Growing up in California, it was natural for schools to prepare students for earthquakes, fires, and El Niño floods. These were things beyond the control of any administration, in school, or within the White House. You can’t control nature, but you can know how to survive this kind of disaster.
And then came Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and just today, my alma mater, California State University Northridge, had a scare of their own.
Nature is a secondary fear. I laugh at the trembles that roll beneath my feet. On Red Flag Days, I close the windows. What I am scared most of are people. People: humans we think we can overpower, but in reality, they are as unpredictable as the weather.
Our institutions don’t have metal detectors or pat downs. I don’t have dogs sniffing for guns. I have one, small room with one door. A telephone. A desk in the corner. I have spent hours training for this seemingly naturalized manmade disaster.
Every semester, I survey the room for possible escape plans. Do you think I prepare for my students to drop to the floor and crawl beneath their desks for the next Northridge Quake? No. I hear bullets. I think of a person, probably a man, entering our room with a gun. Who can my body small protect? I hope enough.
I am scared of my students. Of your students, too. I am terrified of your children. I don’t blame you, parents. They’ve grown up in an age of entitlement, specifically over weapons, over guns. They’ve grown up in an age of fear. Trust no one. Trust no white, brown, black, yellow, or red man. Trust no man at all. They need them. They need the fucking guns to take someone’s life because we reserve the right to protect our pride.
Is that what is really at the core of this argument: American Pride?
In Freedom Writers, a movie based on the story of Erin Gruwell and her attempt to use words and history to help at-risk youths understand tolerance, a student exclaims they are in a modern war–––gangs against gangs. Gangs against police. White against black. To those at-risk youths, killing someone will make them a hero to their cause. Erin Gruwell, depicted by Hillary Swank, angrily quips:
“You know what’s gonna happen when you die? You’re gonna rot in the ground, and people are going to go on living, and they’re going to forget all about you. And when you ROT, do you think it’s gonna matter whether you were an original gangsta? You’re dead, and nobody, NOBODY, is gonna want to remember you, because all you left in the world is this.”
But the problem is: that’s all the media remembers. We remember the selfish man who took those lives. His picture haunts the media, our minds. We forget the victims who rot in the ground, far too young.
It’s too soon, you say. But it isn’t. Your prayers cannot revive the dead. Your thoughts are meaningless if you are not thinking ahead. If you, politicians, legislators, and gun holders value the quality of life, and the possibility of the future, you must be sincere in what you write.
We need to move forward with an amendment that will keep us safe. An amendment that keeps your guns off of the street and in the home. An amendment that educates us about our history, and why it needed amending in the first place.
What we don’t need is a discussion about Republicans and Democrats. This is also not a discussion that should reinforce the stigmatization of mental illness. The discourse surrounding the Second Amendment should be just that: about gun control.
Fewer guns out of the hands of civilians, off the streets, out of movie theaters, schools, churches, night clubs and concert venues would allow us to channel our energy on subjects that often get overshadowed by the violence.
Americans need to think of their citizens first. Not solely of their history. History is not a permanent state. We don’t learn about tragic historical events to repeat it or keep with tradition. We learn from it, to progress and to create a country that is truly free. Where an American citizen can walk the streets safely knowing their loved ones will come home.
If this argument is about your pride as an American, as a man, and you are afraid those labels will be taken from you, you are not truly for your country, but only for yourself. That’s not what being an American is. I ask you to look outside of yourself, from the eyes of a student in a closet, from a mother bent over her child’s casket. Don’t ask what Jesus would do; look to yourself and the people of your nation crying for change.