Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Here We Are

Ten years ago, I added Toni Morrison’s words to my photo of bleeding heart vine. The words captured my emotions in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. The flower?  Well, all of our hearts were bleeding.

Ten years later, here we are . . . again . . . and sadly, we are all too familiar with the routine from the people who are actually in a position to do something but who openly choose not to.

I’ve heard many people say they have no words to describe what is a regular occurrence in this country. Well, I have words — plenty of them, as you can only imagine.

The nation and families are still mourning the victims of the Buffalo, NY, supermarket shooting, and here we are again — mourning the murder of children in school. On top of this are the victims of gun violence who don’t make the news, the ones who are killed on a daily and nightly basis, the ones who don’t get their own theme music on the news and hashtag-insert location-strong paraphernalia.

Thoughts and prayers aren’t working. We all know it. It’s said so often — a throwaway line — that the phrase is watered down, a cliche. We need action and policy and change . . . but where to begin?

I’m not an expert on policy and law, but . . . How about creating a national gun policy? How about closing gun ownership loopholes? How about reining in gun shows and online purchases of ammo and gear? How about getting lobbyists and corporate money out of politics? How about holding our elected officials accountable and voting them out for failing to protect our collective right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? (Note: I haven’t mentioned one thing about taking away Second Amendment rights.)

I don’t want to be (nor do I want you to be) a sitting duck in a shooting arcade . . . or a church, supermarket, school, movie theater, cafeteria, military base — the list goes on.

I also don’t want us to be numb. When future shootings happen — and they wilI, perhaps tomorrow, maybe next week — I don’t want us to shrug and say, “What can you do? It happens.” That’s the equivalent of stepping over the bodies and the carnage to get on with our own lives.

We cannot and should not get on with our lives when so many — too  many — will never be able to.

When I worked in a school, we practiced regular lockdown drills and instructions on what to do in the event of an active shooter in the building. Close and lock the door, shut off the lights, pull down the window shades, help students make a barricade against the door, huddle with the students in a corner. (Note: Books about two mommies, two daddies, addressing different family structures, and using the word “gay” does not cause trauma in children. Witnessing the shooting deaths of their friends and teachers, and then stepping over their bodies, does.)

When I worked in the nursery of a national box store, employees received regular training on what to do in case of an active shooter. These are lessons I carry with me whenever I’m anywhere — be aware of the exits so I can run to safety; if I’m trapped, find a safe hiding place; if my safe place is in danger, what can I use to defend myself and fight back.

This is not a normal way to live. This should never be a normal way to live. Yet, here we are.

I’m sorry for this rant, but I’m tired. We’re all tired. I’m tired of writing letters to and calling my senators, representatives, and governor. I’m tired of their canned responses and carefully crafted words and their inability and/or unwillingness to actually do what they were elected to do. I’m tired of them doing whatever the highest donors request. I’m tired of them focusing on divisive politics, while ignoring the very real-life problems that are impacting all of us every single day. (Note: I’m also tired that taking away a woman’s health choice has a higher priority than the massacre of living, breathing children.)

We need each other. We need each other. We need each other — because there may/will come a day when we find ourselves standing near one another at restaurant or in a mall, when a gunman walks in and starts shooting. When this happens, we’re going to look at one another, grab one another’s hand, and run to safety or find a hiding place until law enforcement arrives. If the shooter enters our hiding place, we are going to fight back . . . together.

No offense, but this is not how I want to meet you. There are so many other, more pleasant ways I’d like to meet you . . . in your garden or a nursery, at a flower show or botanical garden, here in the blogging world or there on the street.

Again, I apologize for the rant and for sounding defeatist and cynical — but I’m disgusted. I’m sad. I’m angry.

How much longer do we ignore the idea that we are all expendable, that we are collateral damage so politicians can continue to fund their campaigns with dollars from the gun lobby? How many more people have to die? How many more times do we experience a tragedy and offer the same do-nothing response? If that’s not an idiocracy, I don’t know what is.

