If I Carried a Gun


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I keep thinking about the idea of teachers carrying guns.

When the Newtown massacre happened, I was teaching fifth grade. Immediately after the horror of that day, the NRA and dozens of political leaders tossed out the idea of “arming teachers.”

Even now, five years after this stupidity was mentioned as an answer to school shootings, the idea continues to be thrown about.

There are so very many practical reasons why this is a completely idiotic idea, including impossibility of safely keeping a loaded gun in a room full of kids.

But one issue hasn’t been raised yet, and it is the biggest problem as far as I’m concerned.

It is the moral question of killing, even in defense of others.

What would happen to the spirit, the soul, the conscience of a teacher who successfully shot and killed another human being? How have so many come to believe that all there is to killing is pulling the trigger?

I was a pretty typical American public school teacher. I’m a mother, a wife, a grandmother. I loved my job because I loved being with children. I loved laughing with them, exciting their interests, forming relationships with each of them.

I have spent a lot of time imagining myself in an active shooter situation.

I try to imagine myself with a gun in my hand, knowing that my 24 students are cowering against the wall. Knowing that outside our door there is someone trying to kill us.

I imagine the door bursting open as I raise the gun, pulling the trigger, hitting the target.

I imagine the face of the young man in front of me exploding in a shower of blood and bone. I can hear the screams of the kids behind me as he collapses. I imagine watching him die in front of me.

What then?

What if he turned out to be a student I knew? Maybe one of the many struggling kids I had taught myself some years before? What if he was a former student at our school?

What if I knew his family?

Would I be expected to walk back into my classroom a day or a week later, ignoring the newly laid flooring where his brains and blood had damaged the carpet? Would I be expected to focus on my math lessons and recess and homework corrections?

What would I feel as I looked into the eyes of my young students? Students who had come to trust me? What would I be expected to say to them?

I would never be able to look at myself the same way. I’d never feel clean or whole again.

Oh, I know, the press would call me a hero, the survivors would cheer me, there would be articles in the paper and on and on.

But I would have been changed from a teacher to a killer. The very essence of my self would be smashed and reshaped into something unrecognizable to me or those who love me.

There may be times when it is reasonable to kill another human being outside of wartime. I don’t know.

But I do know that is deeply wrong for people to casually toss out the idea of “arming” civilians so that we can protect ourselves from each other.

It is morally wrong to lightly suggest that those who have not chosen to be members of the police or military could simply shoot to kill and then go back to teaching phonics.

I think we need to step back, away from the growing pile of weapons in front of us, and take a deep breath. We need to ask ourselves if we really believe that killing is anything other than a life changing, painful, horrific event for the killer.

Life is not a video game. None of us is Rambo. Causing the violent, ugly, bloody death of another human is not a joke. It’s not a part of life in civilized societies.

Where are our morals? What happened to our souls?

 

 

A Parable For Today


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Once there was a village. It was deep in the forest, in a place filled with trees and grasses and beautiful birds.

The people of the village worked hard, but they had a good life. There was enough food and there were safe places to sleep.

A stream ran through the village. It was clean and clear, but it was powerful, too. The people used the water to drink, to stay clean and to cool off on hot days. Every adult used the stream, and some of the kids learned to swim there.

As time went on, and the generations passed, the little village grew in size and prosperity. The settlement became a town, with paved roads and stores and groups of houses. The stream still ran through it, winding gently along the main street. Some people still used the water for everyday chores, although most people had plumbing in their houses by now.

The stream became a place for recreation and sport, but was no longer key to the survival of the townspeople. It was just a nice little relic of the past. A good place for picnics on hot summer days.

One day someone decided that it would be fun to dam up the water. He wanted to make a pool where people could not only fish, but also swim, dive and jump off the steep banks. It sounded like fun, and so it was done.

As the years passed, people got used to the pool and to the bigger, more powerful flow of water that moved through town below the dam. Some people used the pool but feared the faster stream. Some loved  all of the water and used it everyday.

