Helpless and hopeless? Not for long.

pexels-photo-457563.jpegHelpless and hopeless is how I feel after every mass shooting. It takes several days to get a grip, especially when the killing takes place in a school.

School shootings are personal. I am a retired teacher.

As the faces of victims cross my screen, I see eager, bright teenagers on the cusp of adult life. Most are ready to conquer the world, to do good, and they sparkle with life. I know them even though I don’t.

Then I see the faces of teachers and administrators who have sacrificed themselves. I know them too. Most educators I have known would instinctively protect their students from harm. I can visualize the coach down the hall opening his locked door to offer safety to running children. I can easily imagine the young English teacher attending to an injured child or colleague.

It is all so sad and unnecessary, so I lick my wounds briefly and then I start to see fiery-red waves of anger. Anger is good for a time. It can be a good motivator. It almost always pushes me to act.

I see anger red when Paul Ryan appears on the news telling us not to have a knee-jerk reaction. Let me tell you something, Mr. Paul Ryan. If it were your dead child lying in a pool of blood you would change your tune. Please don’t ever say that again.

I see red when Thom Tillis of North Carolina (my state) says he is praying for the families. Take your prayers and shove’em, Mr. Tillis, until you’re ready to give up NRA money and take a stand against the AR-15.

I see red when President #45 addresses the Parkland community, vaguely mentioning mental health, but offering no solutions, thus putting an onus on the students for not monitoring the gunman’s social media activity. It’s nice of you to make an appearance among them, though I imagine you’ll stop by on your way to play golf at Mar-a-Lago. And by the way, how much money has the NRA contributed to your follies?

Here’s the thing, the NRA would like to keep us licking our wounds and wringing our hands. Well, listen up National Rifle Association, that’s not what real Americans do. We see red, we get angry, and we fight for change. We fight to elect citizens who will work to enact responsible gun laws and campaign finance reform. This fight is not about taking away anyone’s guns. It’s about money. Do you think we don’t know that?

The pendulum is swinging, the clock is ticking, and the NRA assault on America’s children is coming to an end. That’s how democracy works.

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A loss of innocence.

I grew up in the 50s. Some have called it a time of innocence. The war was over.photo-7 Our returning veterans were able to attend college or university on the GI Bill. Eisenhower was President. He played a lot of golf as I recall, and my dad criticized him for it. (Some things don’t change.) Families were buying homes with white picket fences. Well, maybe they didn’t all have fences. The point is those were the halcyon days.

Nineteen sixty ushered in a new decade fairly quietly but the calm was short-lived. I write this today in order to recall the day I realized for the first time that my safe, secure homeland wasn’t quite what I thought. On November 22, 1963, our young president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. My feelings about my country and the basic good in people were permanently altered. What kind of monster could be capable of shooting our energetic young leader? And why? Some questions have no answers.

Last week a man went to the apartment of three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, NC, and fatally shot all three of them. Why? Some said it was a hate crime. Aren’t all murders hate crimes? Some said it was over a parking space. Really? The murderer was a self-avowed atheist. Did he hate all religions? Or only the Muslim faith? I’m guessing we will never know the answers to these questions either.

I’m relieved to report that he gave himself up the same day and has remained in custody since.

The night after the slaughter of these students, my granddaughter sent me a text. ” I can’t stop crying and wondering why and how a thing like this is allowed to happen. I don’t understand how this was allowed to happen in my home. It’s the worst thing I have ever experienced.” I tried to console her but I had no answers for her.

I can’t help remembering that I had the same questions all those years ago when our President was shot and killed. The frustration and sadness that H is experiencing in exactly what I dealt with at almost the same age she is. I was a sophomore student, one year older than H, and was attending university in my home town.

My granddaughter H was born and reared in Chapel Hill. She’s a freshman at the university there. It’s the oldest state university in the country. It’s small-town southern America with a great deal more diversity than most towns in the state. It’s the diversity that makes it a very special place.photo(20)

 

H’s parents have taught her to have a strong sense of justice and to do what is right. Not just for herself, but for those in her community–all of them. She has marched in the state capital for voter rights and other issues. Whenever she sees someone in need, she chooses to help if she can. Eventually this crime in her home town will strengthen her convictions. But first she has to mourn.

 

 

 

A bulletproof blanket?!?

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for two or three weeks. I’m trying to think it through and see all sides of the guns-in-America problem.photo-35 But the only thing I can see is the need for change, for our children to be safe, for no more parents to suffer the loss of their babies. This issue came to a head for me via Facebook.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I have truly enjoyed getting in touch with people I haven’t seen in years–family and friends. It’s been fun to learn which cousins/relatives think very much as I do, and which are my polar opposites philosophically and politically. I love all of them. They’re family.

I squealed with delight when I started to understand how much alike my cousin S and I are. I was perhaps more subdued when I noticed that one of my cousins is a gun-rights person. But I thought about it and nodded as if to say to myself, “Yep. That’s my boy.” He’s my way of coming to realize that not all gun people are crazy, though some seem to be. But I know my cousin’s heart and I know he’s not a knee-jerk crazy. He’s family and I love him.

Befriended “friends” (sorry for the redundancy) are not always like family. We don’t get to choose family. We can, whether we realize it or not, choose friends, whatever the venue.

. I seldom “friend” anyone on Facebook. Why is that? On the one hand, there’s a niggling feeling inside me that fears they won’t respond. Would I feel rejected if someone didn’t take me on? I’d like to think I’m mature enough not to care that much. Heck, I might not even remember that I asked. On the other hand, there’s a more than niggling feeling that some may be right-wing nut cases. (I didn’t intend to name call, but there you have it. That’s the real me.) I’m also well aware that they may have similar concerns about me.

The real me often feels conflicted when an acquaintance (old or new) sends me a friend request. I’m happy to hear from all of them and to learn how they are and what they’re doing. At the same time I wonder how I’m supposed to deal with those I find disagreeable. Generally I can ignore the posts I consider crazy or mean-spirited or hateful or unkind. I think that’s probably the best approach. Occasionally, though, I have a gut-wrenching need to respond in some way.

About three weeks ago a “friend” from my childhood posted about the now infamous bulletproof blankets designed for school children.screen shot 2014-06-10 at 7.30.47 am
When I first saw the photo shown here I wanted to sit down and cry. Then I wanted to go find the person who promoted this product on his/her FB page and scream, “Have you lost your freaking mind?!?” And that’s why I didn’t write anything right away.

Even now, as I write, I feel a roiling in my stomach and an increase in blood pressure. I feel sad. I have an anguished mental vision of parents and teachers trying to explain to children why they need these $1000 “blankets.” I don’t feel anger so much toward my “friend” anymore but I still have livid, blood-boiling anger for the companies who are trying to make money off parents’ and children’s fears. They’re putting a very expensive band-aid on a bleeding, gaping wound instead of putting aside politics in order to find a permanent solution to this horrible scourge.

This is not, should not, be a political issue. This is a uniquely American problem that MUST be fixed. When will we ever learn?

There you have it. I’m spent. Exhausted. Please tell me what you think whether you agree with me or not.