So, here we are. Again.

Please, keep yourselves and your loved ones safe — and please vote. It’s the only weapon we have.

36 thoughts on “Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Here We Are

  1. Kevin, please do not apologize for ranting. Ranting at such horror that continues to plague our country is fully justified.

    Just this morning after hearing the news, I thought why not close Congress and the Supreme Court and task decisions directly to the citizens of America. Our elected officials are too often motivated by ego and greed, and are not public servants; they do not represent their constituency.

    Let the people vote every November on issues concerning gun violence, women’s right to choose, and the plethora of other issues that plague our country. Our elected officials no longer represent what Americans want America to be.

    When I mentioned this to a friend who is very active politically, she explained how long it takes to get the slightest changes done even on the local level of government .

    I’m sure I am not alone when I hear of another shooting, mass murder, or the supreme court overreaching … and I am deeply saddened, to the core, about America.

    If our founding fathers were alive today I’m sure they would take immediate action in altering the constitution . As it stands the constitution no longer serves America.

    • Hello Diane… I only apologized because I write a gardening blog, and these days it serves as a refuge from the stuff in the outside world. In fact, that’s a big reason I now avoid news — to hide from the horrors. Sometimes, though, cracks appear and those real-world nightmares slip into my head and onto this blog. I’m not sure if our problems can be fixed by returning the power to the people. That power has already resulted in electing some of the beauties currently in office, as well as belief in conspiracies and disinformation. In my opinion, one of the biggest things is to get big money out of politics. These so-called public servants work for us, not the wishes and whims of the biggest donors. I’ve often fantasized about collecting gobs of money from friends and neighbors and making sizable donation to my Senator and say, “Now that we have you in our pocket, we need your signature on a few pieces of legislation that we’ve crafted.” This is what it feels like it’s come to. Hang in there.

  2. I am so sorry for all the lost lives and I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a country where everyone can buy a gun. I would be terrified – and so are you, I understand.
    We Danes wonder why abortion is not allowed in the seventh week, but one can buy guns and shoot the children when they turn seven. And young people can buy guns but not beers. Strange.
    I really hope that you and your fellow Americans can change the world to a better place.
    Keep fighting and stay safe too. Lisbeth

    • Lisbeth,
      America is completely out of control and the crazies are running rampant. As an American, I do vote but find that does little to change government. So much anger, hate, and disregard…the American ship is listing, is adrift, and I am not hopeful it will right itself. Perhaps younger generations will take the helm and make this country whole again. Diane

      • Hi Diane
        Thank you for your reply. I am sorry to hear how you are experiencing it. I often think that it must be difficult with only two (real) parties to vote for. It’s hard to get the nuances and make consensus decisions that way. You’re either or, and I imagine that can divide the population in sad ways. But I ask you to keep voting – it’s the only way as it is now. I’m glad to know that there are actually Americans (including you) who realize the problems. This is the first step towards change.
        The world without a healthy and strong America will suffer.
        Greetings Lisbeth

      • Lisbeths… there are many of us. Some polls suggest an overwhelming majority who think the same way. Sadly, we have a government that is constant campaign mode, and large corporations and political groups (such as the National Rifle Association) donate huge sums of money to buy politicians to do their bidding. Very sad and corrupt.

      • Hi Diane
        The very short version is here: In our last elections, there were 10 parties to vote for. After the election, the leader of the largest party is tasked with creating a majority government. At the moment we have a minority government, which has three supporting parties, so together they have a majority. However, bills are put to a vote in the whole parliament and everyone from the 10 parties can vote according to their convictions (but the ruling party can (usually) count on its support parties).
        Sometimes the government also passes laws (only) with the help of the opposition. The most important thing is to find a solution/law that benefits as many people as possible. Negotiation skills are important.
        REGARDING WEAPONS, it is not allowed to own any firearm in this country. Exceptions are of course military and police. However, the police do not carry weapons on a daily basis. Only on special assignments. (Hunters can acquire a rifle after a hunting test, but it must be locked in a special cabinet, unless you are hunting.)
        I hope that gave you an understanding of at bit of our system. You probably think it sounds strange.