Life went on.

A few more generations passed, and another water-user decided that it would be fun to narrow the flow of water below the dam. “It will go faster,” he thought, “It will have more power.” When he presented the idea to the townspeople, some told him that they thought the water was powerful enough already.

“We have water in our homes to drink and bathe. We have a pool for fun, and a quick running stream for excitement. Why would we need a more powerful flow of water?”

The water-user and his friends thought about this for a bit. They really wanted to play around with stronger, faster water. How could they convince people to let them have more a powerful water source to play with?

“I know!” said one water-user. “The water can protect us! If invaders come to our town, we can escape quickly on the fast moving stream!”

People are funny. Even though the town had never once been invaded in its entire history, the threat of war was enough to convince the leaders to invest in the narrower, stronger stream.

Little by little, year by year, the water-users of the town continued to work on the pool and the stream. Most people paid little attention to the changes that were made. They were busy with jobs and families and school and sports.

Slowly and steadily the water grew higher, faster and less controlled. It began to frighten people when two small children were swept to their deaths one winter evening. A few people suggested that it might be time to slow the water down. But many people enjoyed swimming in the pool, kayaking on the upper stream and even riding the white waters of the swift lower channel. So an argument broke out.

“Let’s not overreact,” they said. “We need the water for fun. And what would happen if the running water in our pipes ever stopped, or if dangerous invaders came through? We need our water! It’s our right to have this water!”

Heads nodded. Beards were stroked. Nothing was changed.

Every year that passed saw slight changes to the riverbed and the water’s flow.

And every year that passed saw more people dying from the increasingly powerful waters. At times of heavy rain, the lower stream would flood. Entire families were swept away, scooped right out of their beds by the raging torrent.

Now the people of the town began to complain to their leaders.

“We’re afraid of this water! It’s just too much. Something MUST be done!”

The leaders were confused, unsure of what to do. But the water-users offered to help.

“We know what to do” they said. “We will offer free swimming lessons to every person in town! We will sell fabulous water wings in the local stores.”

That quieted things down for a bit, and the demands to slow the water faded away. But not for long.

After a few more years,  the water-users had created waterfalls, rapids and even faster and narrower streams running through town.

“So much safety!!!” they cheered. “No invaders will ever be able to defeat us!”

Then one spring, without warning, the weather turned terrible and stormy. The rains fell for weeks on end. The waters in the pool rose ever higher. The stream below the dam became a raging, screaming whirlpool. Some people in town were terrified, but others found it exciting.

Exciting, that is, right up until the moment when the flood burst through its banks and smashed in all the windows at the nearby school. As the children screamed and drowned, all of the adults raced to the rescue. They cried as they pulled the drowning children through the broken glass. They treated the survivors with tenderness and care. They sobbed and they grieved as they buried the little ones who could not be saved.

They were united in their sorrow and in their determination to make the town a safer place. One grieving mother asked,

“Now should we do something to slow down the water? Now can we drain the pool?”

The town leaders and the water-users thought about it. They were just as sad as everyone else, but they weren’t ready to let go of their best defense against potential dangers. They weren’t ready to let go of all the fun that the water offered.

“How about if we rebuild the school so that it has no windows anymore?” they suggested. This would certainly take care of the problem of water breaking the windows.

The school was rebuilt without a single window. The children and the teachers went back in to recreate their learning space in the darkness. They huddled there in fear, but they hoped that the leaders were right and that now at last they were safe.

But one year the raging river flooded again, and this time it was the door that was broken. More children and teachers died.

Again, the town grieved and wept and swore to make things safer.

This time they bricked up all the doors and put a locked bulkhead on the roof to let the children and teachers in. Every morning, the children watched as their teachers pulled the bulkhead door open. Every morning, they climbed down into the darkness.

And when the bulkhead was swept away in the next flood, the town leaders gathered once again.

“Now what?” they asked the water-users. “Now how do we keep our children safe?”

