The self-care ritual of advocacy and my own feelings on guns in America
Let’s imagine for a second (bear with me):
You see through the news (whether via TV, social media, or any other number of ways) that there is yet another shooting at a school (yeah almost expected and unfortunately we are a bit desensitized to it). Now let’s also, for the sake of argument, say you have children that are in the same school level or within a couple of years of the victims who were murdered through this senseless gun violence.
Heart feeling broken yet?
Okay, now let’s say the next day you have to drop your child off at school or usher them onto the bus (this is even before you can even find the words to describe what happened to this innocent child).
I can imagine my scenario feels all too real to many parents across the country as they went to bed Monday night knowing they would have to drop their child off at school following yet another school shooting. This time at a private Christian School in Nashville, TN.
Three children and three staff/administrators were killed, and now we parents, hoping our schools are safe, are trusting that it won’t happen to our children.
HOW AM I (ARE WE) SUPPOSED TO FEEL ABOUT THIS?
What does self-care look like?
As you know in my ramblings on self-care, sometimes you have to get creative and think beyond the box to consider what self-care looks like for us. This is very much a situation that raises the anxiety and stress of parents throughout our society, and we must find a way to cope.
Parents who experience loss in these situations have a huge hole in their lives that will never be filled again in the way it was before. Parents around the country hug their little ones a little tighter hoping they are not the next victims. We pray fervently (often even those who do not profess a faith that has prayer as a primary communication method with the divine) that our kids will return home safely.
As the parent of an elementary school student, each day of the week I drop my child off at school and I have to trust that for the next 6 hours, he will be completely safe from all forms of violence (both from inside and outside). In the aftermath of the Uvalde, TX shooting last year, I remember having a panic attack (my first real bad one in quite a few years) dropping my son off at school the next day (following the shooting). The only thing my mind and body would allow me to do is to go back to my house and both grieve and contemplate how I could feel comfortable sending my child to a seemingly dangerous place.
*To be clear I do trust my son’s school, but there is always that lingering thought that sneaks in after these tragic incidents.
Now I sit here writing and contemplating the same feelings in the aftermath of another school shooting where children, not much older than mine, were shot and killed. As I dropped my kid off at school one day I notice the flag was at half-staff, and knowing the reason made it even weirder that in looking at the flag I was being called to remember a tragic killing at an elementary school while dropping my child off at an elementary school.
My question is:
Why do we keep allowing these incidents to happen?
Why can’t we protect our children in a place that is so vital to their growth and development?
Why, as a society, do we seem to care more about banning books (or even music and art), regulating uncomfortable curricula, or restricting the diverse manners of people who can even interact with our children and still not find a way for them to protect them from getting shot while trying to learn?
At this point, the statistics have been exhausted and I feel they don’t need to be rehashed yet again. However, as I scroll through Instagram and Twitter and see the outcry against guns, I know that we have missed the mark as a society by glorifying and even idolizing the nature of firearms in American society. Even in responding to these shootings, people interject that we should just “throw more guns at the situation” (i.e. arm teachers or make guns more accessible so that the good people have guns).
To be clear, I don’t think outright throwing away all guns will solve our problems. I understand that guns could have a place in a society that does not fetishize them. However, in the midst of an era of more mass shootings than days in a year, we must name that at some level
GUNS ARE THE PROBLEM!!!
Feel free to disagree with me…I don’t care, but I am tired of children dying. Actually, I am tired of ALL the reports of gun-related deaths, whether related to mass shootings, murder, suicide, etc.
Try to tell me that the ease of access to firearms, lack of training, or states approving laws that make all of this easier, are not contributing factors to all of this. Basically, we have a lack of COMMON SENSE gun control. I say common sense because many of the mass shootings that have occurred (to be clear not all but many of them) could have been prevented by common sense gun control (universal background checks, mental health checks prior to purchasing or owning firearms, mandatory safety courses for gun owners, red flag laws to help make sure people who are at risk don’t have ready access to firearms, even sensible laws on how guns and ammo should be stored).
Americans own more guns per capita than any other nation. The number one danger for children is GUNS, and many politicians send thoughts and prayers after events like the one this past week in Nashville. I dare you to look at the landscape of America and tell me how more guns would solve any of the problems we have.
You may be wondering what this has to do with “self-care.”
Maybe nothing, but to me everything, because to me there will always be an underlying anxiety as long as there is such ease for someone to access a firearm and come onto a school campus and even target children. Yes, we can argue mental health advocacy, but at the end of the day, we also need to connect that to meaningful gun legislation (also with the state of health care in this country, I would argue we can’t even meaningfully address mental health care yet).
I would posit that advocacy can be a form of self-care.
Our advocacy can be a form of creating a world that cares for our mental and emotional state.
We can be passionate about things when we notice they affect our health, and often advocacy can be a way to make our voices known on how we are feeling. While it does rely on elected officials actually listening to the voices of their constituents, I think there is something to making our voices heard (in a healthy manner that is).
What does this look like?
I think it starts by contacting your elected officials and letting them know your feelings on certain issues you feel create injustice in your community. As a pastor, I would hope that none of these feelings would ever lead to violence, but I think protesting with communities of people around us can provide comfort as well in the midst of these feelings.
It can get heated, but only because humans are emotional beings and we are driven by our emotions.
I get so angry at the sight or knowledge of injustice.
I want to solve it, but I know my limited capacity.
I hope I can give my all to help right wrongs, to make this society a safer and more loving place for my children to live in.
Advocacy can give us a platform to express our feelings and make known what we think is wrong.
I think guns are a huge problem in this country and I don’t think putting more guns in the hands of Americans is going to solve the problem.
You can disagree with me, but here is the anxiety and stress I have dropping my kids off at school (again my child’s teacher being armed doesn’t make me feel better…neither do more police in schools).
This is my self-care advocacy to both help folks understand how important this sort of expression can be, and my own advocacy to help end this senseless violence in this country before another massacre can take place.