter. We are all human. The right thinks the left is brain-washed and vice-versa. People shout “fake news” when the read something that doesn’t agree with whatever politician they support. In the end, we are in a quagmire. Yes, there are shades of gray.  But there is also right and wrong. Taking young, innocent children away from their parents, who are only seeking a better life for themselves is w-r-o-n-g.  I don’t care who put the policy in place (Clinton, Obama, Trump – I’ve seen all three in my news feeds today), it is doesn’t change it from being wrong. Two wrongs never make a right. Ignoring what is happening around us doesn’t alleviate our guilt, it makes us complicit.

Our country was founded on immigration.  My grandfather came here from Mexico with his parents, seeking a better life. He worked as a hard laborer, a migrant worker and eventually along with his parents became naturalized citizens. I wouldn’t be here today if they hadn’t sought a better life and to live the “American Dream.”  (Even so, I had no control over where or when I was born and neither does anyone else, including the people we seek to keep out). We dehumanize the people who come to our borders, when we call them “illegals” or “criminals.” They want they same things that we want.

I read this Tweet from our president and I weep.

2018-06-18_12-49-40

Children are not bargaining chips. People’s lives are not pawns in a political agenda. This is using blackmail and extortion to get what you want. These are real, human beings. This is not fake news. These screenshots are from reputable news feeds:

2018-06-18_12-43-32  2018-06-18_12-41-15

People are quick to comment and point fingers at each other, but fail to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. I read many un-related arguments to justify supporting this horrible policy (why are the Democrats mad, they support abortion? Why don’t they worry about American children instead of illegal aliens?)  These arguments are beside the point and still doesn’t change the fact that what we are doing now is inhumane. For the record, I personally, do care about the American children living in poverty and orphanages and I think all human life is sacred (from the unborn to the criminals on death row) and I also think it is wrong to separate children from their parents. If we spent the millions (dare I say billions) of dollars earmarked for a wall or temporary camps for the displaced children and used it to help end poverty in our own country, to give those seeking a better life a path so they can become contributing citizens, we could make America even better.

Yes, we in doing so we may let in some “thugs” or “criminals” along they way. But, hey, at least we can all go out and buy an AR-15 style rifle to protect ourselves, just in case. (Yes, that was sarcasm there, but I digress.)

I know in the grand scheme of things, my little post means nothing and won’t change anything. But, if you shared this post to your feed, and someone else posted it to theirs, maybe the 1490 words of this blog post could make a difference.

empathy

Hate Problem? Gun Problem? Yes and Yes.

(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

My heart is heavy and my stomach twists. I want to stand out in my yard and scream for it to stop. I fear for my children and loved ones. I’m torn between wanting to keep them locked inside, home-schooled, and safe and letting them venture out knowing that they have to live life, as do I. But….it is h-a-r-d.

As I scrolled through my news feeds and read various articles about the latest mass shooting (how horrible is it to have to write latest), I feel like throwing up. How does this happen? Why does this happen? And why the fuck can’t people put their agendas aside and really listen to each other? (sorry for the language there — actually I’m not.) I am an angry mother and I want the politicians, law makers and my fellow citizens to look into their hearts and really think. The people that were gunned down could have just as easily been YOUR children or YOUR spouse. The shooter could have been YOUR child. We need to stop pointing fingers at each other and ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING!!!!! How many lives have to be lost? How many children? How many people’s lives have to be destroyed before we as a country take a real stand, collaborate and stop ignoring the problems.

Many articles have been written on this. We argue and accuse each other and fixate on one argument over another without truly hearing each other. We need our leaders to come together to make a true difference.  Next week twitter will trail off and everyone will go back to their normal lives as if nothing happened and nothing will happen. Except that something did happen and those families and children will never be the same. I don’t want the next blip in the discussion about “gun control” to be when a bullied, mentally unstable person,who slipped through the cracks, comes into my children’s school with an assault rifle and unloads their 100 rounds of wrath and anger on my children or an entitled white nationalist unloads his hate at my local Walmart. We need a real dialog now.

