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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why I Refuse to "Shut up and Grieve"

So, I gave up on the thankfuls thing because I was so bogged down with work. I guess it is all summed up with "I'm thankful I have jobs and a family to keep me so busy I don't have time to do the thankful meme."

One thing I'm no so thankful for though is that I live in a nation where school shootings and other mass shootings are becoming de rigour. And I'm angry. And I'm not going to shut up and grieve as some Facebook and Twitter folk would like. And I'm warning you, this is an unrevised, barely edited rant (and I have a huge for-pay editing job to do that I'm also avoiding, so this is going to be long). It also contains profanity. You have been warned. 

I have a son who is studying abroad this year in Spain.  When he left, I told him that I loved him and that I'd be happy to communicate with him (and desperate to) while he traveled for 18 hours, especially during one of his incredibly long layovers in one of the world's largest, busiest airports (I should interject here, that he was flying without companions and this was his first time flying, ever), but that once he arrived and was greeted by the study abroad people, I didn't want to communicate with him other than for truly important, life or death (or serious school or financial)  issues that others there couldn't help him with. He needed to figure this stuff out, find himself, settle in, integrate, etc. So, we didn't talk or chat online or Skype or email or text for over three weeks.

When we did, one of the first things he told me (besides that other students who were in contact with their families in the USA multiple times daily were having a hard time adjusting--score one for me), was that he had never realized how European our family is.

In my mind, I immediately went to all kinds of super positive, trendy, hip stereotypes of "European."  What he really meant wasn't that we were all thin and fit and wearing cool clothes and living in an Ikea-esque home.  What he meant was that we talk about tough stuff when it needs to be talked about. We lay it on the table. We show strong emotion.  We don't live to make life wonderful and good and easy for everyone.

I've since mentioned this to other non-USAmericans, and, so far, all who are or have lived in USAmerican families agree with me. In the USA, we tend to avoid the hard stuff and obfuscate with the trivial and red herrings.

Here, for all these years, I thought my family needed therapy.  My kid abroad assures me we don't (at least not for this).

And that all brings me the incidents of this past week.  Of these past months. Years.

The USA seems to have a problem with mass shootings. I'm not going to talk about other types of gun violence and killing here. I'm talking about mass shootings.  Shootings at malls, churches, schools, fast food restaurants. Shootings where people have "gone postal." There were at least 8 in the USA in 2012.

Now, we are being told to shut up and grieve.

We are told not to politicize these tragedies. 

We are told not to use these tragedies to push our own agendas.

What a load of typical USAmerican bull sh*t.

When we shut up, we are politicizing these tragedies, letting the NRA keep its agenda unscrutinized, but even more so, are just allowing more to happen.  In 2012 alone, there were two mass gun murders in April, one in May, one in July, one in August, one in September, and at least two in December (so far).  

How long do we need to wait before it is appropriate to start talking?  

I don't dare to try to say how I'd be reacting if one of my own children had been killed on Friday. I do, though, have a fairly good idea of what my sons would be saying if one of them had been killed. 

Oh, yes. It would be horrifically sad. I'm tearing up thinking about it.  But it would also quickly turn ugly.  Very ugly.  It's bad enough when someone outside the family hurts one of the brothers. BGHS soccer fans still talk about the "that's for the goalie" soft red card of 2009" when The Eldest played defense and The Middle was goalie.

They'd want to know why some crazy guy had such easy access to such deadly weapons. And what would be tell them? What do the parents of the surviving children tell them? Yes, honey. It's safe to go to school. Look to the helpers. Shhh....grieve. 

Having been slapped down for calling the shooter "mentally ill" on Facebook, I'm going to go with crazy from now on.  Maybe he did have an official mental illness. Maybe as one friend has suggested he was "spiritually ill" (although I don't believe in the spiritual so I think that's a red herring).  The guy got guns. Knew what he was doing. Was ready to die. Killed a lot of innocent people. That's cray-cray crazy.  So that's my term.  Crazy. A crazy got guns and killed a bunch of people.

