I Have Something to Say.

It's been a while since I've used this space to actually say something. I've had things I've wanted to say, but I've been busy, I've doubted my words, I've figured no one would care what I had to say...the usual. But over the weekend 49 innocent people lost their lives for absolutely no fucking reason, and this will undoubtedly get buried in a pile of the myriad posts about this topic this week, but today...today I have something to say. I've written and deleted and written and rewritten and deleted this post many times over the last few years, but every time I've erased the words until there was just white space, and I've left it alone. But not today. Today I finally wrote the words down and they didn't come out right or the way I thought they would or wanted them to, but that's okay. I have something to say.

As is probably the case with most in my generation, I remember the Columbine shooting in April 1999 being the first time I was ever really aware of gun violence. I remember seeing it on the news, but I was still young enough that the images I saw and the words I heard didn't make sense to me. I wasn't old enough, mature enough, aware enough to be able to process something that horrific, that violent, that senseless.

Almost 8 years later to the day, I discovered that that kind of violence makes even less sense, and is even harder to process when you're older, when I suddenly and forever became part of a community unfairly affected by gun violence. And despite the outpouring of love and support my school, my community, and I personally received from friends, family, and strangers alike, I felt so...isolated. I remember going home that summer, not even a week afterward, and looking at everyone, from my family to random people on the street, and thinking about how they were able to go about their normal lives while mine had been violently disrupted, forever. Other than my friends at school who had also lived it, no one knew what it was like to wake up one morning and learn that their idyllic mountain town had been thrust onto every news station known to man. No one I met or ran into that summer knew what it was like to have their security and sense of safety so violently threatened. No one knew pain of having their sense of normalcy so brutally violated, a pain so indescribable they were literally unable to speak for days on end.

I was 19 then and had never fleshed out my feelings on gun control because, frankly, I'd never had a reason to think about it. Back then, in a situation that defies reason, I reasoned that what happened at my school was a freak occurrence. I blamed mental illness and a faulty mental healthcare system and the determination of a sick individual, but it never occurred to me to blame the guns. No one else blamed the guns either, from what I remember. I remember talk of video games, and teachers and professors who should have reported troubling behavior, the administration that should have reacted more quickly, and classroom doors that were able to be chained shut, but I don't remember the guns. The guns it seemed, and I believed, weren't really the problem. I remember at the time trying to protect my school by insisting that this was something that couldn't have possibly be prevented, that there was nothing the administration or anyone else could have done to stop someone that determined. Even as recently as a few months ago I talked about accepting that this was just...a thing that happened. Something that would never make sense. And while it's true that it can't ever be explained, and I still hesitate to say it could have been prevented, I have to believe that there had to have been some way, something that would have given my classmates the chance to live out the rest of their lives.

Back then, the experience of in any way having been associated with a mass shooting felt...unique, in the worst connotation of that word. To be fair, in a lot of ways it was an extreme: until this past weekend, it was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. But as the years have passed, as more and more communities have been devastated by gun violence, I've been devastated, not only to know that they feel such immense pain but to know that that pain is becoming less and less common. As heavy of an emotional burden something like this is to bear, it's one no one would ever want to share.

It makes me sad to admit, but with every shooting I've seen on the news since that April day, I've only become more desensitized to it. Not because I'm inhuman or because I don't care, but because I care so much, and I hurt so deeply, and I know, from personal experience, that reacting doesn't matter. Prayers and love and support are important to the victims' families and friends and to their communities who mourn with them, but they don't change what happened. They don't change that lives were lost. And they sure as hell don't prevent these things from happening again. My heart has broken over this issue so many times that I just don't have a whole heart capable of breaking over it anymore. That's the reason I turn off the TV when a news report comes in, that's the reason I turn down the radio when I catch a story about elementary school kids being gunned down at school. Because I just can't. Maybe it's a coping mechanism or maybe it's just that I really have become hardened knowing that there's nothing I can do, or that anyone is willing to do.

When I first heard about the shooting at Pulse, that was my reaction. "Oh, another shooting? Where this time?" Hearing that nearly 50 people were killed is both heartbreaking and numbing when you've been in a classroom anxiously preoccupied by the thought of counting 32 other classmates and imagining them all dead, just to see how many people that really is. So at first, I reacted the way I always do - I tuned it out because I knew nothing would change, that these things could keep happening over and over again and NOTHING would change. Because if we've allowed 20 elementary school CHILDREN to die at the hands of a gunman with an assault rifle and haven't changed a damn thing, what could possibly be enough?

But after a couple days...something made my stone heart spark. As much as I wanted to succumb to the hopelessness I've come to expect in the wake of these tragedies, all of a sudden I felt a fire. I wasn't sad. I was angry. This weekend a new shooting surpassed the one that divides my college career in half as the deadliest in U.S. history. It's been almost a decade since 32 students were mercilessly gunned down on my college campus and we have done NOTHING. Just in that time span alone innocent people have lost their lives on more college campuses, in movie theaters, at work and work events, in church, and in freaking ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and we have done nothing to change our laws to prevent this from happening. I absolutely believe that there are more common threads between these events than just the weapons used to perpetrate them, but the weapons remain the biggest common denominator.