      • Thank you Lisbeth. Best of all is your law that no citizen can own a gun. No citizen anywhere in the world needs to own an assault weapon…these were designed for war and I am not sure how they got into the hands of common people and madmen.

        Often, in recent years, I wish I lived in another country. The US is less and less a place of peace. Yet at this stage of life, a huge move is out of the question.

        I feel powerless to change the government here, although I have voted all my life. Diane

      • You’re welcome, Diane. It works perfect without guns, and I can understand why you sometimes dream of moving. I also understand why you don’t. It’s not easy and I guess I wouldn’t myself.
        Stay safe and keep voting for you, US, me and the rest of the world. Lisbeth

      • Hi Diane. It’s so funny you mention the younger generations. Once upon a time, that was me. I believe I was 18 when the Line Aid concert was aired — a global concert to raise awareness and collect money to end hunger. It was inspiring and gave me hope that my generation would make things better. Here we are. Many of the greatest offenders in government are of my generation, and all I can ask is, “What happened to them????” What happened to us?

    • Hello Lisbeths… There are so many Americans who wonder the same things. There are days when it feels as if the seams of the nation are unraveling. Right now, the only weapon is our vote.

      • Hello Kevin. It’s very reassuring to hear that so many of you are thinking like you are. It can be hard to see here in Europe, where we hear about school shootings and NRA, for example, and watched Trump with despair. We need a strong alliance with the US to create a safe world.
        I hope one day ‘someone’ manages to change your system so the majority rules.
        Thank you for being there – and your friends. Lisbeth

  3. Dearest Kevin.
    Once again, I find myself crying over your words. Once again, my heart is breaking for parents who will never hug their children, or see them graduate ot get married. When will it end? I wish I had an answer. Alas, I don’t. I send you love and hugs.
    Aunt Pat

  4. Kevin, as usual, well said! Remembering those drills we had & trying to impress on our young students the importance of each. Your heart is as beautiful as your flowers. Sending hugs!
    Mary Ann K

    • Hi Mary Ann. Thank you. I cannot forget those drills. Many times, I would be in my office with a single student or grabbing kids from the hallway to get them into my room — and my thought was, “I am responsible for you. I must protect you.” This isn’t normal — accept for those people who live in a war zone. Is that what we’ve become?

  5. I don’t see your words as a rant, Kevin, but necessary words that everyone needs to read. Yesterday I heard Ted Cruz shouting about the need for having only one door in a school so that it can be guarded effectively. This horrifies me: that his answer to this terrible problem is to barricade children indoors. I can’t begin to imagine how the problem can be fixed, but I believe there’s more to it than just having millions of guns floating around in society. There seems to be a whole culture around the use of firearms.

    Some people can have guns in Australia, but a special licence is needed and I think it would be fair to say that most people don’t have one. It isn’t allowed to have one for protection and certain categories of firearms are completely banned to the general public. It wouldn’t be right to say we don’t have any issues here, but most shootings are either by criminals or police.

    • Hello Jane… yes, our Ted Cruz… When the Columbine school shooting happened in 1999, the district where I worked immediately began devising safety precautions, such as one door to enter the building and lockdown and stay-in-place drills. It was unnerving, but the drills were as regular as fire drills. Our biggest obstacle here is the amount of money in our politics, donated by political and special interest groups, corporations, and billionaires. They own our politicians, so there is very little incentive for politicians to do the bidding of their constituents. The other problem is that each state has its own gun laws. The result is a hodgepodge of regulations for a national problem. New York, for example, is very strict; Florida & Texas, not so much. While thoughts and prayers are offered, citizens are literally sitting ducks in a shooting gallery — you never know when it will be your turn while at the supermarket, church, school, etc. — not to mention the run-of-the-mill shootings. Not a day goes by when there isn’t news (if it makes the news) of a shooting death. So many of our young people live in war zones on a daily basis. It’s all tragic — and there are times when the screaming in my head has to come out in written form. Thanks for listening.

