I’m sitting in the safety of my kitchen with my four children. I am relieved that the oldest three have arrived home safely from another day at school when I learn that someone, or a couple of someones, are shooting up a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino. My baby is on the floor, happily chewing away at her Little People Nativity Set, the donkey now covered in a shiny coating of her drool.
And I’m keeping a smile on my face, handing out the after-school snacks, but inside I’m wondering, will they make it to adulthood? Will I see them grow up? Maybe I’ll manage to keep them safe enough to get to college, only to be gunned down by yet another disenchanted soul who feels the need to drag others into death along with himself. I have lived a pretty good life, and I know that children get over the loss of a parent; after all, I did. I’ve managed to make it two years more than my own mother. If it were me who got shot up at the mall, or Target, or church, or a concert, they’d eventually be OK. I know this. At this point, that knowledge is the only thing that gets me out of the house most days.
I grew up in a different time. I rode in the front seat, happily bobbing atop the armrest while my uncle who’d had a few martinis swerved us back home. I roller-skated without a helmet, I breathed in copious amounts of secondhand smoke. I left the house for hours with no way of letting my parents know if I’d fallen, let alone if someone had grabbed me and thrown me in the back of a van.
My children’s car seats could survive a nuclear holocaust. I don’t think they’ve ever seen a cigarette. They resemble the Goodyear Tire mascot when they dare to ride their bicycles as I stand five feet away from them at all times, and I have just started letting the oldest one be out of my line of sight for a few minutes at a time.
But none of that matters, really, because what I can’t do anything about is the fact that I live in a place where bullets are flying on a daily basis. They can install checkpoints, and lock doors, and put up all the security cameras in the world, but the fact remains: the men with the guns are getting in. The men with the bombs are setting them off. The men on the planes are ramming them into buildings.
I don’t have any answers. The old white men on my television keep chanting their mantras about guns not being the problem, but none of them seem to know what the problem is if it isn’t guns. Some of them tell me it’s religion. Others say it’s drugs. Some of them tell me I should be more afraid of the government.
But I’m not afraid of the government. I’m a simple girl, so maybe I’m not seeing it clearly, but I’m afraid of the guns. I’m afraid of the men with the guns, and the bombs, and the planes. I’m afraid of the people who tell me that fewer guns isn’t the answer, but more guns are. Someone needs to explain this to me. Someone needs to lay it out for me, I guess.
My baby is now trying to hand me the angel that she’s popped off the stable of her Nativity set. She’s crawling across the floor, flashing me her excited grin, and I’m smiling back at her little squishy face, consumed with envy of her relative comfort. She doesn’t know about men with guns, or bombs, or planes, and I am wracking my brain wondering how I make sure she never will.