Last week, as we were all celebrating love and friendship, 200 miles south of my home in Orlando a teenager walked into his old high school with an AR-15 assault rifle and shot 17 people dead, 14 of them kids his own age. The news spread quickly throughout the evening, and already by morning my social media feeds were teeming with links to dozens of news articles covering every imaginable angle of the tragedy, and people yelling on the internet both pro and against gun control.
I’ve wanted to say something since it happened, but I couldn’t at first. All I could muster were half-formed sentences that echoed the jumble of thoughts on my mind. I refused to be yet another person yelling on the internet, regardless of how noble my cause, so I put it aside. I then went on a getaway for the long weekend with my family, and I did what every grieving parent I saw on the news asked me to: I hugged my child hard and told her I loved her over and over.
It’s taken me almost a week to be able to address the shooting, and what it means to me as a parent, as an American citizen, as a person. And I hate to disappoint you because I don’t have much, if anything, to add that hasn’t been said already or isn’t common sense. Although that’s the issue, no? Common sense isn’t common at all.
I believe it’s common sense that this mass shooting, that any mass shooting, is about guns: gun control, gun access, gun responsibility, gun laws. I believe it’s common sense that there should be no mass shootings at all, yet we live in a country that refuses to do anything to prevent them and has come to accept them as another part of life, like rain or taxes. I believe it’s common sense that if all these mass shooters have mental health problems that cause them to act homicidally, then we need to do something as a society to address mental wellness.
But there lies the problem: American society doesn’t care to do any of these things. We live in a society where people fetishize their guns, where people care more about their weapons than about the lives of other people. We live in a society where the government is more interested in the money generated by special interest groups such as the NRA than in the security and well-being of its citizens. We live in a society where its politicians care more about bickering like children than about protecting the children.
If you feel the need to correct me about any of that, to tell me I’m wrong, to cite some statistic or anecdote that supports your opposing view, you’re part of the problem, by the way.
My problem is that I don’t know what else is there to be done. Logic would say to campaign politically for those candidates whose views align with my own, but I still don’t expect anything to change because while it’s technically easy to switch the people sitting in Congress, how do we change the regular people in America who still think that the solution to the gun problem is to throw more guns at it? How do we change the regular people who think that some form of access to healthcare, physical and mental, isn’t the responsibility of the government and of society at large? How do we change the regular people who very promptly send their thoughts and prayers, yet fail to follow those up with actions (and I say this as a Christian who does believe in the power of prayer)?
I also cannot not do something. I am a member of this society, a citizen of this nation, a parent who will one day have a daughter in school, and I refuse to succumb to the infectious apathy that courses through my country. So for now I will inform myself of the candidates up for Congressional office whom I can vote for, and add my voice to that of many others flooding their current representatives demanding action. I will also continue to think critically about my country and society, because just as I refuse to be someone else yelling on the internet, I refuse to be an uninformed ignoramus.
I feel horrible for Parkland, for the families and friends of the victims, for the wounded and their loved ones. It’s inspiring to see that the Parkland teen survivors are not keeping quiet, instead taking to every medium available to tell their stories, to demand action from politicians, to fire back at those who would speak for them in the interest of their own agenda. It’s time for everyone else, for me, to do the same before the next mass shooting occurs.
Because there will be a next one.
Because this is America, after all.