I am writing this column on Dec. 14, 2012, but it will not be published for a few more weeks, so I apologize if reading this opens new wounds that began to heal after watching the news today.
My heart is aching. It actually hurts within the confines of my chest. I am confused. I am angry. I am overwhelmingly sad. I feel guilty.
I feel guilty because this evening I got to hug my children and watch them sleep, while families mourned the loss of theirs. My son is in kindergarten. Why did this happen? How does a person get to this point? What is wrong with our society?
All questions many of you may have asked and are still asking. The social media lit up like fireworks with prayers, outrage, and debates on gun control and school safety. Friends vowed to home-school their children, while others fiercely defended their own kids when the shooter was said to have some form of autism. Quotes from many of our world leaders were cut and pasted onto candle photos or black and white pictures of children holding hands.
One quote that rang for me was one from Fred “Mister” Rogers, that wonderful man who taught kids valuable life lessons in the Land of Make Believe. The person everyone wanted as a neighbor, and desperately need as a role model for being a true neighbor. His words stuck with me:
“ When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Do not lose hope. There is still good in this world. Even when we are exposed to the darkest of evils, and today was painfully dark, there is light. There are people helping others. People physically lifting up the wounded and fallen. People praying, collecting, and donating for those in need. People crying and asking why so that change can be made.
Make no mistake, change needs to be made.
I stepped away from this piece for a week and during that time three major debates have come to the forefront: gun control, religion in school, and help for those with mental health issues. The first, to me, is a no brainer. Ban these massive assault rifles. Why does an everyday American need one? If your answer is, “Because it’s my right as an American” then I call BS. I am not saying take away your right to bear arms. I am stating take away your right to owning guns that serve no purpose but to kill large numbers of other human beings as fast as possible.
As far as I understand, you don’t use those types of guns to hunt deer; If you do, then I believe you should just rely on Harris Teeter.
In regard to having God back in school, this is not as simple as it sounds. Take a look around you. Not everyone worships the same God. Forcing children, whose families do not worship within the Christian faith, to pray to Jesus is like forcing a Christian to celebrate Hanukah. It’s a waste of energy. One thing most religions do have in common is the belief in being a good person, treating others kindly. Now, that can be done within our schools without having to bring in a specific religion. Teaching our children to be accepting of one another, no matter our differences, is the most important lesson they can learn. That could actually help in preventing more tragedies related to bullying. Watch yourself and how you act around your kids. Do you gossip about neighbors? Do you make fun of people on TV? Be more aware. Not only more aware of yourself, but of how your children are acting towards you and other people, which brings me to the last debate – mental health.
If there is one thing I have focused on most since this happened it’s the news on the shooter’s mental state. Autism has been brought up, even though it’s a physical, not mental, condition. More precisely, it’s a neurodevelopmental disorder. Nonetheless, it sends a panic, not only through parents whose children go to school with autistic children, but parents of autistic children. Their kids are being labeled as unstable time bombs in the news.
It’s not OK.
Our nation needs to get a grip on the fact that sometimes the brain does not work the way it should and people need to take medications to help. If the doctor told you to take Lipitor because your cholesterol was so high you would die, you would take it. You wouldn’t say, “Oh, well, thanks for the advice, but seeing as I don’t want to be seen as weak, I think I’ll take my chances.” The brain is a complex organ and thanks to modern medicine, there are way to correct any imbalances that may be occurring, whether it’s because of an accident, or because it’s hereditary. There is no shame in needing medical help and it should be covered by all insurance companies because without our brains, what are we?
That is when things get scary.
If you made it to the end of my column, I want to say thank you for reading. This is something that I needed to write and get out there. You may think I’m a bleeding heart liberal, and you would not be too far from the truth. Just know that my words stem from more than politics. My heart is bleeding for so many other reasons, 28 other reasons to be exact, and I will keep fighting to find common ground so we can all heal and start to cultivate a country our children can live in with pride and without fear.
Beth writes from her home in between diaper changes and snack requests. She lives with her husband and four small children. Read more of her writing at thellamasdrama.blogspot.com.