Saturday, December 15, 2012

unspeakable tragedy

Beautiful kids this young should not be gunned down at the hands of a madman. A photo of my young son. I thank God today and every day that he is still with me. And I pray for and weep with those who have lost their loved ones in Connecticut. Photo Copyright (c) Wendee Nicole

"At Sandy Hook yesterday morning, teachers and librarians tucked children behind bookcases, secreted them in closets, and locked them in bathrooms to hide them from the gunman. Elementary school will never be quite the same again, the way college, after Virginia Tech, was never quite the same, the way high school, after Columbine, was never quite the same. Children—barely older than toddlers—will be drilled, will be taught what to do when the shooting starts. Duck, hide under your desk, and be still. “Shh,” we will whisper to them as they huddle and tremble. “Be as quiet as a bunny.” ~ Jill Lepore (The New Yorker)

God that really hits home. When I was a kid, we had hide-under-your-desk drills for tornadoes, and before that, for attacks from nuclear bombs. Now, kids are more at risk from being gunned down by our own fellow countrymen. What does that say?

I myself am a victim (or survivor) of a violent gun crime, and could have died when someone - a teenager who took his parents' gun - pointed it at me and my best friend at an outside party. He yelled at me, "Do you want to die?!" I stood transfixed, terrified. My friend told him to cut that out and he pointed it at my head, and pulled the trigger. Then he laughed and walked away.

The gun wasnt loaded, obviously, and the asshole thought it was funny. But maybe doing that to me and my friend - and who knows who else that night - and perhaps seeing the power led to him being violent in other places. Maybe he killed someone - I have no idea who he was or what became of him. He obviously enjoyed seeing me transfixed and terrified. I think it's about power in the hands of people who - for whatever reason - lack a sense of control in their lives.

During all the postings on Facebook, two memes stood out to me on Facebook. One was that a similar school tragedy happened in China, in which a deranged man knifed 22 kids. However, the difference is that it takes a lot longer to hurt people with a knife than a semiautomatic pistol, and the result is that none of the kids got killed in that situation.

The second meme I saw is on a similar vein. Someone named Bill Spring posted an image of an early rifle, and said:

"This is what 'arms' looked like when the second amendment was written. It takes nearly a minute to load with a single shot. If the CT shooter had used one of these, he might have been able to murder one child before a teacher hit him over the head with a chair while he was trying to reload. The Founding Fathers had no knowledge of semi-automatic rifles, high-capacity ammo clips, plastic explosives, or atomic bombs. If they had, I'm certain they would have included exceptions as to what private citizens could posses. Even now, there are few who would argue that the right to bear arms includes *all* arms. So if we can ban nerve gas and land mines, why not other things? A line must be drawn somewhere. I say we draw it a little closer to the side that protects my personal safety from maniacs and murderers, and a little farther from the side that protects someone's right to own more firepower than an entire army regiment had in 1787."

Gun violence is a complex problem with no simple solution. It is not just one thing. It's not violent videogames or bad parenting or a lack of adequate mental health care or a need for gun control. It's all those things wrapped together in a complex medley that is going to require people with different opinions to sit down and actually talk and not be ideologues and to try to solve a real problem. In this political climate, I'm not that hopeful. One thing I feel strongly about, and that is that parents who own guns need to keep them locked up away from kids, and they need to teach kids that guns are used to hunt animals and to kill people. They are not toys. They are murderous weapons that wound, maim, and kill. I'm not against guns. My son hunts, and he was never ever given a toy gun as a young child, other than a super colorful Nerf gun. He was taught how to hold, clean, store, and shoot a gun. And he knows how to use one. Gun ownership means responsibility and that is sadly lacking in too many cases, or these kids and young men would not even have access to the guns of their parents.

And finally, even though it is so hard to not get wrapped up in this tragedy for an empathic person like myself, I have to remind myself: this is not my personal life. This is not my personal tragedy. There may be those days ahead, & there are some behind me, but today in my life I have many blessings, peace (if not of mind), health & safe children. The human heart did not evolve to handle the worlds many heartbreaks & tragedies via network news... I return to one of my favorite Scriptures, one I have posted on my bathroom door, that reminds us to focus our minds not on the tragedy and terror and fear, but on the positive forces of good that can lift our society from the depths of despair. "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

And I leave you with these touching words from - who else - Mister Rogers.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

And on that note, here's a link to a story that can restore some hope in humanity, because day in and out there are far more positive moments - many of which we take for granted - than there are tragic violent crimes. 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year.


Matthew Lee Adams said...

Wendee - Beautifully written and balanced piece, and so typical of the thoughtfulness you bring into anything you write.

Unknown said...

Thank you Matthew for your kind words! :)