Today I Became a Protester

An old high school friend of mine saw the news this week about how Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will now require students to wear clear backpacks and an ID badge. Despite this being a solution tossed out by the superintendent who purportedly is a gun control advocate, the students were not impressed with the decision as a means to combat gun violence.

My friend called these kids “snowflakes”. He went on further to say they have no idea what they are talking about because they are just kids, “you don’t always get what you want,”, and how “that’s life” regarding how the students want to take away the gun rights he’s had his entire life but now their rights to carry their own book bag are being infringed. How they are whining when some freedoms of theirs are being taken away even though that’s exactly what they want to do to him.

Somewhere along the way we lost that “inalienable right to life” concept from the Declaration of Independence, but I digress.

This was an online post, of course. I was shocked and disappointed.

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked. He seems absolutely hellbent on protecting his rights, the 2nd amendment right he’s had his entire life, to own all kinds of weapons, and I suspect semi-automatic weapons are among them. He says he doesn’t feel too strongly about too many things but this is one of them, and he will not change his opinion.

Now, a lot of folks from my hometown are hunters, and I get that. I don’t know whether this friend is. It doesn’t sound like he is. It sounds like he is amassing weapons just to have them.

Forgive me but it sounds like he is compensating for something missing in his life. I didn’t tell him that (because oooh boy!), but when I hear about people who aren’t hunters and don’t have Fort Knox to protect, I come to the conclusion they are compensating for something or they have some serious anger issues they may want to resolve by pulling a trigger. Otherwise it’s a giant waste of money. And since it probably isn’t a waste of money….people buy these weapons to use them, so I’m predictably leery of people like this.

Makes me want to rethink who’s in my circle o’ friends. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. But then I get into that whole inside-my-head-argument that it takes all types to make the world go ’round, and do I really only want to be friends with people exactly like me, because what fun would that be?

Except I don’t really find guns to be fun, if ya know what I mean.

And set aside for a moment that I realize there isn’t anyone exactly like me. I’m a bit of an oddball, but I’m cool with that. I’ve had a long time to get comfortable with that realization. I’m cool being me. But that means I need to be open-hearted and accept people for who they are since so few are going to think and act like me.

The thing is, this guy seems like a decent human being. A patriot. A family man. Admits to mistakes…which is cool because we all make them but he’s a big enough man to own up to them. Seems to me he always tries to do the right thing. He’s a hard worker. Seriously: he seems like a decent human so I wrote to him to express my point of view as follows:

I understand you’re upset.  Bear with me on a couple of things as I explain my position.

First I found your use of the words “snowflake” and “you don’t always get what you want” to be sneeringly disrespectful of these kids, which is something I didn’t expect from you. These “snowflakes” as you called them were shot at, which gives them every right to speak against gun violence. Full stop.

Secondly, nobody is making a pawn of these kids. They are stepping up themselves. Again, getting shot at gives them the right to speak if they wish, and so they are. They are providing a level of leadership our politicians are unable to summon.

Third, I don’t have the energy to find the article, but very early on after the shooting, I read an article which explained how in the world the students at this school are so amazingly articulate about this topic. Bear with me as I’m gonna get the details wrong, but I guess a group of them were on a debate team or they were specifically studying gun laws and school shootings before it happened. So they happen to have facts at hand which makes me these MSD students particularly prepared to discuss this topic, unlike many HS kids. I don’t even know if these are the specific MSD HS students we’re seeing often on the news but this school emphasizes critical thinking, so you’re seeing the product of their education.

Fourth, I agree with them that your ability to own an assault rifle of any kind does not outweigh anyone’s right to life. There is no good purpose to own an assault weapon other than to kill as many people as possible in a single moment. Prove to me otherwise.

Fifth, I have yet to hear anyone on the left say “ban all weapons” or “abolish the 2nd amendment”. But to do nothing, absolutely nothing, is saying you’re ok with things as they are. I am willing to engage in discussion that identifies a number of changes that are needed, and sensible changes to gun laws are among them.

Sixth, I think plastic book bags are a ridiculous band-aid for a mortal wound.

Seventh (yes, I know seven points is obnoxious but let me run with it!), the Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

Love you man… Don’t dismiss the kids…it makes you sound like a grumpy old man…and you’ll be destined to be that for a long time. Engage in the discussion like a wise advisor so we can get somewhere sensible but DIFFERENT about how this is managed. We can do it, together.

[Drops mic]. lol

All of this was met with a response by a friend of his, a one word post that I can’t tell whether it was directed at me or the MSD HS kids: “Snowflake.”

