Saturday, December 22, 2012
Every time I heard of a violent shooting of innocent people, in a school, university, movie theatre or a temple, I was appalled, frozen in disbelief. Not again! What could have happened this time, who was involved, how sad, how awful... I cried for the victims, prayed for their families and felt totally helpless.
But days passed by, the media stopped the coverage, and I went on with my life. The horror of the shootings fading away even though the memory stayed.
On Friday, December 14th, 2012, I was playing soccer in the yard with adorable, full of life and giggles, two year old Max, when I got a text from a friend informing me she couldn't breathe, another shooting had happened, this time in Connecticut, this time little 6 and 7 year olds. 20 of them! I froze in disbelief again, texting back and forth to get details, until Max, realizing that his soccer partner wasn't playing anymore, ran over with "No more Ding, gramma", referring to the ringtone for texts on my phone. I hugged him tight and tried to hide my tears, but my heart was broken.
Later, as I watched the innocent little faces of the victims, heard their families tell their stories, my heart bled more and more. Precious little children taken away from their families, taken away from their lives and from us, because someone walked into their school with four weapons and shot them. I thought of the children who survived and the teachers who watched their colleagues die as heroes, how terrifying this must have been for them, will they ever be able to forget the scary image of the man with the gun who killed their schoolmates or teachers who were protecting them? Will the nightmares end or haunt them all their lives, will they need the light on or a parent with them to fall asleep, will they be able to continue school without fear? Will they always look over their shoulder? I should know.
When I was about 20 years old, I lived in a war torn country. I had just graduated with a BSN from the American University and had started working at the AUH right away. As the war waged on, it became unsafe for us, nurses, to travel to the hospital for our shifts, so they sent an ambulance to collect us and deliver us safely to our units.
One night, as four of us, all in our nursing uniforms, huddled in the ambulance as it raced through the empty city streets, we were jolted into a sudden stop, the doors flew open and we were looking directly at two M16s pointing at us, with two masked men behind them. I don't remember much about the next minutes except they seemed to last forever and they tasted like pure fear. Identification cards were pulled out, the driver explained where we were going, and somehow after searches and explanations, we were allowed to continue.
How do I describe that loud beating of my heart even though it seemed to have completely stopped beating? Fear, the worst feeling ever, and the basis for all negative emotions. Fear for one's life. Two months later I was kissing American soil at JFK. I was "home" where I belonged, where that kind of gun nonsense would never happen.... But it happens all the time, over and over, and not by militia, but an ordinary citizen who snaps, who feels rejected, isolated, demonized, and resorts to taking lives along with his own. Not one but as many as he can, armed with military style weapons.
The AR15 used by Adam Lanza is "the civilian version of the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military.... like the M-16, ammunition is loaded through a magazine....An AR-15 is usually capable of firing a rate of 45 rounds per minute in semiautomatic mode."
These were military-like guns he used. The question is how and why did he have them. The same old question of every mass murder, asked and forgotten a few days later.
I kept looking at the faces, the children, the teachers who tried to protect them and felt like a complete coward! These were ours. Our children, our sisters, our mothers, and in a few short weeks, they will be forgotten like all the rest. This was something that could have been avoided, or diminished in scale, if only we had done something after the previous mass shootings.
But what could I do? How could I prevent it? Why was I feeling like a coward. After all it is a national crisis, the country doesn't agree on the issue, laws have to be changed, restrictions implemented. It has become a political issue instead of a national security issue. Politicians in the palm of special interests, unwilling to put their necks out and act! What could I do? I could take a stand:
I am against semi-automatic weapons in citizens' hands, I am for strict regulation and restrictions. I have no respect for the opinion of people who follow the NRA blindly on this matter, agree with them on everything without questioning. I have lost respect for people's opinions that put ideology above the safety of children. The same NRA, who stated they will have helpful solutions and on the day the Connecticut victims were still being buried, advocated for more guns, armed guards in schools, to instill more fear in these young children!
I will take a stand. That's all I can do. I wish everyone else would stand by me, but I cannot force them. What I can do however is stop being polite and quiet about this subject, but announce my position from the rooftops, maybe others will too. Some people might say let's think about this stand of hers and see if there's any merit to it. Some will just ignore me, but others will resent me (specially those who don't think I have the same freedom of speech as they do), they'll call me names, block me, unfriend me, unfollow me. Whatever it is they do, as long as they don't come after me with a gun, I'm OK with that.
This doesn't have to be a matter of political affiliation. One can be ultra conservative in fiscal and social matters, yet see the need for gun control. Many of my republican friends do so. It is in all of our interests, for all our children.
I just HAVE to take a stand. My soul demands it. This is not about anyone else. This is about me finally standing up for my opinions, my beliefs. This is my right to declare my beliefs.
I realize that this is such a small gesture that it won't make any difference in the big picture, but I will feel honest, brave and not a coward hiding behind political correctness not to lose popularity. I don't need to be popular as much as I need to be honest.
Gun control is not the only solution for our nation's violent mass shootings. We have a lot of work to do. We do have to look into improving mental health care. But mental health is a vast field. Almost every human being will go through some unhealthy mental state in their lifetime. We cannot medicate the entire country, we cannot institutionalize an entire generation of males. We can do better screenings and follow ups and prescribe medications much more carefully. We can gradually build a plan to help these outcasts who are often dubbed as the devil, when they are victims themselves in a sense. Maybe we need to train therapists just for this, a specialty in helping these young people find a different outlet for their anger and despair, find a way to fit in. We need to put our heads together and brainstorm ideas.
Then there's the media! Maybe these stories can be covered in such a way that it doesn't give the shooters the appearance of heroes in the eyes of troubled, isolated, disturbed young men. Something to aspire to for them. A place to finally belong, to get their message out that there was no place else for them with us.
But we can control guns right away! There will be some sold on the black market, people will still be able to get them, but with much more difficulty. If they have to wait a month for a permit, they might get help in the interim. if they have smaller weapons, they might be stopped easier. If they have no weapons, they might seek help. A desperate soul might change his mind if he has to spend some time to find a weapon, but if it's available to him right away, there's not much time to change minds. It might take a few years, but we can do this. What is the purpose of a semi automatic weapon anyway? Do we need 40 rounds in a minute if a burglar is entering our home? It's really a toy of sorts. We regulate toys for children so they don't get hurt, why not regulate toys for adults so they don't hurt others?
We have to give it a chance. It's a matter of life and death.
I read somewhere that it's in our constitution; the right to bear arms; that this was written by the wise founders so our country doesn't become a dictatorship, so people could revolt and have a civil war, I suppose. My answer to this is those founders were protecting something valid in their time but not in ours. If they knew what was happening under the shield of the second amendment today, they would be against it, because this is not protecting our country, this is killing our people.
There is no fear in 2012 that the US will become a dictatorship, we have campaigns, debates and elections. We just went through one actually. If we reach a point where we have to resolve our differences with M16s, we're already doomed. This will not happen. Besides, the founders had no idea how advanced the weapons will become, or they might have put restrictions themselves.,
What we need is common sense & rethinking our positions for ourselves instead of following NRA's stubborn ideology. We can do better than the NRA.
Stating my opinion and stand on this matter does not "bully" anyone. It's a general statement to the world. Labeling someone as a "bully" over and over again, is bullying however, trying to intimidate them and shut them up. As far as intolerance, intolerance for my opinion is much worse than intolerance for guns. My opinion doesn't kill anyone.
A few days ago, Kris Allen dedicated this song to Sandy Hook elementary school shooting victims. It is beautiful and poignant.
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachel D'Avino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Anne marie Murphy, 52
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6