Degrees of Separation – How close is close enough?

In this week+ after the horrendous shooting at at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland , FL, I have been pondering what the hell does someone like me do or say about something like this?

I vote. I vote for gun control and the candidates who support it. I make some calls (not enough). My children participate in the lockdown drills that are now mandatory 4 times per school year in our district. I talk to my daughters about them, about why we do them. About what to do if this comes to their school. I talk to them about kindness and about speaking out. None of this is enough.

And I stare at this messy pile of boots and shoes in my entry.  The one that exasperates me, that I’m constantly reminding them to pick up and put in the bins. And I think about the parents who have lost their children in these preventable ways, and how many of them have messy boot piles, and dirty laundry piles, and all the stuff of living with and raising children.  And they will pick these up one last time and never get to do it again, or maybe want to leave it there forever, because they never get to do it again. And my heart breaks for these parents, the siblings, all the people who lost their loved one in these preventable ways.

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Also, I remember.

I remember sitting with my good friends in the days just after the Sandy Hook elementary massacre in December 2012. Sitting with them, still dazed from the loss of my mother a few months earlier, as they prepared to go do the impossible, travel to Newtown to comfort their friends, who lost a child that day. I remember talking with them afterward, I remember the palpable devastation that clung to them when they returned. I’m sure they have not forgotten.

The details of this belong to the family who lost their child, to my friends who lived it with them , this not my story to tell, except for the impact on me. I remember thinking, oh my God. I’ve met the mother of this child, when she visited with her older son, when all of our oldest children were toddlers. I sat on my friend’s living room floor and had tea and watched our children play. I remember thinking, how does this woman, this mother who lost her child in this unthinkable, preventable way, get up in the morning? How does she eat, shower, care for her other child? How does she remember to breathe or even want to? How does she do any of these things even now, when it’s still freaking happening? This is three degrees of separation from me. Not me, not my child, not my friend’s child, but the child of their friends, someone I’ve met. This is close, this is way too freaking close, this is close enough.

I’ve been sitting back, watching the reactions this week on Facebook as much as I can bear (which isn’t much these days), and engaging minimally. I’ve read and shared some good articles and opinions, I’ve been moved by the students who survived this and now refuse to be complacent. I’ve been watching with stunned fascination at some of the commentary by a few friends and acquaintances that range from suggesting that we arm veterans and teachers in schools to some completely whacked out conspiracy theories to scorning the Tide-Pod eating teens who want to challenge the 2nd amendment. And I wonder why, at 46, these types of reactions still shock me, and whether there’s anything to be said here.

This is a question I’ve asked myself repeatedly.  Is it worth my breath to engage when I see something like this? And if I don’t, am I complicit, and aren’t I just preaching to the choir? And let’s be honest, I’m mostly surrounded by my choir, and I’m good with that. If I’m frank, what I need to admit is that I don’t trust myself to respond here. In situations like this, my frustration and anger surface and I know that my sharpness and judgment don’t build bridges or solve anything. I saw a friend of mine respond gently and beautifully to something completely asinine just yesterday, and it humbled me. I have something to learn there. I’m watching and trying to learn so I can be a more effective part of the conversation.

The current rhetoric is that we have to come together somehow, to talk it out, to find common ground, and I don’t disagree with this.  But I think we have enough common ground to enact change. Current polls show that more Americans than not favor stronger gun control laws. As for those who don’t, well I don’t want to try sway you. You have to find your own way here, through whatever is binding you to the problem, rather than being part of the solution. Some of you are doing this on your own. I will say just this. I hope this never comes close to you.  I’m going to do what I can to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m going to do my best to help push us all forward and leave you behind if you won’t come along.

When I first see all of this, I lose heart, and I’ve been stuck there  for awhile. I look at the ugly corruption in our political system, well exemplified by the fool at the top, and down through the ranks. And I lose heart. I vote and it feels like a waste. And I lose heart. I listen to fools with no apparent wisdom in them sound off. And I lose heart.

So now I want to preach to the choir, and maybe mostly to myself, and say now is the time To Find Heart, To Take Heart. To Not Back Down. To stop saying what I do doesn’t help, and just keep showing up in any way, large or small, until we make this better.

When I slow down a bit, and breathe, I see it. Change is on the wind, I can smell it like I can smell a hint of spring in the air when I step outside today.  The world is shifting and unlike many, I have faith in this generation that is coming of age now. They are different than we were, they’re supposed to be, they are shaped by evolving challenges and circumstances, and they are responding. Change is inevitable, integral to life. Someday, we will look back on this as we do on so many shameful parts of our history where we waited too long to demand change, and say this too is part of our shameful past, and but no longer our present. And it may well not be completely solved, we are still addressing the flaws, but we’re heading in the right direction. And I will not take in the words of fools who say there’s nothing to be done, that common sense regulation won’t help. I am not that fool.

If you need a little motivation To Find Heart, some good reads….

Fuck You, I Like Guns, from Anastasia Bernoulli. Smart, on point opinion on why we need to ban assault rifles, from someone, who, unlike me, understands weapons and their appeal. I appreciate this educated perspective – given the opportunity, I’d love to buy her a cup of coffee, or a beer, or both.

The AR-15 is Different, from Heather Sher, radiologist who read the scans of the Parkland victims, on how these injuries differ from those inflicted by handguns and, again, why we should ban them.

Dan Rather’s moving Facebook post in support of those working for this change. I grew up on Dan Rather, and I’m grateful still for his voice today, for shedding some light when all can feel so dark.

And, if you’re overwhelmed and not sure what to do, check out Jennifer Hoffman’s American’s of Conscience site where you can sign up for a weekly email of actionable items.

Be well friends, and Find Heart, Take Heart.








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