We can discuss how we need to make better and easier access to mental health treatment.  That's clear. Only other crazies would argue any differently (I might as well just offend everyone right now while I'm at it).

But what's also clear is that we need to keep the hands of the crazies off guns.

In the recent years since the concealed carry laws in different states have gone into effect, we haven't seen a decrease in mass shootings, now, have we? So, let's not talk about how if we take the guns away from the good guys, only the bad guys will have guns.  

Oh, but guns are a part of our culture! Guns have been a necessary part of our history! We never would have settled the West or defeated the British or blah blah blah....America is guns.  

Hold your horses. Let's talk about Australia. This is not a perfect analogy, but there are a lot of similarities. Just read the Wikipedia history of Australia.  There are a lot of similarities to the USHistory books. I'm going to run with this for a minute (one thing I love about blogging is I can so freely use over-used idioms that I have to slap my students down for using). 

After experiencing a mere 13 mass shootings in 18 years (hell, after having over half that many in 2012 here, 13 seems pretty insignificant, doesn't it?), they decided enough was enough and tightened their gun regulations. And you know what? Real evidence shows that
 Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.

 So, when is it going to be time to start talking? As my son's host mother in Spain said, "I think the talk should have already happened."

The truth of the matter is, as a nation, we have hidden behind the red herrings of "violent video games" (they play the same video games in Canada, Japan, and Spain and yet....go ahead, look up the statistics....) and Second Ammendment and the NRA.

The Second Ammendment says, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Come on people. What does that mean to us now? 

The arguments I'm hearing are that individuals should have the right to own fire arms to protect themselves. That is not part of "security of a free state." I'm gonna call it like it is here: IF YOU THINK ANY GUNS YOU OWN LEGALLY WILL PROTECT YOU FROM THE 'STATE' YOU ARE WHACK JOB CRAZY AND SHOULD BE LOCKED AWAY.  The 'state' owns nuclear weapons. The 'state' took out bin Laden. If the state wants to come to your exotically named cul-de-sac and take away your weapons, the state is going to do it. 

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I once wrote,  "Pray all you want, but when times are tough, drop off a casserole, too."

Of course those of you who believe in prayer should be praying for the victims and their families. 

But how disrespectful of their lives is it to let this kind of crap happen over and over and over and over and over again without doing something about it? Yes, let's get better access to mental health treatment. Let's not force any more parents and others to watch their mentally ill loved ones be refused treatment and become "ticking time bombs" as this blogger seems to be saying. 

Certainly, let's make our schools safer. (However, as an aside, my Feral Third recently pointed out that there is no way to escape from his school once in it if a lock-down all those students hidden in closets in in NewTown, my son would be a sitting duck in his classroom should a shooter come in. Very smart, well trained teachers did incredibly brave things--and died doing it--last week...but there was no way out and that's how my own son's school is designed. What if a bomb goes off or there's a fire in a hallway or some cray-cray sicko is going down the hallway tossing grenades into classrooms? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get the hell OUT of a window or something and not be in the classroom?  Just a thought my 12 year old had. The analogy used to be "school as prison;" now it's "school as death trap.")

We must talk. We must talk now. I'm certain we can talk and grieve. 

Or are we going to continuously be stuck in a situation that requires us to be grieving. 

We must change the way we, as USAmericans confront these issues. We must tell the NRA to back the hell down. No one hunts with a hand gun unless they are hunting people. Your right to defend your home should end at your right to purchase a state of the art alarm and lock down system.

No longer should my kid be wondering how he'd get out of his school if there was a shooting and he had the time to escape. 

No more families should send kids to school, or watch relatives leave for the mall, or go to a press conference and then have them murdered by a gun-toting-crazy.

If we shut up and grieve, we are going to have more innocents killed.

Soon. Could be tomorrow. Not every crazy with legally procured weapons out there are going to be caught today.

So, start talking. And don't tell me to shut up and grieve.  I'm sure those teachers killed Friday would be saying, "Use your words. For the love of all that is sane, use your words."