My daughter M came in from playing, windblown and hair full of leaves, and sat down on the couch while I was folding laundry. I had the TV on and as we started matching socks, a breaking news alert came on. Obama’s speech about the college shooting in Roseburg came on. I looked at M, who was watching the speech. “What does this mean?” she asked. “Somebody killed people in a school? Were they kids? Are the teacher and the principal okay?”
I hate having this conversation with my daughter. You might ask why I let her watch it. It’s simple: she can read. She can search the internet. She sees headlines and hears soundbites, and needs to make sense of them. I told her about what happened, and that yes, sometimes people do come into schools and hurt people. It led to a brief discussion about Columbine as well. We talked about how I, her family, her teachers and her neighborhood work to keep her safe. I cried a bit during Obama’s speech and M brought me a tissue.
My heart hurts for the families of those that were lost and wounded. Every time this happens, I hold my own children tighter and my stomach twists, worrying for their safety at school, or anyplace else. I see the barrel of a gun pointed at me when I close my eyes. (Read that tale here., especially if you want to discuss gun control) Every time. Why is there more than one?
Last night I woke at 4 am, feeling cold and short of breath. I’d had a dream where I was walking through a parking lot up in the mountains, holding Little A’s hand, and saw a man sitting in the open door of a car. He got out and started shooting at a dog, and the man who owned the dog was screaming, and I picked up Little A and was running, trying to shield her head… It was so real. It took me a good hour of looking in on M, listening to Little A breathing over the monitor, and looking out the windows at the quiet streets before I could calm down. I had to remind myself that lying curled under a magazine rack while a gunman yelled at a crying cashier was long ago and far away.
I woke this morning with my chest tight and stomach in knots. How many times is this going to happen before people finally band together and decide this is enough. The words “school” and “shooting” should only have to go together once for that to happen, but we refuse. We bog ourselves down in a quagmire of finger pointing and shouting and never fix a thing.
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Fair enough. Let’s go with it. So what are we doing to stop the people? Our social services are broken. I’ve tried to help many families–violent families–seek mental health help and resources, with rare and temporary success. People report people they fear, and it falls on deaf ears until someone does something permanent and terrifying. Children in need of safe homes, therapy and food are denied. People live in poverty and drugs with no hope of relief. Our media glamorizes violence, and tells us no matter what we are, we will never be good enough. We will never be beautiful enough, rich enough, powerful enough, or loved enough. But we do study the faces of our killers and study their motives, plaster their faces on our papers and give them notoriety, and give them easy access to tools that allow them to kill our people.
When are we going to stop arguing about whether it’s the gun or the person, and start discussing how to fix this? My greatest fear is that we’ll never decide when it’s enough.