Seriously. That again? That’s deaf. Heartless.

How will we get anywhere if this is the nature of the exchange?

Growing up our family didn’t own guns. I never sensed there was a need. We lived in this little hamlet of maybe 50 families nestled among a couple of hills with Route 40 and a creek running parallel as the south border. My Dad was the strongest man I knew but he didn’t need a gun to protect us or fuel an overgrown sense of machismo. All he had to do was look at you. Silently. Mission accomplished. You were scared of him. The funny thing is, he had a soft heart deep inside.

That was 40-50 years ago. We live in some crazy times today.

When my boys were younger, they’d grab their Nerf guns, aim them at my husband and me, and pretend to blow us to smithereens. My husband and I would joke around with them, “We’re DOVES, not HAWKS! What are you doing????” and then fall down in a fit of giggles.

Nowadays, my husband and I seriously wonder if it’s time to start packing some heat in the homestead. Because, you know….people are acting like there’s a permanent full moon going on outside.

jerry-kiesewetter-234311-unsplashFast forward to this morning. I’m 50 years old and participated in my first protest. Such a crazy, liberal hippie, aren’t I?

I walked with others in my community for the March For Our Lives, organized by these MSD high school kids and held all around the world in solidarity. My husband and oldest are out of town so I had to bring my two youngest with me, elementary school agers, but we parked the car in our town square and walked around it holding signs.

I’m sure there are people who think I was using my kids as pawns but my kids understood why we were there. The youngest doesn’t understand why people can just walk into a school and kill children. He told me how happy he was that the laws were changing. I had to explain that it hadn’t happened yet. He couldn’t understand why anyone would be against this idea.

I can tell you both my kids looked at me with their giant brown eyes in surprise as I chanted, “Enough is enough.” Other times I silently held my sign high and looked every single driver in the eye as they passed our square in their cars. I bore a hole through them with the most serious face I could muster. I have a pretty bad-ass serious face, if I say so myself.

Some folks honked and gave a thumbs up. Some men in their monster trucks shook their heads in disgust. Others just stared straight ahead. Deaf. Blind. Blissfully hanging in la la land.

Did you know there was a group called Mothers Demand Action? Did you know this group existed and was formed after Sandy Hook?

Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a woman named Shannon Watts decided she had had enough. She had had enough. I heard her being interviewed on Stay Tuned with Preet (Preet Bharara’s podcast) a few weeks back and was intrigued by what I learned.

Since I’ve never been a gun owner, nor am I ever around guns, I will admit that I don’t know that much about them. Wanna know how little I know? Met a guy named Ruger and thought, “Huh, that’s unusual. Wonder if it’s a family name…”

My husband set me straight so I could promptly facepalm.

No, I don’t know enough but I will learn. I will have the statistics at my fingertips when I vote this fall. I cannot watch this country do nothing. I’ll be damned if one my kids dies on my watch while I sit and do nothing. I won’t let it happen to your kids either. I will be the change that is needed in the world, like Ghandi advised, even if I am just a wee baby when it comes to protesting.

I have had enough.

I have had enough of watching our children die. The horror of Columbine 19 years ago was dizzying. The incredulous circumstances of Sandy Hook 5 years ago (ALREADY!) are mind-boggling. We’ve done nothing. My God….we did nothing when first graders were slaughtered. Are we sleepwalking??? I guess we all thought we could trust our politicians to do something. Nothing has happened. The NRA has our congressmen by the balls.

I have had enough. Vote those SOBs out of office. Sensible people are a larger and stronger force than the NRA and the cowards in office. Maybe the the politicians who feel as we do didn’t feel we have their backs. I mean, I get it. Crazy people with semi-automatic weapons don’t exactly like the people in charge of taking them away. This could get violent, which is precisely what we don’t want to happen, but other countries were able to make the transition. Are we strong enough to do it too?

I couldn’t tell you how many of us were there today…maybe 100? 150? 200 might be pushing it. There was one guy with a sign that said “gun control doesn’t work”. One guy. As I walked by him I calmly announced how gun control has been proven to work in other countries and it can work here. I was pleased that for the 150 of us there was only one guy counter-protesting. Made me feel pretty good about our odds.

Speaking of my high school friend, he has argued that if we take away AR-15s, when will it stop? Where do we draw the line? He has a point. However I’d like to know: when the gun violence will stop? Where do we draw the line?

I’ll tell you where we’re drawing it. Here. Now. We’ll get it right, or at least we’ll be moving in the right direction.

Enough already. How many children have to die?

First Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash
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