Last week there was a walkout across the nation’s schools. I purposely didn’t discuss it with my 15-year-old daughter because I wanted to see if she would talk about it and make her own decision on what to do when the time came.
When I picked her up from school that afternoon and asked about her day she said, “We had a walkout today.” She told me she walked out and then she said rather flabbergasted, “It was very political. I was expecting silence for the victims of the Florida shooting. We had that, but it was also geared toward gun control and writing our congressmen.” At this point I was expecting her to school me on the impact of our current gun laws and how they need to change.
So I asked her what she thought about the walkout and what needs to happen. This was her take:
“I just don’t understand why we aren’t discussing the mental health of our nation. I mean I agree we need new gun laws and I have no idea why anyone needs a gun that can kill lots of people in a matter of seconds, but the reality is that these people who are killing other people are sick and they will find a way even if they don’t have access to guns. Look at our own school. We have had a record number of suicides and I keep thinking what if those kids had chosen to shoot up the school instead. When these kids took their own life nobody was talking about gun control at our school. Everyone was talking about the mental health of our community and the consequences of bullying. Obviously, if you are shooting up a school there is something wrong besides the fact that your family owns guns!”
Remember she is 15 years old so she’s thinking like a teenager but she also lives in the trenches every day. And her experiences in high school are certainly affecting her viewpoint, as it does for all of us. Maybe she wouldn’t be focused on mental health if she had been the victim of a mass shooting instead of attending a school that’s been dealing with a rash of suicides. Maybe you are thinking she doesn’t understand the entirety of the debate. You’re right, she probably doesn’t even understand why there is a debate. In fact, most of us might be wondering the same thing. Why aren’t we, as a nation, bending over backward to protect our kids at all costs? Why do some of us want our semi-automatic weapons so badly that we are willing to risk the lives of our own kids to keep them? Why aren’t we addressing the metal health issue in our nation with more rigor?
I do believe the solution is more complex than simply new gun laws or mental health evaluations. We are a nation that is fearful. We fear that if our guns are taken away we won’t be able to protect ourselves against those who might do us harm. If you have a big, powerful gun then I want one bigger and more powerful. We fear mental health evaluations because we don’t want to be labeled or marginalized. We don’t want our kids to feel less than. So, we all hide behind our doors pretending to be powerful, connected, loved, and happy until one of us can’t do it anymore. The result? Just watch the news.
It feels like we are a nation of middle-schoolers just wanting to feel like we belong, connect, to fit in. We do whatever it takes to belong. We buy guns and join the NRA. We fight for social injustice and protest. We sit on the sidelines not wanting to draw attention. We get the help we need when we feel bad but we do it on the down low so nobody can use it against us. Of course, I am oversimplifying it, but take a look around you and tell me what you see.
When my daughter came across this blog while it was a work in progress she said she “loved it” and it brought her to tears. Maybe it’s because she realized I was listening, that her thoughts on what’s happening in her school and schools across the country mattered enough for me to write about it. Maybe it’s just that she felt heard.
Things are broken and whether you believe in walk outs, gun control, addressing our mental health issues or something else I really hope we as a nation are ready to finally take some action.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G