Last night I cried because I'm so deeply affected by what happened in Orlando and because I'm so deeply frustrated that I can't do anything about it. I've read political discussions about gun rights and they always devolve into a lone argument citing the right to bear arms. I've read the Second Amendment as recently as yesterday and I'm here to say that a 200+ year old document, which has been interpreted as granting the right to bear individual arms and most certainly does not expressly grant the right to bear assault rifles, which we also have the power to change yet refuse to do so, is a piss poor crutch to stand on in a modern world where kindergarteners are being mowed down at school.

As for Orlando, I love the love being shown both to the city and to the entire LGBT community. I love the positive and empowering messages being shared but, and I spear from experience, this is what I have to say: it's not enough. Words and love and positive vibes are just not enough. Because, as Samantha Bee so badassly said better than I could,

Love does not win unless we start loving each other enough to fix our fucking problems.


At the end of the day, I'm still sad because I still don't know what the solution is. Or how to fix this problem. I just know that love and prayers are great and comforting and well-meaning but until they can help us go to school and church and to the movies and to clubs and everywhere else we go to enjoy and celebrate our beautiful lives, they just aren't enough. And that's all I have to say.

11 comments :

  1. oh my gosh I haven't seen that video yet-- thanks for sharing it. when someone buys an assualt weapon I wonder what the person selling it to them says. it has to be along the lines of like.. Hope you don't hate me for any reason! see pics of you on the news in a few days after you murder a bunch of people! thanks for stopping in! I am so confused why this is still a problem and struggling with this issue in a lot of the same ways you are. I am at a work conference this week and the thought crossed my mind during the national anthem that this could be the scene of a mass shooting- people going about their lives and in a group. it sometimes feels like those are the criteria these days for it. I am proud of you for this post. and your anger about the issue. I'm feeling really nervous for November and though the candidate I was supporting is no longer really an option I am hoping that someone we don't make this (and thousands of others) issue worse. I know there has been a call for blood donors and though a small thing, it makes me feel a little helpful when I am feeling down about the state of a lot of things. I will quit rambling but thank you for writing this and thinking the thoughts and feeling the feelings. I think most Americans need to spend some more time feeling before getting pissed about someone trying to take their gun away. ugh.

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  2. ^^ so many errors but I think you get the point.

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  3. I, like you, have no idea what the solution is or how to fix the problem but I 100% agree something needs to be done.

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  4. Preach it, sister. I have yet to understand the need to sell/own an AR and probably never will.

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  5. Did you read about Chris Murphy's filibuster? It's not an instant solution, but at least someone is doing something. Fingers crossed some good comes of it!

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  6. I think we all feel that way - helpless. Helpless against the hate &evil of this world. It's a tough thing to handle.
    Its a messed up world we live in.

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  7. I feel like anytime a nationally publicized shooting occurs, the government pretends like they are going to do something for a few weeks and then it gets dropped. While I don't feel like guns should be banned completely....assault rifles?? Why on earth does a civilian need an assault rifle??? And why oh why oh why were guns sold to a person who the FBI was looking in to or is on a terror watch list or any of those things?! There needs to be some kind of line drawn!

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  8. You summed up so many things and feeling perfectly. It's so sad that we've come to a place where mass shootings and violence cause us to response "another one?" because they're happening so often. As with most tragedies, it seems like people care and get riled up until something new hits the news cycle and people find something new to complain about and point fingers. Someone buying an assault weapon does not make any sense-- I can't wrap my mind around how anyone thinks it's okay or necessary. I don't live in some fantasy world where I think stricter gun laws will magically solve all of the problems, but something needs to change and why is this still something people can't agree needs to happen?

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  9. Honestly I couldn't even read most of this post and I'm sure you understand why... I also just can't. I can't even bring myself to start the train of thought that I know is just going to lead me to a place of nihilism and sadness and fear and anger, so kudos for you for your words. I just can't.

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  10. i agree with everything you said. i have become scarily desensitised to gun violence, but it makes me so angry. so so angry. KC agrees with me but then he always comes back and says something about it being in some constitution or something and we don't have that which is why we were able to change our gun laws... no - we had a horrible massacre take place in 1996 and our gun laws changed. END OF STORY. so it wouldn't happen again. prayers, thoughts, standing with the community that was affected- does nothing. changing laws is what will stop this happening. i don't care if you want to own a gun, but nobody needs access to those kinds of guns and guns in general should not be so easily accessible. it makes me mad, because while i am not trying to belittle what happened in orlando, it doesn't matter why it happened, whether he is a terrorist or a homophobic asshole or just an asshole, what matters is that this needs to be the end. don't let the next person try and beat this 'record' and try and kill more people because they can. i am so sick of it.
    i want to delete my comment because i've rambled and it's nonsense and all that, and it's why i've written and deleted and not posted myself because i just don't see anything that i have to say changing anything, you know?

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