There is an awful lot of yelling going on in my social media streams – and I get it. You are angry and sad and stunned that an event like Newtown, CT could happen. You are frightened that it could be your school. It was never anything you ever had to consider unless you worked really, really hard at it until Friday. It’s a terrible thing to live with, the thought that dropping off your child means trusting with all your heart she or he will be safe.
You see, even before Friday, I’ve lived with that every day since the end of October, so I understand. I send my child to a Jewish day school. Every day I am reminded that there are people all over this world and all over this country who, when they want to make a political or religious or cultural point against America, may choose my child’s school as a primary target. My kid’s school is part of someone’s plan. They are not mentally ill in the “diagnosed” sense, they just want to do as much harm as they can and little Jewish kids are fantastic targets.
There are people in this world, in this country, in 2012 America, who actively want my child dead every day. EVERY. DAY. Not because of psychosis, but because of intent. Not many here can say that – though Israel can say that all day long.
But you’re yelling about guns. I am not.
I am not yelling about guns because using guns as the source is avoiding the real issues, the hard ones. Yell about something bigger. Talking about guns is easy – and this country loves to take the easy way out. It’s human nature to avoid the hard stuff, the conflict. I get it. We’d have to call our own baby ugly – and no one wants to do that.
But it’s time.
Things like Newtown happen not ‘because of guns, period full stop’. It happens for a lot of reasons, but mainly because we as a country systematically devalue everything. Food, marriage, women, men, sex, children, religion, rules, standards, what used to be journalism and life itself. We honor none of it and we are the greatest country of hypocrites imaginable because you are what you tolerate.
And America tolerates a whole lot.
We tolerate chemicals in our food, GMOs, carcinogens for the sake of “fast” and “cheap”. We feed this to our kids.
We tolerate journalists that shove cameras in traumatized kids’ faces over and over and over again. We watch it with bated breath. We let mainstream media be subject to agendas, not facts. We let them be “first”, but not “right”. And yet we keep watching their stations, buying their papers and reading their magazines and retweeting their anchors without demanding better.
We let Chris Brown be a success. We let Rihanna do the same. We threaten death to those that disagree.
We portray fathers as inept, bumbling idiots. We accept rampant abuse and misogyny in music. We rally behind ridiculous “wars” on women. We use the word “wars” for it.
We rail on about wanting to protect the lives of children, but want absolutely no guidelines around abortion.
Sex? Go ahead. We sell it to kids every day.
We have no infrastructure and no support for those that need mental health services.
We’ve made religion and faith in any sense a terrible thing to discuss. We’ve told generations they are wrong to want it.
We made marriage disposable. Or optional.
We made education about money – not the students’ – the state’s, districts’ and administrators’.
We lost the ability to feel shame about our decisions.
We did this. We let it all be okay with us. We’ve swung the pendulum too far. We devalued life. And the more we devalue life, and all that goes into it, the easier it is for lives to be taken.
The biggest, most important pieces of life can no longer be fast, easy, cheap or free because those views taint everything.
You could take every gun off the street and out of homes tomorrow and it wouldn’t fix this list, only the weapons would change. “It’s a start,” isn’t even a Band-Aid here. There is no need to point to other countries and their successes because for every Japan there is the Swiss. That is not the discussion. And if you’re going to make guns the discussion, you have to make ALL guns the discussion and be equally as outraged at Fast and Furious as you are Newtown.
Prepared to do that? You’ll have to be.
But, to make you feel better, I will say this: There is no need for military weapons to be in the hands of civilians. Fix that. We could do a better job of who gets their hands on guns. Handguns are ridiculous and not for true hunting. There is very little honor in handguns. There. Now what?
Twenty-six children won’t see their next birthday. Many died trying to protect them – all of them heroes. Even more have to live with the aftermath and memories of this day. We owe it to them to use this time not to be reactively “first”, but to be right; to do the hard work, not the easy work. To be purple.
America has done much harder work than this; it’s just been a really long time and we are so out of practice. Once upon a time we were really good at this – at coming together and talking and building something great. It was our calling card. So, I look for the “helpers”, those that are inherently good, because they always outnumber evil. I look for the reasonable folks and I pray we are up to this task, because I never again want to hear Leah say, “This country scares me.”
We have to be up to this, but it isn’t the guns – we just have to be brave enough to admit it.