This time they decided that every classroom should contain a boat. A special safety boat that would be deployed only in the event of another flood.

By now they knew that the river was out of control, that the cataract could not be contained, that the school would once again be hammered by the deadly force of the water.

They put their hope in the boats.

When one timid child asked why they didn’t try to slow the water instead of imprisoning the kids in a school filled with rising water, the leaders only patted her on the head and told her to leave it to the adults.

I know, I know. I am not subtle. And I’m clearly not a fiction writer. But today I watched America’s children marching out of their classrooms because they are terrified that they will be murdered in the place that should be the safest place in their lives. Some of them were babies, as young as third or fourth grade. They had tears on their cheeks. I watched, I sobbed, I paced. I am a mother, a grandmother, a teacher. My entire life is about nurturing and protecting children.

Now I am watching them fight to protect themselves. I can’t get over my anger, rage, sorrow and shame. I WILL march on the 24th. I will scream, yell, cry and clap. And I WILL vote very, very carefully.

 

 

What now?


It’s so hard to write at this moment in time.

What do I reflect upon? Do I continue to scream my rage about the slaughter of our children in their classrooms? I feel that I have to. Until we come to a place where common sense has ruled, I feel obligated to keep on screaming.

But my throat is sore. My heart is sore. My mind is sore.

I have signed every petition, sent money to every gun control group I can find. I am a part of Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Never Again, March for Our Lives. I will march in Boston on Mar. 24th.

I WILL keep on screaming.

But. In the meantime.

Children are our purest measure of ourselves. Our own children, our grandchildren. These are our own personal futures. We all want to feel eternal. Our beautiful children give us that belief.

My little grandchildren give me the strength to keep on screaming. Even while I am braiding Ellie’s beautiful brown hair, I am screaming inside, “Take away the guns that might kill her.”  Even as I rock my sweet little Johnny in my arms, I find myself screaming, “Keep him safe! Let him be safe.”

When we have children, we believe that our love will protect them. When we create our loving, supportive families, we think that it’s enough to keep our children secure and to let them grow into adulthood.

We can’t believe that one depressed, angry, lonely young man could tear apart all that love. All that joy. All that sweet, uplifting hope.

But we are, of course, wrong.

I keep trying to write. I keep trying to post funny stories about my grandchildren. How funny it is to see my sweet little Ellie, at all of 2 1/2 years, asking me, “So how is your Momma feeling? Is she getting better and better?”

I want to make you laugh as I write about the challenges of toilet training with a sassy little toddler. I want to tell you funny little stories about baby Johnny learning to crawl.

But I can’t.

Every time I try, I am overwhelmed by images of Daniel Barden of Newtown Connecticut. I try to see Johnny, and I see Daniel.

When I try to write about my beautiful, brilliant, funny little Ellie, I keep seeing beautiful, brilliant, funny Jaime Guttenberg who died in Parkland, Florida.

I’m sure that I’ll be back soon. I’ll write funny little tales about the kids and about aging not-so-gracefully.

But for now.

I can’t stop screaming.

I’ll be part of the “March For Our Lives” on March 24.  I hope you will be out there, too.

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Here’s a Challenge


Donald J. Trump, the man whose “bone spurs” kept him out of the military, just told a room full of American governors that if he had been there, he would have run right into the school where bullets were ripping people apart. In fact, he said,

‘I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon’

What do I say about such an outrageously stupid comment? Most people move past their superhero fantasies by the time they reach High School. The proof of Trump’s arrested development and pathetic self-aggrandizing is part of my visceral reaction of disgust to these comments.

But more enraging to me is the fact that this overweight, out of shape, coddled, spoiled, rich brat of an old man can say anything he wants, because he will never, ever have to prove it.

On the other hand, if he sticks a gun into the hands of a classroom teacher, that teacher may very well have to prove their courage or die in the attempt.

What a pile of bloviating, steaming, fly infested bull shit.