Those of you who have read my writings in the past know I am equivocally not an “Either/Or” person and see the world largely through a “Both/And” lens. This situation is definitely a case for “Both/And.” I hear the same tired arguments over and over on both sides, but nothing changes. School should be a place where our children can safely learn and grow. When I was in high school, we had tornado drills and fire drills. We did not have “active shooter” drills. This is our norm now. The NORM!!!! Does this not make anyone else cringe? Why is this acceptable? I am not arguing that in this day and age that the drills aren’t necessary, obviously they are. I need a course in how to survive an active shooter incident to go to Walmart, the movies, the county fair or a concert. I don’t want to have a concealed carry card and a loaded gun in my purse to feel safe. I don’t understand how more guns can be the answer.

Here are the arguments I’ve heard and seen in the last 72 hours and what I interpret.

  1. Guns don’t kill, people do. This is a true statement. On the other hand, it is also a true statement that guns do NOT kill without people.
  2. Why punish law-abiding citizens?  I understand where law-abiding gun owners are coming from. It’s the old one bad egg spoils it for everyone. Yep. That’s true. Life is not fair. Get over it already. Accept it. Don’t use it as an excuse to not protect our children. The sole purpose of an AR15 is to destroy. Yes there are examples where people have learned to shoot and reload other guns rapidly in competition.  Should we ban those too? If they are available then why not the AR15? It takes time practice and dedication to shoot other guns this way, not so much for a military grade weapon designed for war. Why make it easy for every-day people to own them? Yes, there are black markets. Yes these types of guns will exist in the world. I accept that fact. I’m ok with that. But, how many teenagers do you know that have black market connections? Do you know where to find black market connections. It would be much harder for someone to get an AR15 from the “black market” than it is for them to go to the local gun shop. No one is saying we should ban all fire arms. I haven’t read that solution one time. I recognize there are millions of law abiding citizens that own guns and never harm anyone. For that I am grateful. However, wouldn’t you give up the convenience of buying a new fire arm without a background check/waiting period, to save your child’s life? Isn’t putting off that instant gratification of owning a new gun worth at least that?
  3. It’s a people problem, not a gun problem. Actually, I think it is both. Yes, it’s a gun problem. I can buy and own a gun, easier than I can buy a box of Sudafed. Let that sink in. Sudafed that little red pill I used to be able to take for sinus pressure, I now must show a driver’s license, sign a computer registry and I’m limited to the amount I can buy in a month. No one seems to be bothered by this. What’s next baby aspirin?  Yet the second, people suggest that we limit the number of guns people can buy at one time, make certain types of fire arms/ammunition or accessories illegal (to buy and manufacture?), institute a waiting period or a background check, we freak out and point to our Second amendment rights. When something injures children or people or even our pets–jarts, cribs with wide bars, car seats, contaminated dog food, cars, etc.–we recall the products and we either make them safer or stop selling them. Why is a certain category of products exempt?Yes, it is a people problem as well. We need to help people who are so hurt and wounded that they go to such extreme measures for attention and vengeance. We need affordable health care that includes mental health coverage and coverage for pre-existing conditions. We need to be aware of troubled students, co-workers and ask questions, offer encouragement and point them to help. We need to make it harder for them to hurt themselves and others. We need to stop the bullying and teach our students (and lawmakers?) to praise our differences and embrace them, not marginalize them. We need to stop spewing hate and recognize that words do encourage violence. We need to teach people gun safety. No where in the Second amendment does it say that we can’t be smart about this right. We do not just let anyone drive a car or a semi-truck. No. We have instruction, we practice and we must pass a test to have a license to drive. We don’t make it easy. And, if we break the rules, they take our license away! No one is worried that when renew our driver’s licenses or get our automobile plates, that because our name and address is on a registry that the government now knows who has cars and knows where to confiscate them. Why do we treat gun ownership differently?
  4. We took God out of the classroom, what do we expect? I’m not exactly sure how God gets thrown into this discussion. God has never left our classrooms; religion has and should be. As parents it is our jobs to put love and acceptance into the hearts and minds of our children. To teach them morality, kindness, integrity, empathy.  Not judgement, superiority or mean-spiritedness. God is love. If God is not in our classrooms, that’s on us, not on anyone or anything else. We don’t need bibles or prayer or any one group’s religious agenda in our classrooms. We need mercy and grace. Separation of Church and State is one of the guiding principles of our country. This idea as is the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments of which the Second is a part. Note it is an amendment – which by definition is a change or addition to our original constitution) is part of the fiber of our country. Are these principles infallible? Can they or should they change? Who decides? It’s easy to blame morality and bad parenting for this epidemic. What would you do if your child became the next shooter?
