I think we can now agree I shouldn’t post while emotional. My post on Friday after learning of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, was written quickly (without editing, gah) and just isn’t what I meant it to be. I’ll leave it up though because many people were kind enough to read it and comment. I also think it does show one reaction to news of 26 dead at an elementary school.
Yesterday we took the boys to Old Town in Gdansk. It was softly snowing. The river was frozen. We ate at one of our favorite restaurants and enjoyed hot chocolate and classic Polish Zurek. After our late lunch, we walked the main street and looked at lights as snow continued to fall. We were able to see the Christmas market and eventually find our way back to our car. We dusted off the snow and headed home for a quiet night in our cozy apartment. We had a near-perfect family outing. It was pure Christmas joy and family love. It both soothed my nerves from Friday’s news and broke my heart. I can’t even imagine how those families are feeling, how snow and beautifully lit trees will bring back the hurt again and again.
And then I read my father’s words and felt even stronger hurt for our country and the things that are broken. My dad is a good man, and he tries to see both sides of every issue. He thinks his feelings through, and rarely acts hastily. He also doesn’t try to share them on Facebook because he prefers a real-life discussion. So, his published words really made me think. Here is what he posted on his Facebook:
“Tougher gun laws or no? Lots of discussion with good arguments on both sides I guess. What occurs to me is our whole culture seems to glorify violence, greed, and sex. I think it has dulled our senses to what we have become. When my grandkids are here, I can’t even watch most television because of the trashy programs. The same ‘caring’ Hollywood personalities that take a high and mighty stand on social issues make a huge living on sex, violence, and greed. Our legislators care more about getting re-elected than any other objective, and fill their pockets from donors and influence-buyers. It is hard to name a big formerly solid organization that hasn’t been tainted i.e. religious entities, boy scouts, teachers, unions, police officers – you name it. Social media is so dangerous today we should not let our kids use it unsupervised.
My heart aches for the victims and families of this latest atrocity. We are all hurting if we have a speck of humanity, and we should all consider what we have made important in life.”
Those are some really good points. I think this isn’t just a tragedy about a school and its inhabitants being so grossly violated, but it’s also a picture of what we’ve become. And sadly, they were probably not the only children killed by guns this week. My friend Addye left some comments on my post Friday that spoke to this as well. She was saddened and angry by the deaths on Friday, and it was important for her to remind us that violence is not so newsworthy in many cities in our country because it is just so common.
We also will be talking more about mental health issues after this. I alluded to it poorly in my original post. Whether or not the killer was mentally ill is not the main point. Mental illness does not egual evil; most people who suffer from mental illness are not destined to go on violent rampages. As with gun control, I meant to say I hope this tragedy brings about a discussion on how we view and treat the mentally ill. We cannot leave them to suffer because we assume they are dangerous or unworthy. And we can’t paint all persons who suffer from mental issues with the same brush. They are as individual as the rest of us. Don’t push away this tragedy and say it was an anomaly because the gunman was crazy. Don’t use that as a reason to do nothing.
That brings me to my real main point from Friday. We can’t keep getting upset and then doing nothing. What is bothering you today? Are you sad that guns are so easy to get? Are you mad that you have lost family members to mental health crises because they had no support? Do you wish we showed violence and other harmful activities less often on TV and in movies? Then do something. Change your family. Change what you talk about. Bring up the hard topics and try to get people talking in a constructive way. And please, please, write and call your politicians. We need to make them accountable to what we want as citizens.
Finally, I would like to share some wiser words I’ve read this weekend. As a writer, I try to read the best, and it makes a difference in my writing and in my heart. I’d like you to see what I find to be well-written arguments and concerns. Some are calls to action, and some are just hearts pouring out their pain.
“Every country has a sizable contingent of mentally ill citizens. We’re the one that gives them the technological power to play god. This is all about guns — access to guns and the ever-increasing firepower of guns.” by Gail Collins of the New York Times.
“Why in the world do we regulate teddy bears and toy guns and not real guns that have snuffed out tens of thousands of child lives? Why are leaders capitulating to the powerful gun lobby over the rights of children and all people to life and safety?” by Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children’s Defense Fund.
“I cry for the parents, running to the school as if they themselves were on fire, hearts pounding, praying out loud, please let my baby be safe, please let my baby be safe.” by Alexandra at Good Day Regular People.
“As a culture we must set better priorities. We have created an environment where an abstract sense that everyone is entitled to own guns in this country trumps a safe reality for our children.” by Korinthia Klein at Korinthia’s Quiet Corner