A letter to every person in the United States,
I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. Our children are dying and we’re wasting time. My kids are asking questions about their safety. My husband, who works in the news business is stressed out beyond reasonable capacity, and all I keep asking myself is “how can I fix it?” Because really, thoughts and prayers only go so far.
I don’t know about you, but I’m angry. My Facebook news feed is full of argument when it should be full of solution. The latest that has me fuming is the debate about the accuracy of the actual number of school shootings. Is it 18, or is it not? That all depends on how the data is presented. You know what WHO CARES?? Who cares, because guess what? ONE IS TOO MANY. One. And because most of us have the ability to be reasonable, I ask you to stop obsessing over this tidbit, because it doesn’t matter (because one is too many, lest we forget) - and obsess over helping contribute to the solution.
I don't know about you, but I'm sad. Judgement of others without knowing one thing about them is sad. I think that’s really what burns me up the most. Our society is so quick to judge and jump to conclusions. Because I like to think I’m an objective person, I’m not offering judgement or scorn, yes, I’m angry but that’s because no one has provided a solution. So as far as I can tell, if we spent more time on what actually matters like working together to find a solution rather than finger pointing, blaming and judging - our energy wouldn’t be wasted on the bad, it would be contributing toward something good.
My job is to help people. So naturally that’s what I want to do in situations like this. I want to understand the issues and find a way to help, to be part of the solution. The epidemic of shootings in our country is unfathomable everywhere else in the world, and yet, when it has happened in other places, they’ve been able to find a solution.
There are a lot of issues surrounding shootings but as I see it, three of them keep popping up in conversation. Gun control, mental health and bad parenting. Let’s break it down.
Gun control - First and foremost, gun owners, no one is trying to take your precious guns away from you. As someone who had a police officer for a father, I was raised around guns. I’ve used them and I’m actually a decent shot. I can see why someone would be interested in owning guns. I cannot see why someone would be interested in owning a banned assault weapon. The gun laws in this country are antiquated. They need revision. We need better vetting processes. So how about we stop kowtowing to the NRA and we start putting our loved ones first? I mean, I don’t actually know anyone in the NRA personally (or maybe I do and just don’t know it), but the people I know, who are gun owners, are not afraid of some checks and balances being introduced. Oh, and my loved ones are way more important than the NRA. I mean, the NRA isn’t paying my mortgage or putting food on my table or celebrating at my kid’s birthday parties, so I have no use for them. We need better laws. Period.
Mental health - This is a big issue that instead of being addressed is being defunded by our government. I’m confused. I mean, if the government is not interested in gun reform, and they keep blaming shooting incidences on mental health, then why on God’s green earth would they defund mental health programs? Head scratcher. Here’s the thing, mental health is a thing and it can be addressed quite simply if you ask me. How about this - how about instead of being afraid of someone with a mental health issue, we try to understand it? How about we start including them in the conversation? How about instead of telling our kids to stay away from the “weirdos” (I’ve actually seen this happen), we tell them to be kind to them? I’m not saying we all have to be besties, but making an effort to help another human being is a good place to start. NONE of us knows what others are going through. We have to learn how to be better at practicing grace. By offering our compassion and kindness and making an effort to better understand mental health issues I bet lives could be saved.
Bad parenting - This is my favorite because I have a lot to say here. Again, I’m going to state that no one knows what happens behind closed doors, unless you are actually behind the door. Parenting is hard enough. I’m willing to bet one hundred percent of us don’t know every single thing our children are doing. I bet one hundred percent of us don’t know every person our children interact with on a regular basis. I bet one hundred percent of us don’t know what is going on in our children’s heads. We can try, sure, but we will never know all of it. Ever. So hear me out on this. A mother calls the police on her own son, and nothing is done about it. And then, that very same mother later dies, leaving her son in a fragile emotional state. While I do know what it’s like to lose a parent, I was not an unstable child when it happened, and that was hard enough. So now we have a child of questionable mental health with no parents to care for him living with family friends. I can appreciate him being taken in, that’s selfless on the friends part, and for that I say thank you. I imagine the family that took him in was doing their best to include him while also trying to give him his space. I don't have the answer, it's a difficult position.
Most of us work really hard to provide and care for our children. To encourage them, protect them and be active in their lives. Some of us don’t have the luxury of all of that, which makes me cry just thinking about it. Some of us have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, therefore sacrificing time with our children. We have to rely on others for help. We have to put basic needs like food and housing before the emotional needs of our children. That’s wrong.
Instead of blaming the parents how about we find a way to help them. Perhaps parents with some time on their hands could find a few hours a week to organize a community outreach program. Perhaps local law enforcement could create a program for troubled youth that is productive. Perhaps you can work with your neighbors to find a solution that’s right for your area. Boys and girls clubs, YMCA’s, Big Brother/Big Sister organizations all exist for mentoring and companionship. Stop pointing fingers and start working on a solution.
And don’t say “it’s not my kid, it’s not my problem” because that statement is exactly part of the problem. Take a good look around you, be grateful for what you have and that your children are still alive, and find a way to be part of the solution.
Look how easy that was! Instead of me writing a letter blaming everyone and everything for the problems, I’ve managed to offer up some suggestions to help. I’m just as frustrated as you are. I cry every time I see one of the victim’s beautiful faces. I hug my children tighter. I anger at the fights happening on social media. And so I will work to help find resolutions. I will with my local educators to bring discussion to schools, to our children, to let them know they’re loved and appreciated. I will make it a priority in my already over extended life because humanity is my priority. I hope you will at least consider it too.