  6. Thank you for yet again addressing this too-frequent assault on innocence.
    And thanks for listening to me, too.

    Parents of slaughtered students don’t want our thoughts and prayers:
    they want to have seen their kids grow up.

    Spouses of murdered teachers don’t want our moment of silence:
    they want their life parters to grow old with.

    The public, hearing of yet another mass school shooting, doesn’t want flags at half mast for the week:
    they want common sense gun control laws preventing such affronts to
    life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    So why would any elected official oppose common sense laws ensuring the most basic rights
    of democracy?

    • Dear Cathey — so beautifully said. As you know, I have many of these same thoughts — and I have to wonder if lawmakers think — when they’re alone, when they’re at the dinner table with their spouse & children, when they have a moment to access the deep recesses of their minds — if they truly believe the rhetoric they spout… if they feel the same way as so many of us do and if they’re frustrated that their thoughts and words and actions are held captive by NRA funding and their wanting to hold onto their positions of power. It’s a terrifying thought — and my hope is, like Scrooge, they will be haunted by the ghosts of slaughtered innocents until they find the courage to do something.

  7. Kevin, Sometimes I find it very difficult to be an American. I can’t understand why some people who claim to support the right to life only seem to be worried about the right of children to life before they are born, and I am alarmed by the uptick in gun violence — even here in sleepy Maine. Last week, a toddler was killed in the crossfire when her father and his younger brother got into a fight because one was wearing a t-shirt belonging to the other! I am struggling to understand how anger over a t-shirt worn without permission can be seen as a reason to bring out a gun. Of course, one of the things that many of these incidents have in common is the access to deadly weapons of teenage boys whose prefrontal lobes have not yet fully developed and who have notoriously bad judgement.

    • Jean, I completely agree and I also wrestle with these same thoughts. There was a recent report of CBS Sunday Morning that addressed the slick marketing of the AR manufacturer. Ads geared to lonely men looking to rev up their masculinity was one tactic — the other, even more disturbing, was the marketing agreement with the video game, Call of Duty. Game makers were able to depict the company’s weapons, including the AR-15, in the shoot ’em up game, and the hand controls could recreate the sensation of firing the actual weapon. I wonder & worry about disconnected youth, locked in their rooms, immersed in a world of violence — all paid for by their parents. What have we done?

  8. I was out of town last Tuesday, Kevin, but knew you’d find a way to express sorrow, bewilderment and frustration that would help put words to the unimaginable, I was with my son and his family when the news broke, and I watched my daughter-in-law struggle, and then admit that she just had to go get my grandson out of his preschool and bring him home. Later when she asked, “How am I ever going to be ready to send him to school?,” I didn’t have an encouraging word, that’s certain. I couldn’t agree more with all that you’ve shared from. your heart. Thank you!

    • Dear Debra… I feel for you and your family and anyone who has children in school or works in a school. I also feel for all of us — at any moment, anyone of us — as we go about our days at the supermarket, at the fast food place, at the church bazaar — can find ourselves in the crosshairs. It’s an actual game of Russian roulette — and we are all the targets. It’s terrifying — and to think the vast majority of Americans, across political and socioeconomic and all other lines want the same thing, but our leaders do nothing. I look at the speed at which other countries addressed a single mass shooting — and here we sit, more than 20 years after Columbine and we’re still having the same argument and response. My only hope is that this nation wakes up and flocks to the polls in November. Enough is enough… how many times have we said that? Stay safe in your part of the world.

      • I hope we vote accordingly, too, en masse, and I try to remain hopeful. I agree with you about other countries. I really was amazed to see how quickly Trudeau responded and Canadians didn’t need to go marching in the streets! I was in the market earlier today, and while standing in line I made a conscious effort to look around the area and observe the entrance and exit. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. 😦

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