Using my words

I thought I was already having an emotional week, especially after reading My Sister's Keeper in 36 hours and being steeped in the emotions of a mother who is losing her child to a terminal disease.  But then today, a 20-year-old kid (the news media have been calling him a “man”) killed his mother, then went to the elementary school where his mother was a teacher, and he killed some of her co-workers and a bunch of children.  Parents have to figure this sh*t out.  How do we figure it out?  Where do we go after something like that?

Many of us imagine in horror what it would feel like if our kids were the ones who were killed.  I was shaking and crying as I drove to school to pick up my five-year-old, hearing the story unfold on NPR.  I find that if I think about it in too much detail, I just freeze and am totally unable to function.

But I know that more than a few parents wonder what it would feel like if their kid was the one with the gun.

My boys are five and two, so I’m still the parent imagining what would happen if a gunman walked into their school.  But I know that someday they’ll be teenagers, and I’ll feel on a lot of days like I don’t understand them, or that they don’t listen to me, and I will wonder in those days, weeks, or years how to help them, how to fix our relationship.  I am sure that this mother, whose son brutally attacked her, wondered more than once how to do that.

For a multitude of reasons, some parents give up on kids like that.  Others pour their hearts and souls and a considerable amount of money into trying to help their troubled kids, and some succeed.  Some don’t.  Some can't spend the time or the money, and mental health care is, of course, expensive and hard to come by.

He needed more, or different, help than what he was getting, but since I know very little about his mental health, I will say what I do know.  He had a lot of guns, and he used them to kill a lot of people very quickly.
I firmly believe that this country can thrive with fewer guns.  Maybe America is already broken enough that fewer guns wouldn’t actually fix our national problem with violence any time soon.  But it would sure as heck make me feel better in the meantime for us to stop acting like guns are wonderful as long as there are applications and permits, or that they are there for us to “defend ourselves” from the real criminals… guns are simply too common.  People are too nonchalant about guns.  Gun owners fear a slippery slope, and so they say, “Yes, I want a hunting rifle to help provide food for my family, so I in turn would like my neighbor to be able to go out and buy an automatic assault rifle that is designed to kill multiple people indiscriminately.”  And we have to be honest that as guns are depicted in pop culture, so some people have started to view reality.  Far too many people turn to a gun when they’re looking for an answer to a problem that has no easy answer.

The gun-control conversation is already playing out all over my Facebook wall and elsewhere, and I think it is a vital (but not the only) piece of this horrible puzzle.  To change the national view on gun control, I'm thinking I need to start a first-amendment niche group equivalent to the NRA.  It could be a group that vehemently defends people’s rights to own pens.  Yes, pens.  Pen manufacturers, take a page out of the gun lobby's handbook (but not the pages about killing people).  Instead of fearing that their guns might be taken away, people could get really worked up about their pen rights, fearing that their free speech might be quashed, and holding massive rallies.  Then people might just use their WORDS.

My two-year-old has very little impulse control, and his first instinct is to hit when he's angry, so we're telling him multiple times a day to use his words.  We're modeling how to talk through emotions instead of resorting to his hands.  Parents all over the world are trying to do the same things with their toddlers.  And yet we're still raising people who believe that words aren't an effective way to solve problems.

I wish that we could say we lived in a world that was actually peaceful.  We have some amazing thinkers, scholars, and writers out there who desperately want peace, but when they get involved in national or international politics, most still fall prey to "might makes right" thinking.  War still seems to be the best way for us to get what we want, so we'll use war to get our peace.  So how are we supposed to convince our individual citizens that war on a personal level is morally wrong, but on the level of international politics, where thousands of lives are at stake, it's okay?  The answer, to me, is that it ultimately shouldn't be okay.  But to put a stop to "might makes right", we need an alternative.  We need to foster communication and openness.  We should seek to understand, not simply to be understood.

Today, it’s hard to figure out much of anything.  So I pray.  And I keep those families in my hearts, and hope for peace for the kids who survived as *they* try to figure it out.

Children.  This has to stop.

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An adequate response to this would take many voices and many more words than you would read (or I could write here)but I'll start the dialog with my conclusion that guns are not the problem as much as communications. Hence, I agree with the pen metaphor.

Side Note: But the pen is the enabler as well. I so much object [substitute stronger word here] to the interviews with the kids in the most recent event. Based on my experience at Virginia Tech, those poor kids and the community will be seeing and hearing their words over and over well into their adulthood every time a senseless act of violence takes place in a public school.
We need to keep victims away from media, media cannot exercise restraint in such times. End of side note.

If, as in many other parts of the world, guns were more tightly controlled, men would find other avenues to act on evil thoughts. Your comments about your two year old illustrate the issue. As we grow, the theory is that we will learn to redirect emotions in more 'acceptable' behavior. That doesn't happen for all people all the time. There are people with means who act like two year old kids out there. Our current government has several examples right now, and they are untouchable in the moment.

So what can we do? Take every opportunity to laugh - at oneself and with others. Learn some mental health strategies, for yourself and for your community. Be kinder than necessary. Thank people for their radiant smiles - if you noticed them, they gave you a precious gift. Try to return the favor to others.

Breath deep and mindfully, hug and be hugged, honor the path you are on by giving to and receiving from those you meet along the way.

Oh, I'll keep in mind that I make pens - and encourage all to use them. Please add to the dialog.
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