If You’re Not Angry About the “Gun Debate,” Get Out of My Way: I’m Angry for the Both of Us.
I don’t know how I found out there was an “active shooter” situation affecting my children’s schools. One moment I was having a normal day and the next my kids were being held at their Elementary and Middle Schools, as well as the nearby daycare until the situation was “resolved.” I remember sitting in my living room watching the door, listening to the silence left by the absence of four children. The time for them to come home had come and gone. And I waited. There is nothing like the heaviness of silence left by the absence of children, nothing. I heard the helicopters flying overhead, wondered if they were police or news, and waited. I didn’t know whether it was one or more shooters. I didn't know if shots had been fired or where the shooter was or how heavily armed he was. I imagined a white male with an AR-15 roaming my streets. I live five minutes from the school so I didn’t know where the threat was but I knew it was close. And I waited.
Finally, unable to take it anymore, I stood up and started walking towards the school. The normality of it was perhaps the most jarring aspect of it: it was both completely surreal and entirely mundane. My kids were locked inside their schools because someone close enough to hurt them had a gun. I did the mental calculation: my middle schooler had a cell phone and was further away. I could communicate with him by phone. However, my elementary school sons had no way of contacting me and were close. There were also two of them together, which meant that getting there would "cover" fifty percent of my kids. (What a ridiculous mathematical equation!) That parental pain inside my chest that presents itself at the thought of our children being scared twanged and twisted. I needed to be near my kids. I needed to be there to tell them that no matter what, I was there to protect them. As I made my way over two thoughts kept jostling each other: I hope I don’t meet the gunman if there is one because he might kill me and I hope I meet the gunman, if there is one, so I can destroy him. Fantasies of vigilante justice are real; they are also futile and dangerous. One should know the difference between the two and not confuse fact and fiction.
My Au Pair texted me that she had managed to retrieve my 20-month old daughter. The Au Pair too had been unhappy to just wait and had, of her own accord, gone to see if she could get the youngest out. I felt a little better, “One down, three to go,” I thought to myself. I eventually ended up inside the Elementary School, ushered in by a police officer who warned me this was a “one-way” trip. Ominous, for sure. He meant that I would not be allowed to leave until the situation was “over,” whatever that meant. “Fine,” I answered. Those were my kids inside there. Was his warning supposed to deter me?
The kids were fine. They were watching cartoons. They knew the basics of what was happening, but none of the details. Again, the normalcy of it all was gutting: my kids knew that there may be “danger” out there and they’d have to watch cartoons until it was over. Is this what normal childhood looks like now? We waited a while—I don’t remember how long. But eventually the intercom turned on and a female voice told us we could go. Just like that. We made it home by 5:30, by which time my eldest was also released. All four kids were home and I started breathing normally, not having noticed my shallow breath until that precise moment. We eventually found out the “situation” consisted of an armed domestic dispute, three houses down from the school, that had ended badly for some of the participants. This is what lack of common sense gun policies does to regular Americans; it turns our schools into battlezones. Last week, 17 children were killed in a school. I am sure their parens went through the same phases I did; the same messaging; the same words. But they had no happy ending. As I write this, I get shivers: we were the lucky ones.
Ask Republican legislators about transgender people using bathrooms and they will tell you that prohibition is the answer. Ask Republican legislators about contraception and they will tell you that prohibition is the answer. Ask Republican legislators about abortion and they will tell you that prohibition is the answer. Prohibition, in fact, seems to be the answer in addressing women and non-straight males living autonomous and self-respecting lives.
Ask Republican legislators about black men getting killed by law enforcement, and they will tell you that black male compliance is the answer. Ask Republican legislators about black poverty and they will tell you that Black America’s to blame for it. Ask Republican legislators about violence in poor and majority-colored parts of the country, they will tell you that those same colored communities are squarely to blame. In fact, when it comes to people of color in America, Republican legislators would have you believe that if only they followed the rules and “behaved better” their lives would be radically different.
Yet, if you ask Republican legislators about white male mass shooters, very often conservative in their viewpoints, repeatedly taking up arms to kill swathes of innocent people, including children, with the ubiquitous AR-15, those same rule-and-prohibition-and-
compliance-loving leaders will tell you there is nothing they can do about it. Hands in the air, a smug look of self-assurance and helplessness, they claim there is nothing the US Government can do to stop mass shooters. There are no laws, no prohibitions, no punishments, no affirmative acts that can be taken to keep us safe. It seems, in fact, that those who most resemble the leaders of the Republican party: anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-people of color, and pro-gun are those the Republicans are least capable, in their words, to control. Coincidence? In fact, while they are more than happy to clean up shop in everyone else’s backyard, reality and facts be damned, that same microscope simply cannot be used to solve actual problems created by their own kin. While the rest of America supposedly benefits from prohibition and compliance, the one crime that is overwhelmingly perpetrated by conservative white men not only cannot be solved by prohibition but would, apparently, benefit from fewer restrictions: more guns in more people’s hands.
Enough. We’ve had enough. I’ve had enough.
I’ve had enough of male politicians telling me what I can and cannot do with my body but raising hell if I politely ask them to set limitations on what they can and cannot do with recreational killing machines. I’ve had enough of white people telling us we should arm teachers, when we know that should those weapons be found in the hands of said black and brown school employees—as they were in Philando Castile’s—their death could be less than 90 seconds away. I’ve had enough of legislators falsely telling me that humiliating and discriminating against transgender people is necessary to keep me safe, but there is nothing they can do to protect children from armed gunmen. I’ve had enough of a Government that refuses to collect data on gun violence and then uses the lack of data on gun violence to do nothing about it. I’ve had enough of the self-serving hypocrisy.
I want to put governance back in government. I want more women, LGBTQ individuals, people of color, and truly allied men to run for office and bring back intelligence to our political discourse. I want to get facts. I want to hear smarts. I want to witness honorability. I want my country back.
By failing to take action, any action on gun control, white male patriarchy is literally killing us. It is telling us that our lives, our safety, our well-being are less important than their need to feel powerful and in control by owning a weapon. They are telling us they are entitled to any gun they please, consequences be damned. Well, I am entitled to safety. I am entitled to not receive messages, on a regular basis, telling me my children’s school is on security lockdown. I am entitled to not have to walk into my children’s elementary school, passing a police officer on my way in, to sit with them while I wait for the bullets to start flying. I am entitled not to go through the mental gymnastics of how many of my children I can get to, how many I can keep safe, and how soon I can get them home.
Yesterday, as I got out of a work lunch, I had a text message and two voicemails from school: they were on security lockdown due to a purported threat on Snapchat. There are no words to describe the overwhelming desire to drive down, as fast as possible, and find our kids to hold them while also wanting to find the perpetrator to hurt them.Later that day I found out my son had seen the threat on a classmate’s phone. He shrugged it off; this is life in America now.
I deserve better. He deserves better. Don’t we all deserve better?