It somehow seemed fitting that it was pouring rain in DC this morning. It felt like the tears of the country mourning the painful vote that took place in the Senate yesterday.There is no doubt this week has been rough. I’m one of those people who feels so deeply that I’m sometimes challenged to let go of what I hear on the news. I internalize what happens to others. I empathize to the point of feeling overwhelmed by grief. Over the past few days, I’ve been wrecked by the destructive intentions of a very sick person in Boston. And now, I’m crushed by a group of senators who chose to act out of fear—fear of losing monetary support and power—rather than compassion for the millions of victims of gun violence in our country. When given the opportunity to prevent dangerous individuals from acquiring firearms, they chose to line their own pockets. They banked on the money they will reap in NRA donations and they turned away from mourning families, a former colleague who was shot in the head, and what will surely be the certainty of the next time.
There is no doubt that something feels wrong with the world today. Broken. Irreparable even.
So many thought Newtown was the event that would be a turning point, and today, they are shaking their heads and saying, “I guess it wasn’t.” If you are one of them, please read on.
We cannot throw up our hands in defeat (though we may want to throw up). We cannot send that dejected, negative, hopeless energy out into the world. If we decide we have lost, we have. If we decide they have won, they have. It is natural to think that what happened on December 14th would have an equal and opposite reaction. Of course there would be sweeping gun legislation with overwhelming support that changed this issue from every angle. Of course. Background checks, assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, mental health, and the video game industry. Those expectations—those very logical expectations—are why today feels so shocking. But it’s vital to realize we are still on that path. And although Newtown didn’t lead to a clear finish line, it has taken us to the next step. What happened yesterday is part of our process—and the process is not linear.
In the weeks following mid-December, I noticed the visceral reaction I had while watching Wayne LaPierre speak. I was physically ill hearing him advocate for guns in schools. And more guns. And more guns. I feared he was spreading poisonous thoughts that the public would buy into. That somehow his influence would effectively move us further from logical next steps. At some point though, I realized (or at least decided) that every time he opened his mouth, it helped people like me. The crazy thoughts that spewed so naturally from LaPierre and NRA President David Keene caused an uprising. They spurred the formation of groups that are now followed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, who raised a ton of money in support of gun control legislation. So as the weeks passed, when I’d stumble on an interview with Mr. LaPierre or one of his cronies, I’d think, “Go ahead, open another can of crazy talk and let’s see what happens.” What happened yesterday was the largest can of crazy yet. And although we’ve been hit hard, this ain’t over. This movement will have more support, more awareness, and more money than before (thank you, Michael Bloomberg). It may take until November 2014, but to quote my former boss, “Things are gonna get interesting before they get dull.”
In response to the Boston bombing, comedian Patton Oswalt posted his thoughts on those responsible on Facebook. They included this: “The good outnumber you and we always will.” That’s how I choose to look at yesterday’s vote. Although the good were outnumbered yesterday, they won’t be forever. WE will find our way to Capitol Hill—with our votes, our money, our collective will—and make this right.
On the day of the Newtown tragedy, I'd heard the news but kept the radio off in order to shield my children from news reports. I tried to shift my energy, to act normal. As if the world was just fine when I felt an unprecedented vulnerability. Before our bath that night, my oldest daughter drew a picture of a large flower, sort of daisy-like. Above it, in sounded out spelling, she wrote, “Flowers bloom and trees grow. What a pretty sight.” I knew I would always remember that she drew it on the day that 20 children about her age didn’t come home from school. I felt grateful for her reminder. That we can choose to see beauty even when things seem very dark. A child’s instinct is to come from love. Not fear, not cynicism, not hopelessness. Even knowing what we know as adults, we can do that, too. Not to say we can’t feel anger, or passion that stems from the negative choices of others. But we can also find a faith rooted in what is beautiful and right.
Yesterday a group of elected officials ignored their responsibility to represent and protect their constituents. They kicked down a sign that asked for compassion and they trampled on a garden of fragile flowers. Out of fear they won't admit to, and power mongering, they ignored what they could have done to protect innocence and beauty. What they didn’t realize is that under the soil there are seedlings yet to push through the earth. Though our senators' choices have left a wake of scattered petals, there is life underneath that will undoubtedly rise up as the seasons pass.
On my morning run today, I listened to my breath, watched the rain fall, and chose to focus on the droplets falling from crimson and yellow tulips.
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