Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reflections: Where Do We Go From Here?

I'll never forget the moment I realized my dad was really gone. It was about a month or so after he had passed away. I was laying in my niece's twin bed in her room at my parent's house (I've stayed off and on with my mom since June).  It had just hit me that night-for whatever reason-and I still remember the chill I felt. He was not in the next room. Nor was he coming back. He wouldn't laugh at me as I would pirouette down the hall (don't ask. just something I would do sometimes). My dad wouldn't meet another one of my boyfriends that he didn't like. He and I wouldn't get into a spirited debate over politics, reality tv or my spending habits. That was it.

I've thought a lot since Friday, like many others, of the families in Newtown. They are saying their goodbyes to their loved ones; many of whom were only 6 years old. My dad lived a long, fulfilling life. And in some way, that has comforted us.  I just can't imagine what these parents are feeling. 6 years is the blink of an eye. When will it hit them that their children aren't coming back? I don't know. I just know that it takes awhile for it to sink in.  My prayer is that we are still supporting these families at that time the way we are now.

I have seen, in the last 5 days, many acts of kindness. Many inspired by the twitter #26Acts. As Americans, we have always rallied around tragedy. We triumph in the face of adversity. The cynical will point out that after 911 the kindness that prevailed soon returned back to the status quo.This senseless act has cut us to our core. For many reasons. People from all walks of life, who hold a variety of different beliefs, are united in grief and sense of responsibility to do better. To do more.

I don't pretend to know what the founding fathers really meant in the 2nd amendment. As a history major, I can tell you that I don't think it meant arming this nation so that whackjobs can gun down a school or mall. Or that they ever envisioned assault rifles in the hands of the common citizen with monster magazines.  I can only tell you that while the 2nd amendment is part of our Bill of Rights, it doesn't make it right that people manipulate this law to their liking. There are many laws people don't follow. We see this everyday. But mention the word "control" in regards to the 2nd amendment and it causes a slew of vitriol. I know this: something has to be done. The nation with the most guns in their population is the nation with the most gun violence. Simple math. It is our nation. It doesn't have to be.

I don't have the answer. I don't know that anyone does. But if something can be done to prevent another Newtown we as a nation have a responsibility to do so. I have thought about something else these last few days. The 2nd amendment is interpreted differently by many. And people cling to this amendment and point to it as their "God-given right" to bear arms. But, we also had laws that outlawed women and minorities from voting. We allowed SLAVERY. We had banned alcohol for a time period. That doesn't mean because it's in the Bill of Rights or Constitution that it's right or a good law. Look at our past history. We have a bevy of former laws that wouldn't be tolerated today. I'm not saying we need to ban guns. At all. However, it's time for a meaningful dialogue on SENSIBLE gun legislation and protocols. It's also the time to examine our approach to mental illness in this country. We stand on the cliff-not the fiscal cliff-but the cliff of change. We can move forward as a country or back and stay divided and continue major debates every time a tragedy like this happens. We as a nation owe it to the victims of Newtown and gun violence and mental illness to get it right this time. We owe it to the parents who will slowly realize that their children aren't coming back. We owe it to ourselves.

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