I’ve been using our recent illnesses as a convenient excuse for not having time to think too long, or too hard, about last week’s tragedy in CT. I’ve listened to updates on NPR, I watched news coverage the day of for a little while, and I get bits of updated information from Tim who is (much more) closely following the event and its aftermath. But I can’t read these stories myself; after a few minutes I have to turn down the volume on the radio, turn off the TV (just this morning, I couldn’t even bring myself to look too closely at the faces of the children being marched from the school which was published in a local paper). I might tell you that it’s because the kids need me or because I’ve arrived at the grocery store and am in a hurry, but honestly, those are lies.
The truth is, I’m a coward.
I can’t look this event in the eye. I can’t listen to these stories of loss; I can’t imagine loosing my own young child at the hands of a shooter or loosing my own child as a shooter (because, for me, this is just as tragic: that man was someone’s son, and no one sets out raising a child thinking that’s what will become of them). I can’t imagine how you ever muster the courage to send your kids back to school – or actually ever let them out of your sight again. I don’t know what to do with these thoughts, so I don’t try to do anything.
But it’s because of people like me – the people that look away – that nothing changes. It’s because of people like me who don’t want to talk about the reality of the situation, who don’t want to put ourselves in the shoes of those parents or those community members, that things don’t get better. Blinders will not help; not even in the short term (even for me, the shootings are never actually from my mind). What we need is an honest and open dialogue about violence, priorities, mental illness, family, compassion, respect, and community. Because let’s be honest, it’s not just about guns.
Each one of the victims of Friday’s shootings was someone’s child; a child that started their life with potential and innocence. Speaking as a mother, I cannot understate the pain my heart feels when I think about this. It cuts to my core.