I’m back from camping in northern Michigan where I was lucky enough to have a couple days with sunshine and one clear night. I have photos for you that I’m anxious to share. But I can’t. Couldn’t yesterday and it doesn’t feel right today either.
Because while I was blissfully floating down a beautiful river through the wilderness, enjoying the blue sky and birds and fish and turtles, somewhere in Texas terrified children and their teachers were locked in a classroom with a gunman.
I never checked my phone for news that afternoon, didn’t through the evening while we enjoyed dinner under swaying pines, or later on the beach as we waited for the sunset, or even later sitting around the fire with a glass of wine.
I didn’t know until, on a whim, I turned the phone on just before rolling over to sleep in my warm sleeping bag in my snug little tent. Immediately I knew something was wrong, the first Facebook pages to pop up were filled with obscure but horrifying posts. I didn’t know what had happened, but it was clear something terrible had.
So I googled “news today.”
You all know what that news was. And now I find myself feeling overwhelmingly sad, and frustrated, and very very angry. As the mayor of Buffalo said….”We haven’t even raised our flags from half mast for the last mass killing and now there’s another.”
I thought we’d have reform by now. I thought that after Columbine in 1999 where two students killed twelve other kids and one teacher. I thought certainly this shows there is a need to rethink gun accessibility.
But then there was Virginia Tech in 2007 with 32 dead, and Northern Illinois University in 2008 with 5 dead, and of course Sandy Hook with 6 educators and 20 first graders dead. That one, little kids, for sure I thought would make us start discussions that resulted in real change. But the killings continued, in churches, in theaters, in stores. In schools.
And nothing significant has happened to resolve the problem, other than those who feel it’s all a mental health issue and those that feel it’s all about the guns stand harder and faster on their beliefs and the gulf between them widens.
It’s incomprehensible to me that we can’t each move a little closer to the center. It’s obvious it’s not all about mental health or all about gun control. Adults should be able to find ways to adult. There are things both side could agree on if each side were willing to compromise.
Maybe we can find ways to increase the availability of mental health support while at the same time lower the accessibility to individuals of weapons designed for war. I’m not saying everyone needs to get a mental health screening and I’m not saying no one can own a high powered gun. (Though I don’t understand what purpose those types of weapons have in an individual’s collection.)
What I am saying is that we can’t continue in the direction we’re headed. We can’t continue to stick our heads in the sand and mumble that these problems are too big, not fixable, that nothing would change the outcome.
And if those currently in office do nothing more than throw their hands up and say it’s too hard…well…those people need to be voted out so there’s room for people who are willing to work hard to fix the problem.
Because whether you want to admit it or not….we have a serious problem and none of us are safe. Wishing it was different won’t make it so. Doing the work, making the hard decisions, risking your friendships, your constituents, your donors, even your job, doing the work is the only thing that will cause change.
Change is hard.
I’ll give you one image from my time away. The sunset we watched on the day those innocents died. Now I can see how it represented that day, and the way our country, maybe even us as individuals, are split, shadowing the light that is our democracy.
We need to do the hard work necessary to make that light shine bright again.