  5. If we ban assault rifles, what’s next? Cars? Knives? Pressure Cookers? People will find another way to kill. Yes, cars and knives can kill people. Where there’s a will, there’s a way for sure. People can pretty much turn anything into a weapon. I agree. Right now, we are talking about AR15 assault rifles that can kill and injure 30 -100 people in a matter of minutes (seconds?).  Even if an armed hero is nearby to take out the active shooter, the mere seconds it takes to respond lives have been lost. Because a man put pipe bombs in his shoes at an airport, now all law-abiding travelers must take their shoes off if they want to fly. Because of 9/11, we go through metal detectors and our families can no longer meet us at the gate or see us off. We have to throw out liquids and snow globes if we want to board a plane. I understand why we have these rules. Yes, it makes air travel less convenient, but we are all safer for it. If knives, pressure cookers or cars become an issue in the future, then I would whole-heartedly want our society to dialog and make changes.
  6. Look at Chicago…Gun control laws don’t work anyway. Have you ever heard the expression, “Don’t throw away the baby with the bath water.” I hear and read the failure for crime and gun deaths to fall in Chicago a city with some of the strongest gun control laws in the United States as a reason to keep things status quo. I did some reading on this as I was curious. I lived in Illinois for 5 years and I know that the state has waiting periods and registration rules for gun ownership. Why are things failing in Chicago?  Chicago is actually very close to the border of Indiana. Indiana has very weak gun laws. If the guns don’t kill, people do argument is true, then does it follow that Chicago has a higher population of unstable people and that if we made it easier for them to get guns within the city itself, would it also follow that they would have even more gun deaths without these laws? It reminds me of all those fireworks for sale signs you see as you cross from one state to another. Last chance! Buy now!
  7. It’s all those violent video games!  Video games dehumanize people and make it easy for young adults to act them out in real life. What? If a person doesn’t know the difference between a game or a cartoon or a movie, I’d be surprised. What dehumanizes people is our president calling immigrants and people of color and women, dogs, pigs, dirty, invaders, rapists, criminals, illegal aliens and murderers with no basis. Holding people in human conditions for “breaking” an arbitrary law or line in the sand and wanting a better life. Telling them to “go back where they came from” and demonizing anyone that doesn’t agree with his agenda. That’s what dehumanizes people and propels people filled with hate to act out on those impulses in a false sense of patriotic duty. It is our duty to do better and be better.
  8. Let’s arm our teachers (Walmart clerks.) No one is going to shoot children if they know everyone is armed. This one probably scares me the most. Most of the mass shooter end up dead because they kill themselves or are killed by the police. They know they aren’t likely to survive their plot and get away.  This is not going to deter a shooter. By the time the teacher or guard or whoever realizes their is an active shooter, the high capacity magazines and automatic weapons has already taken multiple innocent lives. Many schools are already cutting back music, arts, field trips, bus transportation and sports due to money issues. Do we really want to put the onus of protecting our children from “active shooters” on our educators? Who will pay for these weapons and training? Is it fair to ask our teachers to foot the bill to protect our children? Will tax payers step up? If people can also kill with bombs or cars, how will arming our teachers with guns help? In the seconds it takes to shot off 30 rounds, would a teacher be able to shoot an assailant with a hand gun? Or should they have AR15’s too? And what happens when an armed teacher fails to use their gun and freezes if in active shooter situation? Would they then be deemed negligent? What happens when an angry student gets ahold of one the teacher’s guns and accidentally shoots another student. It will happen. It happens in homes now. The answer is not to become a military state where fear and intimidation prevails. There has to be a better way.

If everyone could put their fears and pride aside, I know we could come together as a community and as a nation to help those people who feel unheard, to keep our children safe and keep our Second amendment rights intact. We need to put our fears and politics aside to make it happen before the “thoughts and prayers” sentiments ring in our own ears as we stand over the grave of one of our children.

I know my ideas may not be popular among all of my friends, followers and readers. Everyone has a right to their own opinion.  I have never been an overly political person. Lately, though I have felt more compelled to write. I know one article won’t make a hell of a lot of difference and that we will come to the stalemate of doing nothing. If we keep doing the same thing over and over, why are we surprised that we get the same results over and over? Or maybe we aren’t surprised, but we’ve become immobilized by apathy.

I’m open to your comments and ideas. Thanks for reading.