Saturday, October 3, 2015

Inch Eighty-Five: This Week

I wrote the below post the day after the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut back in December, 2012. Since then, there have been multiple mass shootings across this country, the most recent one in Roseburg, Oregon. With every shooting, there is a hoarse cry of "Why?" immediately countered with a pushback from the NRA and gun advocates as to how this was somehow the fault of gun-free zones (so the victims and the state are responsible for this) or, in the words of presidential candidate Jeb Bush, "stuff happens."

I grew up around guns. My dad hunted; my brothers hunted with him. I never got taken out hunting, but I learned to shoot. I do not own a gun, but I am not opposed to others owning them. I do not see gun owners as either evil or idiots. But I fervently believe that screaming that any type of gun control violates the Second Amendment and the only safe nation is an armed nation is idiotic and leads to senseless deaths. I do not believe that limiting access to guns is a step towards fascism or anarchy. I also do not believe the answer is to say "well, that shooter was mentally ill" and pretend there is no further issue to discuss. 

The further issue is this: we should not have to take our lives into our own hands when we go to school, or go to worship, or go about our everyday lives. I should not be forced to carry a weapon to defend myself as I go about my daily routine. And I should not have the NRA dictating to our political leaders a "hands off" gun policy in this nation and accusing me of being anti-American and unpatriotic because I disagree. 

I believe that as this nation becomes more polarized along religious, racial, and political lines, the potential for acts of mass violence grows. In a polarized world where we have eliminated civil discourse, it is just as easy to shoot to silence the opposing view as it is to argue. After all, "stuff happens." 

I have started identifying publicly as Jewish and liberal, because, as I tell sympathetic friends, when the extremists start lining people up, I want there to be no question where I stand. 

Here is my blog from December 2012. This is for the victims of the Umpqua Community College shooting:

It is the morning after and I am baking.

28 families in Newtown, Connecticut are making funeral arrangements, 20 of them for small children who did not live to see Christmas this year.

And I am baking.

My mind keeps churning over the news. My thoughts reel back to Columbine and watching the news that night with my hand to my throat and the tears rolling down my face. This morning as I read the online newspaper, my hand went immediately to my throat and the tears started again.

And I am baking.

My wonderful, beautiful daughter-in-law Alise mirrored my thoughts on her Facebook post last night and I would repost her words here if I could. But Facebook is balking so I am able only to summarize them. (I will post Alise's moving words in a separate post in the next day or two when Facebook decides to cooperate.) Alise cried out to us to focus on the children who were killed, not on the killer and what made him tick. Forget him. What Alise wanted to know is what the children's favorite colors were, could they tie their shoes, what games they liked to play. Alise wanted us all to remember these were children, with the little things that make up a child's life: a favorite book, a stuffed animal, a song sung in class.

And I am baking, filling the house with the scent of biscotti, wondering what cookies those children liked and whether they had yet done any holiday baking with their mothers, their fathers, their grandparents.

I think of Ramona as I roll the dough with my hands. When Ben was a little boy, there was the Cleveland School shooting in Stockton, California, where we lived at the time. We were horrified. And then came Padukah. And Columbine. Yet despite that violence—violence at a school—I still sent Ben and Sam off each day with my biggest worry being a traffic accident.

Those were just random acts of violence, I thought at the time. But increasingly, they are not. And as I look at Ramona in all her three-month old glory, I fear her parents live in a world—in this country, for God's sake—where they will send her to school someday and pray she not be gunned down in her classroom while she recites her ABCs.

And I am baking.

In Making Piece, Beth Howard wrote: "In those late autumn days, as winter approached, all I did was bake. With each push of the rolling soul was soothed and my heart mended a little more."

It is the day after Newtown and I am baking.


Laurie said...

There are so many feelings that come up with this, April. I wish I was convinced that we were ready to be a peaceful society, but I'm not. I have shot a gun, but don't carry one with me. I don't have a clue what the answer is. Mass shootings still go on in European countries that have outlawed privately owned firearms. Even with their highly restrictive gun laws, people manage to get guns and shoot people. I've read that as of June '15, the US was ranked 9th in mass shootings compared to European countries. In this year alone- Paris: 12 killed, 11 wounded, Czech Republic: 9 killed, 1 wounded, Copenhagen, the list goes on... It seems so many of the US shooters have a history of mental illness, and often are not even of the age to legally own a gun. Mental illness is supposed to keep them from getting guns, as is being underage. How are they getting them? These laws are already in place. Are more laws the answer? I really don't know.

Darla said...

Over and over again, violence. We don't own guns but like you I'm not against people who do. I don't know that more laws would help. I don't have an answer. It seems to me the fabric of our society has broken down on many levels. That sounds like an old lady speaking of "the good old days". I know that.