The other day (okay, a few weeks ago), I was working out at the gym, taking a break between sets during an intense leg workout. Well, let’s be honest. It was a leg workout, made intense by the fact that it involved work.
I don’t know what triggered the thought, but as I finished taking a sip from my water bottle, I remember thinking to myself,
“If a shooter were to walk in right now and start shooting up this place, would I have anywhere to hide? Where is the emergency exit? Do I know how to play dead?”
Not so bizarre. Not anymore.
I find myself thinking about those things more and more these days. I don’t think it’s hubris – I’ve never been one to be paranoid about protecting my life. I will jump on a trans-Atlantic flight, go on the most daredevil, heart-pounding roller-coaster and can go on a passionate carbohydrate binge that would have me banned from South Beach forever.
When I was in elementary school, we did fire and safety drills all the time. Every year, the firemen would come in and reiterate the same message about how the real dangers of fire were not in the flames, initially, but in the fumes.
“Stop! Drop! And ROLL!” We were taught and we would have to demonstrate one by one that we knew how to do the roll.
“Roll away from the smoke!” The firemen would indicate where the fake smoke was coming from.
And we would have to get on the floor and roll down the hallway or the pavement, with our arms pressed against our sides.
And now I wonder if I am supposed to be teaching my children how to play, “Stop. Drop. And play dead” instead.
I watched the news the day of the Newtown shooting from my office. When I first saw word of the gun shooting online, it had estimated two dead. When I was leaving the office to grab lunch and passed by the TV, my heart dropped when I saw the revised numbers.
A few of my colleagues were standing with me and one of them said, “Yeah, just watch the gun control freaks have a field day with this one.”
My idea of field day is quite different than anything I saw in the news that day or in the following weeks about what happened in Newtown. See, having a field day involves doing things like a 50 yard dash or playing tug of war. Jumping towards a finish line in a potato sack.
It doesn’t involve children being slaughtered to death.
“It’s not guns that kill people!” my co-worker explained. “People kill people.”
Yeah. No shit, Sherlock. People kill people. Usually with guns.
Of course there are other weapons and other means to kill. But that doesn’t mean that anything has the power of an assault weapon of the caliber used in Newtown.
So call me a freak. But first call me an American.
I am an American. Born and raised on this soil, I am proud of my country. I’m a patriot. I love my country. Like most things I love, like my husband, my children, my family, my friends and even myself – I love my country, not with the false belief that it is perfect. I am under no illusions that my country is perfect.
A blind love is never a healthy love, you see.
Being a patriot to this country is not just in honoring those who fight in the name of this country. It’s not standing with a hand on my heart during the pledge or even the fact that I often cry during the National Anthem.
Being a patriot to this country also means acknowledging the imperfections that tarnish the soil that we love. It means acknowledging that what was done to the Native Americans in a quest to drive them away from their homes was a travesty. It means acknowledging the stains of our own intolerance in the Japanese internment camps that were a part of this land.
“This lands was made for you and me.” It’s a beautiful song. But it’s hardly one that we have always sung together.
Being an American patriot means acknowledging that slavery existed in this country even while the Founding Fathers were writing a document that we immortalize with reverence. There was a time when American fought against American in this land because of the difference in opinion that we could “own” the bodies of other men and women. Our fellow brothers and sisters. It means recognizing that segregation in this country existed until just a few decades ago.
So I’m an American. I love this country but I won’t ignore the flaws of our past and look at anything in our history or any document in our history as beyond questioning. As unquestionable or perfect in any way.
The Founding Fathers. They were mortals. They wrote the Constitution under the crushing pressure of trying to obtain freedom from England.
They were people who made mistakes. They were people who did not have a crystal ball. They were Renaissance men, the lot of them, yet they had no concept of things like the Industrial Revolution. They never imagined cars. They didn’t ever foresee large vessels that could fly across oceans in the air or do the same things in the deepest recesses of our oceans.
They never saw a television. They never saw a man walk on the moon. They never imagined the mass production and unethical means in which we would harvest our animals. They never had the internet. Or a phone. Or electricity.
They owned muskets. They had harpoons.
They never imagined gang wars. They never saw the technology that could create guns that could kill so many people so quickly. They never saw an AK-47 blow someone’s head off. They never imagined the number of civilian deaths, that would take place and grow each year on American soil.
I will tell you one thing. They never imagined Columbine. They never imagined Newtown.
“Don’t take away my Second Amendment freedoms!”
Settle down. First of all, let’s stop looking at this as religious scripture. And stop attacking anyone who asks if guns should not be better regulated in this country. Well, if the laws we have are not enforced, then we don’t need more laws. We need enforcement and we need laws that make sense.
I feel like we are sitting at a critical juncture as a country. There will be another shooting. There might be another Newtown. There is just a sense of when, how, where? that I feel smothers us like a blanket.
I just want to know why I feel like the moment I question better regulation, people feel like their rights to own guns are being threatened? Hey, nobody’s saying you can’t hunt. Nobody’s saying you can’t own guns for self-defense. Heck, keep your arsenal for your hypothetical militia.
We have a problem here. An epidemic, if you will. Why is proper licensing of guns not considered acceptable? Why are more stringent licensing practices not being issued?
I keep hearing, “Well people will get guns without licenses!”
Probably. But it will be illegal and they should be penalized under the law. A person cannot legally drive in this country without getting a license. It doesn’t mean that people aren’t driving illegally every day. But that’s no excuse to stop overseeing it.
And why do we do that? Why do we require driver’s licenses? Because we like waiting online at the DMV? Because we like the way we look in the pictures? Does anyone actually like to go through the process of car inspections, vehicle registrations and wasting half a day at the DMV. Every stupid year? For every vehicle you own?
No. It’s a goddamn pain in the ass is what it is. But you do it. And it makes sense.
We do it because we know the power we hold behind the wheel. We know that we can kill, we can destroy, we can maim if we don’t know what we’re doing.
So why then? Why, why would we allow people to own guns without the appropriate training? Without appropriate documentation of what guns are where? And if it’s because we are going to talk about the people needing a way to raise a militia against the government, the people who are raging about wanting to have a right to raise a militia are usually the people I would NEVER want to see raise a militia.
That’s right. You people scare me.
I don’t know what will happen if I am at that gym in a middle of a workout and a gunman comes in raging. I haven’t thought through that yet. But I know that I think about my children every day. And my friends’ children. And my neighbors’ children.
And I’m not ready to teach them to stop, drop and play dead.
Something needs to change.
ETA: (From Jill) I’m grateful for the (mostly) intelligent dialoge here. This piece was posted in the comments, but I wanted to bring attention to it. If the blog post didn’t convince you that we need to act, maybe this will. Warning: It’s gut wrenching.