I wrote and originally posted the below on December 14, 2012, after reading the news of the Sandy Hook massacre. It's nearly five years later, and damn it, what's different? Well, I no longer get my news from Facebook. And that feels like about it.
I suppose *I* am different. I am more civically engaged. I volunteer a lot more, partly because it's the only thing I have found that combats the feeling of powerlessness to heal a world that is trying so hard to change and yet, at every turn, seems to be its own worst enemy. I engage with my local government. I am not sure what more I can do. And that feeling of powerlessness? It's still there, and it still sucks.
The vagueness of the below post is upsettingly prescient I titled it, "Some Thoughts on All This Horrible Stuff That Happened Today That I Just Had to Write Down But It Was Too Long For Facebook."
How many more times will I feel compelled to repost this article? Please, Lord, let it be none.
Dec 14, 2012
A couple thoughts:
When I was in high school, I got to take a trip to Germany. During my trip, my peers and I spent some time at a German high school, and one day, toward the end of our trip, we went to a few different classes and answered questions about America. A boy's hand shot up: "Is it true," the boy asked, "that everyone in America has a gun?" We told him no, lots of people don't have guns.
"But you can get one when you are 18? And it's very easy."
We didn't really know. I remember we asked among ourselves, "Do you have to be 18? Yeah, I think it's pretty easy..." We were 16-year-old suburbanites. This was post-Columbine. We probably should have known. But, even in our ignorance, the significance of the question, and the fact that it was, for at least one kid, a defining trait of Americanness, was not lost on us. Some of the kids in the class were surprised by our answer as to the ease and prevalence of firearms in our country; some were probably scared, some excited. But they all, every one of those teenagers, thought it was weird.
But back to today. It is so strange to me that I've become one of those people who gets her news reports from Facebook. Blame grad school and not having a TV, I guess. Stranger still is that, even with only FB as a news-getting tool, I don't miss a whole lot. Especially when something really great happens. Or something really, really bad.
We are a reactionary people. Maybe it's because our country is so large and diverse, but in order for change to take place, it seems like we need hard proof that things are broken. I wish, for the sake of families that lost loved ones today, that we could be more proactive.
At the same time, it would be nice if we could hold off on politicizing every tragedy our nation faces, out of a moment of respect for the grieving. But we can't help it. When something terrible happens, we want to fix it. One way to fix a problem is through legislation. Another is through education. Some Americans prefer the government to stay out of their business, and that makes sense. But when a problem becomes a plague, an epidemic, and talking about it or putting band aids on it isn't working, I think it's time for legislation to step in.
I know this is vague, but this is not a news story. And I think this logic applies pretty well to lots of things in our country: gun control laws, sure, but also mental health care, the impossibility of a one-income household which keeps many parents away from their kids, sloppy national discourse, 21st century isolation-based anxiety, 24-hour news cycles and fear mongering, the list goes on... But another thing about this big, busy, diverse country: we have strength to make an impact, but we lose momentum fast. That goes for me and blog-post writing too. So, I don't know what we're supposed to do now - start a petition? Sign a petition? Call our congressmen? - but I know we need to do it. Soon.