I've never written a word about guns in America. I don't make public declarations, I don't speak about devastation or loss or mental health or male privilege. I don't tell anyone what I think or what I feel. I play it close to the chest. For the shootings that make me cry---(and, no, I don't cry for all of them because there are just so, so many)--- I do so privately and then it's done. I read the arguments and debates others post. I listen to their speeches, their outrage, their pain. And I call my mother.
It was a habit I picked up in college. I always called just to tell her that I was ok. Even though it was never my campus, I just wanted her to know that I was alright. That it hadn't happened to me. Even now, even though I am in London, a land as devoid of guns as Ireland is of snakes, I still called. Thousands of miles away and I still can't shake that particular American habit. I've just done it so many times at this point; it’s muscle memory.
But this time the call wasn't for her benefit. It was for mine.
I never understood before why my mother so needed me to call. She knew where the shootings were. She knew I was ok. Why was the sound of my voice so important? But distance has afforded me another kind of perspective.
My first night in England I was sitting around the table with a group people, all British, all my age, and I made an off handed joke about a gun. We all laughed and one of them quipped back, "Oh you Americans, always reaching for your guns." The conversation continued and it was all soon forgotten. And just a few days later nine people were massacred and seven wounded by someone, by an American, who did just that, who ‘just’ reached for a gun. Or thirteen.
Standing at The Globe Theatre, waiting for the performers to come out, a few of us Americans on my program got to chatting. We talked about the shooting, how tragic it was. We reminisced---not about a time in our lives before such shootings but a time when there was, “Only one a year, every year and a half. Remember that? There's always one but it was just one. And it was just high school.” But it's not that any more. It's happened at high schools, private colleges, public colleges, community colleges, elementary schools, movie theaters, churches, religious school houses, military bases, offices, temples, hair salons, supermarkets, malls, reservations, dorms, trains, homes…
It goes on. And it will keep going on.
That night, taking the tube home, I thought about all of those places, all of those average places where these unimaginable events unfolded. I thought of my friend who works on a university campus and whose sister and mother are teachers. I thought of my boyfriend and all the people I've known who went to a community college just like the one in Oregon. I thought of my mother substitute teaching at a Jewish day school.
My mind filled with the faces of all the people I love and all the average places that they go. All the average places that were average to others too once. Until they weren't.
What would I say? What words could I possibly offer? What would I say to my friend? To my boyfriend's mother? What words could anyone offer my parents? What words could anyone offer me?
And there are none. There are none. There are none. There are none.
There are only echoes of lives that might have been lead.
And the sound of those reverberations are deafening.
This has to stop. It just has to stop.
To be frank, if I had my way, it’d be as hard to get your hands on a gun as it currently is for a woman to get an abortion in Oklahoma. Or South Carolina. Or Texas. Or the other fifteen or so states with similar primeval restrictions on women’s bodies.
There is no reason, simply none, that we cannot find a way to implement better, smarter, preventative, restrictions on guns. I don’t believe we’ll ever eliminate guns. But when something is unsafe, and our current guns measures are unsafe, the only thing to do is work to make it safer. We’ve done it with hospitals, surgeries, cars, airplanes, trains, factories, mines, construction sites, even sewer systems and toilets. Why hasn’t this happened with guns?
Because something else has to stop as well: we have to stop talking about this and do something. (NB: That something is not buy more guns.) Contact your local representatives and make sure that they know that this madness will no longer be tolerated. Because if we don’t do something, if we don’t act, a few months from now we’ll be back here again, having the same conversation we had just a little while ago and just a little while before that.
We are a country in crisis. The rest of the world can see it. Why can’t we?
My apologies for distracting from the purpose of this blog. I just wanted to tell my mom that I'm ok. That I'm still ok.
But Sarena, Lawrence, Lucas, Quinn, Jason, Lucero, Kim, Treven, and Rebecka are not ok. The victims of Tuscon, Charleston, Aurora, Blacksburg, Newton, Columbine, Fort Hood, Binghampton, Washington Navy Yard, Nickel Mines, and the countless more, they are not ok.
Please, no more places, no more names. No more additions. No more ‘ands.’ No more. Not one.