Monday, December 17, 2012


A few weeks ago, my 10-year-old daughter and I were caught in between the lines.

We were returning to her intermediate school after a doctor’s appointment, and confronted with armed Air Force security guards surrounding her school. One approached the truck and explained in a very calm, friendly fashion, “Ma’am, we’re in lockdown. You may take your child into the building, but once inside you will have to remain in a secured area.”

I was frustrated. I realized the lockdown was a drill, and that I was stuck on a busy day; not to mention the fact that I parked illegally, and I couldn’t afford another driving or parking violation with base security forces. I told myself they were too busy doing other things that day, and went inside.  Gabby was ushered off to her “secured” area. I in mine. That she was in any real danger, was unimaginable to me.

As I sat cloistered in a room, along with other caught parents, I never entertained the obvious — this was a training drill for real-life possibilities. I took it as being one more extraordinary USAF experience. The base drills for all sorts of scenarios. If you are on base, you become part of the drill, like it or not.

I didn’t hear about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, at first. With the time difference, and physical distance, there is a lapse.  So when I heard a report on the BBC later in the evening, it didn’t resonate, at first. It is hard to fathom the unfathomable.

Then, I came home to see the FB posts from friends stateside. The news began to take hold. I wondered whether, or not, I could muster the strength to seek the story on the internet.  Eventually, I did.

My children, have not seen nor heard much of this. For this small favor, I am grateful. I’m not sure whether they wondered why I hugged them more and snuggled longer with them at bedtime. 

Yesterday, I listened to some of the debate and commentary on gun control in the United States. I grew up with a father who hunted. I was taught the ins and outs of how to handle and shoot a rifle at a young age. I had a BB gun when I was 10. Guns were treated with a good dose of respect for their potential to harm. But it was about accidental harm, not intentional. No one in my immediate circle ever discussed or considered guns as weapons for human hurt.  They were tools for food gathering; for sport.

Even so, a dear family friend died from a gunshot wound to the chest. As a very young father of twins, it was a tragedy. He was cleaning a loaded gun inside his house, with is wife nearby. We all wondered how he made that mistake. We were all taught NEVER to have a loaded gun inside the house. Ours were secured and put away when not in use.

I don’t, however, understand why people feel the need to collect semi-automatic weapons. This, to me, is senseless. I cannot conjure any reason why the average person should have access to these. “Just because you can,” isn’t enough to my mind, though I understand the constitutional infringement.

So while we grieve, and we wonder about the second amendment, I turn my thoughts to my children, and then to all of our children. I think about our boys. All of these tragedies were at the hands of boys or very young men, whose parents seem as shocked as the rest of us.

What is happening to our boys?

Are we giving them the outlets they need to sort through their energies and emotions? Are we, alongside they, holed up inside our houses, isolated from the outside world to the extent that we’ve lost the ability to seek help or to see clearly the effects our current social norms are having on us collectively?

Are we structuring our children’s lives to the point of stifling their ability to blow off steam in their own constructive, active way?

Are we raising boys with respect for themselves, for others?

In a population the size of the United States, there are bound to be downfalls. But they are isolated. Or they were. This story is an impossibly grimmer version of one we’ve heard before, and all too recently.

Gun control is an obvious topic. Continuing to secure and to ensure our schools are safe environments for our children is of great concern. But what about the society that raised the person holding the gun? Is that worth our considerations?

"Sorrow makes us all children again - destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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