Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Call for Change

I am going to write about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting again today. I don’t want to, but I can’t seem to get the picture of those beautiful little six-year-old boys and girls out of my mind. Especially when I am living with an amazing little six-year-old boy and a phenomenal little six-year-old girl. Despite trying my best not to watch any of the footage on my television (partly to shield my children from it, but also to shield myself from the tears that flow at the sight of those angelic little faces), I am finding that I have been profoundly affected by it.

First and foremost, I feel eternally grateful for the little lives that have been entrusted to my care. I am thankful that I get to experience all of the innocence and joy and wonder that is inherent in six-year-olds. I adore the way they are excitedly counting down the days until Winter Break. I can’t wait to make Christmas candy with the family while my children act as official “taste-testers.” I am grateful that I will be spending Christmas morning watching them giggle with glee as they open Santa’s gifts. I am thrilled that I will begin another new year with my kids healthy and happy. I feel blessed in a way that I have never felt before.

Secondly, this shooting has managed to reinforce my conviction that I will not let my children play with toy guns. I’ve been wavering in my conviction lately. My son has been begging for Nerf guns for Christmas. He plays with his cousin’s toy guns and I see the excitement in his eyes. He wants to shoot things. He wants to blow things up. I realize this is a ten-year-old boy being a ten-year-old boy. I tell myself that boys who play with guns do not grow up to hurt people. And for the most part, that is absolutely true.

I could buy Lucas a Nerf gun and it would be no big deal. I could buy him the tactical vest with extra magazines of ammo that his cousin is getting for Christmas. And chances are, Lucas would get bored with it after a couple of weeks and he would move on to something else that puts a sparkle in his eye. I almost bought him a Nerf gun. I stood for the longest time in the Nerf aisle at Target. Yes, there is an entire aisle of guns in the toy section at Target. I had convinced myself that buying Lucas a gun was no big deal. Ruanita ended up talking me out of it, but I was right there.

But here’s the thing. The Sandy Hook shooting and the multitude of other tragic incidents like it in recent years have been perpetrated by young men. Young white males. I have two white males in my care who will all too soon grow into young men. If they are anything like my relatives, they will grow to be large young men. It is my job to teach them that guns are not toys. It is my job to mold them into young men who harbor a profound reverence for life. A respect for all people. An abhorrence of violence. I will be responsible for teaching these tall, imposing young men that violence is never the answer. That their size and strength are nothing compared to the power of their intellect. That is my job and one I take seriously.

I have a weird relationship with guns. Today, I am an educated, ultra liberal, anti-gun, lesbian, sort-of granola Midwesterner, but I was not born that way. I was not raised that way. I am from Kentucky where guns are no big deal. When I was a little kid, my dad had a gun cabinet full of rifles that sat in our hallway for years. It was locked, but I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of the hallway playing with the bullets when my dad cleaned his guns—holding them in my little hands, in awe of how cold and shiny they were. He was a hunter. My brother is a hunter. My uncles are hunters. My cousins are hunters. I had smoked venison at every family gathering when I was a kid. (It is crazy delicious, by the way.) Many people who I dearly love own guns. People who are good and moral and truly exceptional people. People who absolutely would not have it in them to ever hurt a child.

I have people who mean the absolute world to me who say, “Guns don’t kill people. People do.” I love them, but I can’t find it within me to agree with them. At least not completely. If Adam Lanza had walked into that school with a knife instead of a semi-automatic assault weapon, would twenty-six people be dead? Could he have been stopped and some of those children saved? I would think so. Twenty-six people died not because Adam Lanza was mentally ill, but because he was mentally ill with access to a semi-automatic rifle. So yea, people kill people. But we do not, as a society, have to arm them with weapons capable of killing so many people in so short a span of time. I am not completely anti-gun. But assault rifles, automatic weapons, weapons that don't need reloading? These aren't meant for hunting. These aren’t meant for sport. You don’t need an automatic weapon to bring down Bambi.

Like I said earlier, I have not watched much of the media’s saturated coverage of this latest shooting. I want to protect my children from the violence. I don’t them to be scared to go to school But more importantly, I don’t want my children to know this man’s name. I don’t want them to know his face. I don’t want him to be remembered by this generation of children. I want him and his memory to disappear from the face of this Earth. I want him to be a nobody. I am going to make a concerted effort to forget his name. Instead, I am going to try to remember the names of his tiniest victims.

Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison.

These are the people we need to remember. And it is for all of the other six-year-olds like mine that did make it home on Friday that we need to make a change.


jamie said...

The problem is that we need to have mental hospitals/institutions that can help the mentally ill and keep them off the streets. The gun was not the problem the fact that we have chosen not to give adequate help to the families and individuals suffering from mental illnesses. I let me son haveto guns..why? Because he was going to act it out with his legos or what not anyways so i might as well give him that nerf/water gun and teach gun safety. We have a very strict rules when it comes to him having toy guns.

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