Tuesday, December 18, 2012

If Not Now, When?

I had a different post written. About ethics in nonfiction. I'd like to publish that post some day. I'm sure I will. But not today.

Because as much as we debate and discuss what is the best way for our children to learn, the best way for us to write for children, what constitutes nonfiction, how angry it makes me when people play fast and loose with the facts, all of that is moot if unstable people are able to have easy access to guns.

What good is it to create books for children, to teach them, to care so much, if people in power are too cowardly and bull-headed, too self-interested about their own political futures and too caught up in rhetoric, to legislate wisely to protect children? To protect all of us?

I don't have the words to talk about the calamity in Newtown, CT, in a way that will make the (mostly) men in power change the laws in this country. I don't have the perfect way of describing how angry I feel about the fact that it is really difficult for many mentally ill people to get good treatment and really easy for people in most states in our nation to get guns. Guns not for hunting, or killing the odd rabid raccoon on your land, but guns for murdering people.

People I've been writing with and talking with since Friday understand legislation better than I do. They understand guns and gun laws and gerrymandering and all the reasons why there is more regulation in automobile safety (which is of course a good thing to have) than in the purchase of guns. They understand that in some states it takes a month to get a gun while in a neighboring state you can walk into Walmart and buy one.  (I really like what Nicholas Kristoff had to say the other day in "Do We Have the Courage To Stop This?") 

There is no reason why there should be so many guns in this country--250,000,000 plus. There is no reason why there are so many guns that are easily concealable. Guns that you don't have to reload so you can murder people in movie theaters and children coloring at their first-grade tables. There is no reason. Don't give me the right to bear arms. Don't give me the argument that you want to defend yourself. A gun in your home is more likely to kill you or someone you love than an intruder. Don't give me that.

Give me a country like most of the other civilized countries in the world where people recognize that guns kill innocent people. Give me a country where we put health and safety first, where we put love first, where we put children first. (I really like what Gail Collins had to say about finding the best in our country again in "Looking for America." 

I did a school visit in Newtown, CT, in April, 2010. Not at Sandy Hook, but at the Catholic school a mile and a half away, St. Rose of Lima. It was a good day, really nice people, though there were a couple of snafus (on my part), funny things that happened that I liked to tell people about afterwards. Now all I can think about is those kids I met, their lovely parents and teachers, and how they've been touched by unspeakable tragedy. 

So many people I know are one degree away from this tragedy. 

But aren't we all?  

There's a Mr. Rogers quote that's been making the rounds. Have you seen it? Here it is, from this site, in case you haven't:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Let's be those helpers, folks. Let's demand better gun legislation. Let's demand that it be REALLY HARD to get access to guns. Let's demand that the kinds of guns that are created only to murder people are BANNED. Let's demand EASY access to health care, including mental health care. Let's talk about other ways that we can make our country safe for children, for all of us. Let's work together to tell the grown-ups what children already know: guns are bad. And: grown-ups are supposed to protect children. Are supposed to be ABLE to protect children. 

Let's be those people that children look at and say, Those are the helpers. Those are the caring people in the world. 

If not now, when? 


Susan E. Goodman said...

Here, here. One thing I think we can all easily do is to sign the petitions circulating the Internet to our local reps and to the White House. I find this kind of citizen generated politics encouraging. Pols do pay attention to these, although we all know it's very hard to drown out the voice of the gun lobby.

Marfe Ferguson Delano said...

Amen, and amen, Deborah. I'm doing a school visit at an elementary school near Baltimore this afternoon, and I pray for the strength to hold myself together as I look out on the all beautiful young faces today. Earlier this morning I wrote both of my U.S. senators (from Virginia) urging them to support tough gun control legislation, including banning assault weapons, restricting gun show and internet sales, limiting magazine size and ammunition purchases, and requiring more reliable background checks. Let's all do this, let's make our voices louder than the NRA and the gun manufacturers they represent. Let's be helpers.

Loretta Ellsworth said...

Deborah, thanks for voicing what so many of us think and feel about this tragedy. Now is the time to act - this isn't a problem that is going to go away like the NRA thinks it will with the passage of time, and we must make politicians listen to us.

Peggy T said...

Thanks for coming out and saying what so many people are feeling. How can gun enthusiasts put their own perverted pleasure above the safety of their fellow man, woman and child?
I want a ban on guns that are designed to kill humans. We should all want that.

Myra Zarnowski said...

Last night I spoke with the teachers in my graduate class about how they and their students are dealing with this tragedy. Heartfelt stories came pouring out about dealing with children's questions and even lack of knowledge about what happened. While teachers felt supported by their principals, it became evident that there were many different messages and procedures being followed. Many parents, it seems, kept their children home yesterday. We have never felt this anxious in schools. As a teacher reminded me, our students are growing up in a world of violence. I am worried.

Susan Kuklin said...

Yes, please sign petitions, call, and write individual congress people. I also think it is time to march - in every city, town, and hamlet. We need huge bodies of people marching in protest of what I consider a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment. March the way we did for civil rights, for women's rights, and the against the Vietnam war. The time is now.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JoAnn Early Macken said...

Yes, and thank you, and above all, let us not let the subject be dropped until it's resolved.

Gretchen Woelfle said...

I love your mother's comment, "Look for the helpers."

daphne grab said...

great points beautifully made! and love the advice of Mr. Roger's mom- no wonder he turned into such a lovely man with a mom like that- thanks for sharing it!

Susan Kuklin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tahir sumar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.