A Plea

Posted by on Dec 17, 2012 in Articles | 4 Comments

 

This is an essay from my friend Brenda Berry. I am sharing it here because I think it is important and beautifully written. Please indulge me and read it.

It’s past time for me to do another blog post, maybe one of those ubiquitous year-end lists, or something about photo highlights of 2012, but in light of the shootings in Connecticut it all feels silly or pointless right now. Like most of you, I am feeling gutted with sorrow and frustration. I can’t imagine a Christmas with presents wrapped and now forever waiting for a first grader who will never have the joy of opening them. A child, just barely past babyhood, shot for no reason, no reason at all.

Some say the best thing to do is to hug your own children, and certainly I will do that, but how do I hold my own without feeling the unspeakable pain of those mothers and fathers who’s children lives were cut short in the worst way possible? We shouldn’t feel lucky in our own particular good fortune, we should feel outrage that as a country we continue to allow this to occur over and over again. We should feel disbelief that a lack of political will and cowardice will ensure that mass shootings will continue to happen over and over again.

I don’t know about you, but I had a notice from my children’s school about how to talk to them about the tragedy – how to reassure them, and how to answer their inevitable questions. Really? There are no rational answers and no blanket reassurances to offer. As is often the case, our children are smarter than we are, and my own children’s questions were pointed and insightful.

My eighth grader, who is co-incidentally studying the constitution right now, wants to know how this “obvious misinterpretation of the second amendment freedom has been allowed to trump freedom of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. We talked about the term “arms”, and how 200 years ago the term meant arming a militia with single shot rifles or muskets, and how unlikely it was that the framers of our constitution meant for mentally disturbed young men to have easy access to military grade firearms.  My sixth grader wanted to know if “arms” might eventually be taken to mean hand grenades or  bombs, and if not, why not?  Would the adults in his world be smart enough to see the absurdity of allowing that, and if so, then what about assault weapons? My sixteen year old astutely observed that the same people who are so desperate to save the life of one unwanted embryo seem to care very little about what actually happens to most children once they are born.  Sure, someone tell me how to talk to my children about the complete moral failure of their parents and grandparents to set reasonable limits. Please, by all means tell me how to tell them that the reality of going to school, or the movies, or the mall, could mean death at the hands of random fate, and that is the price we pay for the so-called interpretation of the “right to bear arms”.

Have I ever personally shot a gun? As it turns out, yes I have. I enjoy skeet shooting, and sport shooting at clay and paper targets. I appreciate that sometimes hunting is a means to an end. I feel that with the proper training and safety procedures there can be a legitimate place for private ownership of guns.  However, I do not see why a weapon made for wartime – and the wholesale slaughter of human beings – should be easily available to the public. I will never understand the vocal NRA crowd for whom all weapons are sacrosanct, and the “right” to own them trumps the right to life, education, healthcare and public safety. Don’t give me the bullshit line, “guns don’t kill people, people do” – and if that is your stance, then fine, then let’s make it a little harder for the insane and violent people among us to get ahold of these weapons. And here is a really radical idea, let’s take care of the mentally ill and distraught people in our communities, those “people” most likely to use these weapons to take innocent lives as well as their own. It should be at least as difficult to acquire a firearm as it is to adopt a dog.

My fear? My fear is that we will all once again be very very sad for a very short period of time. That good people will shake their heads in sorrow and disbelief and finally when they can’t stand the pain anymore will turn off the TV, turn the page in the paper, and begin the active process of forgetting. We Americans have short memories, and our sense of futility overwhelms us. We are far beyond needing meaningful dialogue.  What we need are leaders who actually lead, and we desperately need President Obama to step up and become the leader we hoped for. Tears of compassion are fine, action is better.  Perhaps Elie Wiesel said it best, “ all that is needed for evil to flourish is that good people do nothing”. Let us not be those people.

When your children and grandchildren ask you why – why did you allow this to happen – and somewhere, once again, a mother screams in unbearable agony, “why… why…. why….”

in your heart, you should also ask yourself,

why, indeed.

 

4 Comments

  1. Bob Wildman
    December 19, 2012

    Brenda,
    Thanks so much for these thoughts. I am forwarding this to Mike and my daughter.

    Several thoughts related to my 40 years as a mental health therapist: Freud was 95% unscientific baloney but a part of the other 5% is that he characterized guns as phallic symbols.

    We are failing miserably in our care of the mentally ill. I talked to a former co-worker just last week. She works in a community mental health center (as in mucho public funding) and told me that therapist are now allowed to see only one self-pay client per week. Those who are often the most disturbed no longer have access to mental health resources.

    I have no objection to persons owning weapons for shooting wildlife. Assault weapons are for people hunting. Handguns, as in Sig Sauers and the like, are for person hunters. Persons who carry handguns are more likely to be shot than those who do not.

    Thanks for your comments. Sounds like you have some neat and perceptive kids.

    Bob

    • David
      December 19, 2012

      Thanks Bob,
      I will pass this on to Brenda. And you are a sweetie but I won’t tell anyone!

      d

  2. Rose Price
    December 28, 2012

    There’s plenty of blame to go around when our society continues to promote aggressive behavior in sports, and the media; and politicians are owned by corporations and special interests. Benjamin Franklin believed that all politicians should serve without pay of any kind!
    I’m with him. The founding fathers were dealing with a state of war in a frontier country not a sick society.
    In addition to Bob’s comment about the sorry state of our mental health system I would add that even if you’re fortunate to have insurance, the laws in Kentucky do more to protect the dangerously ill person’s freedom and prevent him/her from being identified and treated.
    I long for the days when we worked in a mental health system that did not require fees and patients could be committed to treatment for sixty days.
    I long for the days when politicians were “statesmen” and generally demonstrated integrity and moral fortitude in their lives.

  3. Melinda Eubel
    December 31, 2012

    Brenda and David,

    Brenda,
    Thanks for putting into words the frustration and worries that so many of us have. The scary, but true part, is the short memories this country has and how the next big news event can simply push this huge issue(shootings and mental health) on the back burner. We simply appear to become tolerant, throw up our hands, and move on.

    Your quote from Elie Wiesel is a mantra for many human inflicted tragedies in our world today, just as he personally experienced during the Holocaust. Yes….why indeed?

    How many more tragedies must we witness. What will we be able to reflect upon next New Year’s eve, more of the same reflections of human horros or a glimmer of hope for our future because our leaders took action, inspired and demanded by the good people who did something!

    David, Thanks for sharing this on your blog.

    Hope to see you both again at a future workshop.

    Melinda