It’s Still Tolling

. . . any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
John Donne 1624

Back in December, 2014, the day after the Newtown Massacre, I wrote about my own experience with a shooter in the building and the trauma I experienced from the anticlimactic event (“It Tolls For Thee,”). At the end of the piece, I lamented, “”This is not going away.  The people of Newtown, the people of Connecticut, the people of the East Coast, and by tomorrow, the people of the entire country will live in the shadow of this day forever. Question is, how can we protect the other Newtowns to come?  It’s already too late to begin, but better late than never. . . ”

Since then, there have been 201 more shootings in this country. When do we say E N O U G H??

Evangelicals, anti- or pseudo-intellectuals on left and right, special interest groups of all kinds, and untold millions of influencers put pressure on our legislators to ban books and art, outlaw drag shows, curb women’s rights, thwart equality for LGBTQ, legislate the teaching of science and history as myth and fairy tale. They succeed. All across America, poor Atlas is having a really hard time keeping the world balanced on his back as it threatens to topple over.

What feels like the final blow, what seems to be the thing that could push Atlas and his precious cargo right into the abyss forever is the problem of guns in our midst. All the marching for lives that matter, all the canceling of professorial opinion, all the revisionist rhetoric on both sides have ignored a REAL problem we ALL face. The one thing that should bind us together: finding a way to end the oppressive hold guns have on all our lives.

Every day parents send their children to school with no guarantee they’ll return. Every day children are forced to rehearse for the possibility that they will be targeted by an angry someone with no better outlet for their anger than kids in a school. Every day we throw up our hands and say, “What can we do?” And we blame the lawmakers and the NRA and the gun-toter machismo that seems to have a stranglehold on our collective sanity.

We can point fingers all we want. We all know who is really to blame. We are. We throw up our hands and sigh, we write thoughts and prayers and Imsosad on social media, we shake our heads and tzikkash, and we even send money to the coalitions of survivors’ parents who are out there trying to make it stop. But we don’t do enough.

We need to follow the example the French and Israelis have set this month. They shut down their countries to make their wishes known, and they are succeeding. Why? Because a country without services is a country at a standstill. A country at a standstill needs to appease those who are shutting it down in order to get it back up and running.

We need to shut this country down. To show our government — from the top down — that we really are at a point where we just can’t take it anymore. If every service provider said simply, I am not going to work until the government finds a way to rein in the violence, to control these weapons of mass destruction, to make our children safe not just from the bullets themselves but also from the anxiety of expecting to be hit and the trauma of the aftermath.

If we could the people could set aside our differences for just a few days and figure out a way to get the whole country on board to stop the trains, block the runways, brake the buses, close the schools, refuse to open clinics for well visits, how long do you think it would take before legislation would be in place to protect our kids?

I know. Dream on. I have to. The nightmare wants to consume me.

I have a grandchild who lives overseas. Whenever I go to visit him, people shake their heads and say, “Aren’t you scared for your kids there?” The State Department issues warnings about the country where he lives, suggesting that it’s not safe to go there. Yet the only people who carry guns there are the military, who stand guard at schools, airports, bus stations, et al., to ensure that no reign of terror succeeds in taking hold. No child is forced to spend valuable educational time practicing ways to avoid being shot by a maniacal interloper.

Every year I beg my kid to come back, to be near enough so my hugs don’t have to rely on Zoom for most of the year. The answer is always the same. “Not until I can feel safe sending them to school. . . . “

Can’t we make that happen?

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