By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
As a humor columnist, my job would be easier if I stopped reading and watching the news. Some weeks aren’t funny. This is one of them.
I almost turned off news coverage of the El Paso and Dayton shootings yesterday because a reporter was talking about one of the young victims – a 15-year-old boy. With my own 15-year-old son sleeping safely in the next room, it was too easy to imagine the parents’ pain – the complete devastation brought down on them.
I decided not to turn it off or change the channel. Having lost my brother 18 years ago to sudden death, I remember how scared I was that the world might forget that he’d lived and that he mattered. So, I left the news on while they talked about 15-year-old Javier, who was a happy kid who loved to play soccer and Xbox and was always laughing. He was looking for school supplies when he was gunned down at Walmart.
I listened because his family wants the world to know that he lived and he mattered. One of the hardest parts of a loss comes in the days and months after the funeral, when you realize that people eventually go back to their normal routine. The world keeps turning even though your personal world has fallen apart. It feels like an insult to an already grievous injury.
Turning off this kind of news coverage would be easier, but a deep wound doesn’t cease to exist just because we look away from it. If we pretend it’s not there, I’m afraid our entire country will suffer from a spreading infection of apathy.
We’re standing by as our sense of public safety hemorrhages – figuratively and literally – while we argue about what to do.
Regardless of where you come down on the issue of gun control, I would hope that after three mass shootings in a row we can at least agree on the overwhelming need for action. Not a “national conversation.” Not political handwringing. Not mean-spirited debates between Facebook users. We need action. Javier and all the victims of mass shootings in America deserve it.
Politicians will say gun violence is a complicated issue (and it is) and that no one solution will fix it completely (and it won’t). But if a critically ill patient was on the table and doctors didn’t completely understand the exact causes of her complicated disease, they wouldn’t stand around doing nothing while she suffered and died. They’d try every lifesaving measure they could in hopes that one of them would help. Even a small step forward is progress. And maybe it buys us enough time to find answers and save a life.
The words I keep yelling inside my head this week are simple: Try something. Try anything. Try everything. Try! What will it say about us as a nation if we don’t? Since when do Americans back down from a tough challenge?
One thing I learned after my brother’s sudden death is that loss changes your entire perspective. Once you’ve experienced it, you never forget how precarious your present good fortune is. You’re keenly aware of how it can all change in the next minute or with the next phone call. The truth is that the next person gunned down in the bread aisle at the grocery store could be me or you, my kid or yours.
In addition to praying for Javier’s family and all the other families, I hope we’ll also pray for and demand action from our leaders. I pray they’ll be strong enough to try. Try anything. Try everything.
Do it not only for those our country has lost but also for those left behind who will forever carry a deep emotional wound. They need to know we’re doing something. They need to know we realize that their loved ones lived, and they mattered. They still do. They always will.