So I have a challenge for Trump. I’ll issue the same one to Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch, those shameless apologist whores for the NRA.  All three of them have called for arming teachers in order to protect our students from the bullets being sprayed out by military weapons.

I challenge all three of these people to take up a gun themselves.

I challenge all three of them to take part in a simulated active shooter drill. They should carry a loaded gun in a classroom.  The classroom would be filled with real, live, active, bouncy, excitable children. Like most classrooms in this country, it would be overcrowded.

I’d put them in a sixth grade class, since sixth grade is halfway through our public school experience. The kids would have all of the real issues of real kids. ADHD, learning disabilities, anxiety, hearing loss, physical disabilities, crazy-out-of-control hormones, allergies, divorced parents, hunger, poverty, autism….You know. The regular public school classroom.

I would ask Loesch, LaPierre and Trump to teach math, science, literature, social interactions, civics and history to those kids for a few weeks. They would need to manage recess, lunch, homework corrections, testing, lesson planning, modification of the curriculum to meet the needs of each child.  You know, a regular public school teacher’s job.

At some point when they least expect it, the school should be fake attacked, with a bad guy breaking into the classroom.

Let’s see how well the three Stooges would do in countering an attack with an AR-15 (armed with blanks, of course! We wouldn’t want to hurt anyone!).

Is there anyone on earth who really thinks they would manage to calmly organize the kids, face the shooter and get off a shot? A killing shot?

I dare them.

I challenge them.

Let them try take on this challenge before they have the unmitigated gall to tell me that my daughter needs to carry loaded weapon in her classroom.

If they don’t, then they really need to shut the fuck up and find a REAL solution.

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Put up or shut up, you big fat jackass.

 

THIS is the kind of thing I’d like to see these idiots try.

Proof That Concealed Permit Holders Live In a Dream World

Oh, Those Kids Today


You know what I loved about teaching? It wasn’t the enormous salary or the fabulous overtime pay. It wasn’t the big clunky desk with the three stuck drawers, or the little bathroom that I shared with 25 other adults of both genders.

Nope.

I didn’t love teaching because the 14 meetings a week were so riveting or because the sound of the copy machine was music to my ears. It wasn’t the 15 minute lunches eaten at my desk or the joy of lugging 20 pound curriculum boxes up and down stairs.

None of that was what kept me teaching for three decades.

I loved teaching because there is nothing as exciting as watching children discover their inner power. I loved being in the presence of children who were learning to stretch their tender wings. Watching them learn to take risks, to open themselves to the possibility of failure, to push themselves to take on challenges that loomed so large in front of them…those were the moments that made me catch and hold my breath. Those were the moments that brought tears to my eyes.

 

Children grow, and stretch and carefully inch their way into adulthood. They do it with joy and fear and a constant sense of wonder. When you are in the presence of children, you are filled with the sense of the possible.

In the past week, I have watched hundreds of children turn their rage and their grief into powerful action. The young people of Parkland Florida have humbled me and brought me to tears over and over again. They are articulate, using the force of all that emotion to perfectly express what so many of us have been feeling for years.

They are unfiltered, because they are honest. They don’t know how to twist the truth of what they lived. They don’t try. They lived through their worst nightmares, and they are determined to make us understand what that was like for them.

They are powerful. They believe that they can change the world, so they will. They are still innocent enough to believe that there is justice in this country, so I will believe that for them. They have faith that there is honor in those who sit in our seats of power. But they are wise enough to know that if that honor doesn’t shine at this terrible moment, those seats can be taken away.

Like every one of the children I taught, these young people humble me.

The future belongs to them, and they are beginning to understand that. The students of Parkland, Florida, the students of my home state of Massachusetts, the students in Newtown Connecticut…all of them lift me up. They give me the courage to stand beside them, to keep on fighting, to speak truth to corrupt power.

Children are what keeps this very sad, discouraged old teacher lady going.

Kids today.

Thank the good Lord in Heaven for kids today.

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