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We Have to Be Enough

I had planned to work on an entry about the evolution (more like de-evolution) of my office space since my writing career began, but nineteen children and two teachers were murdered two days ago and their senseless deaths, the terror they must’ve felt in their final moments, the information coming in fits and starts about how police did/did not respond, and the expected yet still somehow categorically stunning reluctance of many lawmakers to do something about gun access is all I can think about.

All I can think about – like that isn’t huge, isn’t soul crushing weight. It SHOULD be all any of us can think about.

I just read about Irma Garcia’s husband passing away today from a massive heart attack, effectively orphaning their four children. I imagine his terror as that pain struck – an invisible bullet – another shot fired by the 18-year-old who gunned down his wife and the mother of his children. You cannot tell me her murder did not directly result in his death, too.

Maybe part of the fault lies in the fact that we all look around at each other and assume those we’re in the company of are somehow better equipped, more of an expert, would know what to do – that in our best moments, we assume the best in each other, that we will rise, that we will respond. How do you prepare for something like that – when the shooter probably grew up doing active shooter drills and had a working knowledge of procedure.

And we – over and over again – want to believe that the worst, the very very worst, is somehow still rare, something we yearn to treat with surprise when it rears its head once more. This is not rare. Ten people walked into a grocery store ten days before and never made it home. How many people in this country have been shot and killed in the interim?

I tweeted a few thoughts about how car ownership and gun ownership could be easily treated similarly. You can read the twitter thread here, but here's the gist: license (which you have to earn through a year of permitted training and several tests) and insurance (which can be denied for history of violence, DUI, generally shitty decision making in terms of safety, etc.) were required to buy ANY gun, and that AR type guns required a commercial permit (if they were available for private purchase at all) in the same way that big rigs require a commercial driver's license and steeper insurance to operate. An 18-wheeler can do a hell of a lot more damage in the wrong hands than a Honda Civic.

Sidebar: If an 18-year-old has been deemed not ready to buy an alcoholic beverage, why the fuck can an 18-year-old buy an AR-15, let alone two in the same week?

The morning after the massacre at Uvalde, I readied my three kids for a Wednesday at their elementary school, but I didn’t want to. I didn’t want them to go. But I didn’t want them to be scared. But I am so scared. Aren’t you? I sat at home and tried to work, but mostly I hunted information about Uvalde, felt sick as witness accounts detailed waiting outside, begging police to go in, all the while listening to gun fire. I cannot imagine the rage, the shock, the helplessness, when those we want to believe are the best of us are complicit with the worst.

What we tolerate, even in silence, we condone.

My kids have two weeks left of school, and I will struggle each morning with the decision of whether or not to send them. I will look for any sign that maybe today they should just stay with me. The curriculum is pretty well over for the year – it’s mostly review and fun stuff from here to the end. But then there’s next year, and the year after that. I was a sophomore at Decatur High School when Columbine happened. We’ve done nothing toward gun reform since then. And shootings aren’t limited to schools or places with more than one door (looking at you, Ted Cruz.) Churches, grocery stores, road rage, sidewalks, movie theaters, concerts… Am I going to keep my children on my little farm until the day they turn 18? And then what?

There will never be a number high enough to finally qualify as “enough” dead. From Sandy Hook to Route 91, carnage turns stomachs but not hearts when it comes to money or power. The pressure will have to come from the living. But where the hell does that leave me – a “small fish” writer and mom of three in rural southern Oregon? The world beyond my gate feels so big and so small, so close and so far away, all at the same time. I would like to think that had I been at Uvalde on Tuesday, I would’ve forced my way in, broken through a window, been ready and willing to take a bullet if it meant saving the life of a child. But now, in the aftermath, there’s no one to save within arm’s reach. We have to turn our focus to saving the next kids at a school or patrons at a grocery store we don’t yet know the name of but is destined to become a hashtag from a shooter we’ve never met. The one thing – the ONLY thing – we can control in this scenario is how easily that future shooter can access the gun they’ll use.

Those people - those children - they have no idea they're next, and they need us. We have no choice but to be enough, to be fed up enough, angry enough, loud enough, persistent enough, intolerant enough, willing enough to demand gun control reform right now, and to vote out anyone who stands in our way of saving the next group of strangers. It sickens me to recognize that there will be people who try to stand in the way of such a thing.

We have to decide we've had enough and that we are enough exactly as we are. If we are to stand a chance of saving the life of whoever will be next, we have no other choice.


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