What There Is To Do

by - Saturday, December 15, 2012

Like a lot of people yesterday, I was pretty stuck by shock at the tragic events at Newtown School.  I obsessively read around looking for something, anything I could do to help, and this is the list I have compiled thus far. I hope this is helpful to other people who want to start taking some action too. There is a lot of talk that "Now isn't the time," but it is. Don't wait. The more we know about the shooter, the more we will all try to explain it away as an isolated incident by one deeply disturbed person. But mass gun violence has taken place 14 times this year just in America. There is something going on here, and it is on all of us to do something.

1. Sign a Petition for this legislation to be brought up in Congress- I'll be honest, until all the research I did yesterday, gun legislation was one of the areas where I wasn't totally in line with my party. In my mother's family, we saw a lot of hunting, my Poppop makes ammo as a hobby. I always felt that hunting led many of my family members, especially my Poppop and one of my Uncles, to a deep and respectful understanding of nature. I also resent when people in school have been shocked by this opinion, because unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, you probably should have faced up at least once to where your food came from. It builds a respect for those lives, rather than disdain.In other words, I never had a problem with guns (even if I am no hunter myself).

At the same time, as I read more and more, it is clear our country has a serious problem with extreme gun violence, and I do think there has to be a way to put more limits on who can buy and what they can buy that could contribute to everyone's safety. It's not the whole answer to the problem, but it is certainly part of it. Obviously the use of firearms does not always lead to a respect for life, and that on its own is a problem. So, if you are like me and you think gun laws could be a little tighter (so, no, I am not trying to end the ownership of guns completely, just limit it), here are a few petitions to sign.

This one goes directly to the White House and has already overwhelmed the number needed to demand their interest. There can still be more signatures though:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/immediately-address-issue-gun-control-through-introduction-legislation-congress/2tgcXzQC

Another is a little more diaphanous, but is an independent group. Those are needed, because the NRA is a powerhouse and has all sorts of Charleton Heston-y and Tom Selleck-y powers over Congress:

http://www.demandaplan.org/newtown

Last is a grassroots group that must have literally been set up over night- 20 Children:

https://www.facebook.com/20Children

2. Send money to support the families- There is a Newtown Relief Fund set up already- http://www.ryot.org/campaigns/sandy-hook-elementary-school-victims-relief-fund.

3. Write your congressmen- We don't have to agree on the solution, but I think in the face of so many mass shootings this year (the information is well synthesized here- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-belkin/newtown-gun-control-parenting-issue_b_2302526.html ), we can all agree there is a problem. Write to your congressmen about gun control, or about better care for the mentally ill, or better security for schools (please, don't be the asshole that says teachers should carry guns though, that's the worst). They are our elected officials. We need to hold them to the fire on this, because they get other pressure elsewhere to do nothing. To put it off until the "right time." To keep perpetuating their petty partisan bullshit with the fiscal cliff business. If you think this matters, tell them so. You can find your constiuent and how to reach them at one of these two websites:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

http://www.contactingthecongress.org/


4. Be Radically Kind- As my awesome cousin Harrison said, Adam Lanza must have been at a major low point. Again and again, you read about these guys being loners from high school on, ostracized and uncool. I have my own theories about white masculinity and the sad fact that many men suffer ( I'm not kidding) from not having the vocabulary or social capabilities to deal with their anger/ antagonism/ loneliness/ etc. We all know somebody who is a little off or creepy or lonely; just go talk to that person. You don't have to be their best friend, but it is on all of us to be friendly. To hit that level you have to have suffered so much rejection and pain; don't reject people. We all do it, usually not on purpose, but let's take the next few weeks, while this is still fresh in our mind to break that pattern. Also, to have the courage to say something if we think someone is suffering from a mental illness.

At the same time, clearly this has been a year filled with anger and antagonism, to the point that when Obama was re-elected, people felt like the world would end. Be willing to moderate. Give up on being right and just listen to somebody. This is our culture that we are making this way, and I truly believe we can change it simply by prioritizing the care we give each other over our pride or frustration or fear of the other. Events like this remind us that we all constantly live at each other's mercy. The better we treat each other, the better that situation will be.

5. Send your thoughts and prayers- Keep at it. The people in Newtown, the kids who witnessed the attacks and families of the victims especially, will be struggling with this for much longer than the media will maintain interest. So make them permanent staples on your prayer list, because that in itself is powerful.

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