When I dropped my daughter off for first-grade this morning, the thought – however fleeting – that it might be the last time I ever saw her crossed my mind.
It didn’t used to be that way.
I grew up in schools, more so than most kids. My father was a third grade teacher, so by the time I entered elementary school, I was already intimately acquainted with the building. I knew almost all the teachers by name, was friends with the custodians.
My first day of kindergarten, I didn’t realize my mother wouldn’t be staying after she dropped me off. Feeling abandoned and confused, I slipped out of the classroom, scurried down the hall, and found my father’s room. He ushered me back to class, explaining the whole “school” thing along the way.
If my daughter disappeared from class, the building would be locked down and someone would be prepping the Amber Alert.
When I was a kid, my mother went to Michigan to see relatives. My father and I walked her through security, down to the gate, and I waved to her (to the plane, really) out the window.
It used to be that way.
When I went to a conference for work a few years ago, I waved goodbye to my wife and daughters (along with my bottle of water) at security. I almost tripped as I tried to wave and put my shoes back on at the same time.
In 1999, two high school students brought a makeshift arsenal to school and murdered twelve students and a teacher before taking their own lives.
Last week, a twenty-year-old man murdered twenty-seven people including his mother and twenty first-grade students at Sandy Hook Elementary.
They get worse.
I haven’t wanted to write about this. I haven’t wanted to think about it. I haven’t wanted to consider the possibility that it could happen here. Which, I’m sure, was a common thought among parents in Columbine and Newtown, and probably everywhere.
I haven’t wanted to say anything because I didn’t have anything to say. Nothing that would make it better. Nothing that would explain why this “man” could do such a horrific thing. Nothing that would offer any comfort or logic or sense to anything.
So I sat and did nothing. I said nothing. I listened.
I listened to the crazed “liberals” who declared on Twitter that the NRA President and all its members should be shot.
I listened to every pro-gun pundit who offered up that old chestnut – “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
I listened as Mike Huckabee told the world (or at least the Fox News audience) that the killings in Newtown happened because we’ve removed God from the classroom, and as Victoria Jackson (remember her?) pointed out that the gunman was only doing what “abortionists do every day.”
I sat by silently as Rush Limbaugh accused the Obama administration of politicizing the tragedy, even after he declared the left would find a way to blame it on conservatives while it was happening on Friday.
I didn’t say a thing as people cried for homeschooling. I stayed silent as many in the pro-gun crowd started calling for teachers to be armed.
I said nothing as I heard, time after time, “the Constitution”, “the 2nd Amendment”, “from my cold, dead hands.”
And then, as I sat silently, I heard this:
“The real enemy isn’t these psychos shooting up schools. It’s the government trying to take away our rights, our gun rights.” — caller to Glenn Back Show this morning.
And I can’t be quiet anymore.
The enemy? The enemy?
The enemy is you, Mr. Caller. The enemy is those whacked out liberals crying for the NRA to be shot. The enemy is Limbaugh and Beck and Huckabee.
The enemy is every single one of you out there who is too wedded to your own beliefs, too locked into your own ideology, too hell bent on being right that you’re refusing to do what’s right.
To the liberals who want to ban guns completely, and take them from everyone – I say get real. It’ll never happen, and it shouldn’t. There are millions of responsible, smart, decent people who own guns and take care of them. I know some of them, I’m friends with some of them, I’ve taught some of them.
And believe me, they’re equally horrified by what’s happened. But they aren’t to blame. They didn’t pull the trigger in Newtown.
And to the pro-gun club and the right-wingers (what, you thought you were getting off easy?) – well, to many of you, I have only one thing to say.
Shut. The. Hell. Up.
You want to think God did this because we don’t let him in schools? Then I don’t want to know your God. Then tell me where God was when Catholic Priests were abusing little boys.
You want to talk about the 2nd Amendment? You want to remind us all that the Founding Fathers gave us all the right to keep and bear arms?
You’re right. They did.
And you’re right, they did do it to protect against tyranny, the kind of tyranny they fled to this country to escape.
Of course, back then muskets shot one round at a time, and it took fifteen seconds to reload.
You cry and carry on about you won’t let the government take away your Constitutional rights. Well, let’s take a moment to step back in time….
Eleven years ago, a group of religiously fanatical terrorists hijacked planes, flew them into buildings, and killed thousands of people.
In the aftermath, the government enacted laws such as the Patriot Act, which those on the left protested and cried over, as they accused the government of trampling all over our civil rights.
Eleven years ago, we didn’t sit back and say “well, anyone who is determined enough and crazy enough to want to carry out a mass killing will find a way.” We didn’t sit back and do nothing. We did everything in our power to make sure we made it as hard as possible for anyone to every hurt us like that again.
Don’t believe me? Go catch a flight somewhere. When you’re done getting x-rayed, patted down, strip-searched, wanded, and you’ve got your shoes back on, let me know.
And you know what? In eleven years, how many people have died from terrorist attacks on U.S. soil?
Don’t get me wrong – I know it’s not perfect. I know someday, somehow, there will be another attack. More people will die. I’m as sure of that as I am that someday there will be another school shooting. That someday we will be mourning like this again. There’s nothing we can do about that.
But if that day is next year or in 2023… well, maybe we can do something about that.
We can come together. We can stop guarding our own little selfish freedoms and beliefs and do what’s right.
It’s not just about guns. Gun control alone won’t solve the problem. That’s going to take much more work and much more time.
And it’s going to take all of us.
The Constitution gets invoked a lot in this debate. But I’m partial to another one of our founding documents. The one that reads, in part
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
Last Friday, 27 people – twenty of them too young to know from the 2nd Amendment, gun control, and politicizing – had those rights stripped from them.
You want to keep arguing?
Or do you want to make sure we do everything possible to make sure it never happens again?
The choice is yours.
Just be grateful you still have one. I know twenty-seven people who didn’t.