Speaking for Those Barely Holding it Together

Colorado Gun ViolenceBack in March, I attended an anti-violence rally in Elizabeth, NJ as a representative of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It was one of many humbling and heart-breaking moments I would have this past year. At the rally, filled with people talking about what has been done, what can be done, what must be done about gun violence and domestic violence and violence in our communities, a mother stood up to speak. She was raw and angry and unapologetic.

She said that yes, she was sorry for “the babies killed in that Connecticut elementary school,” but that she is hurting too. And, she wondered, where is the attention to her family? Five years ago her son was shot dead on his way home from friends. This mother described still waking up every night just before 1 AM, the time when her son was shot and killed and left on the sidewalk. She half-wailed, “Where is the sympathy for my dead son?” She wondered where was the outpouring of help for the son she still has with her? It was painful to watch and hear. It was honest, unpolitical, furious, and desperate. Five years later the pain was still tender and raw.

It’s the horrific mass shootings — the Tucsons, Auroras, Columbines, Washington Navy Yards, Oak Creeks, Newtowns — that get the most attention. It’s difficult to distance oneself from going to movie, attending religious services, hearing a public official speak in a public place, going to school. So when these massive and public atrocities occur, we are forced to confront — if only for a moment — the reality that it really could have been us in those theatre seats or behind those desks or in the benches of a house of worship.

It’s much easier to blink twice and say, about the vast majority of the gun deaths in the United States, it’s a dangerous neighborhood, it was late at night, he had been hanging out with a bad bunch of friends, he should have just handed over his jacket, and so on and so forth. All the excuses and arguments our brains make to allow us to maintain our sanity in this insane world.

But the pain of the mothers, the families, the communities is the same pain. And it lasts much, much longer than the attention span of the unflappable public.  These survivors are left to fend for themselves with the stress of knowing that their neighborhood does pop up as dangerous in the statistics, or that they have to come home late from work, or that some of their friends can be trouble.

But it’s all of us. There is no separation. And there is always an excuse or rationalization…until it’s you. And then others will do the same and separate themselves from you. People who don’t know you will find a way to blame you, at least a tiny bit. Yes, they will.

But we mustn’t. And as uncomfortable and sad and guilt-inducing and potentially condescending it is, I ask you to no longer be silent. Do more than SMH at horrors that pass by on your screens. Educate yourself and others. Speak out to legislators. Take responsibility for your family and your community. Speak for people who are barely holding themselves together. Speak up now — to keep ourselves together.

Moonshining at yeah write this week.

About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
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18 Responses to Speaking for Those Barely Holding it Together

  1. Mandi Perlmutter says:

    Beautiful and important. Can I share w chapterheads board?

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Natalie DeYoung says:

    “Always an excuse or rationalization…until it’s you.” So, so true. I know so many who just want to forget, instead of work toward positive change. Or worse, react in fear and start blaming.
    Thank you for sharing you experience. I’ve never personally known someone who has suffered because of gun violence, but it is important to hear their stories.

    • Everyone deals with trauma differently — depending on so many things. And for those yet to experience it (and sometimes for those who have), distance is the quickest and most effective coping mechanism. We see it when children get sick, when we lose a parent, job, money…

  3. It’s people like you that offer a glimmer of hope. I am so sickened by what I see on the news. I never want to come back, and that is 100% the truth. When Andy and I sat down and talked about our plans I couldn’t help but say DON’T YOU SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING THERE????!! I would rather hide. Sick and sad to say it- but that’s the truth.

  4. Excellent blog… thank you.

  5. Marcy says:

    Only the biggest atrocities get a lot of attention anymore, which is partly why the crazies have to keep fantasizing about even bigger atrocities. Then politicians on both sides will briefly pretend that they will do something about it, when they are all being paid by the groups pushing the guns. I don’t even know what anyone should do anymore. Human lives aren’t as important as gun profits is the message.

  6. Kianwi says:

    Ugh, the thought of that woman wailing about her son made me sob. But you are right, humans will try to find any way to make it somehow that person’s fault so that they can rest safe knowing it would never happen to them. Understandable, but obviously so, so wrong.

    I just heard that in a recent poll, support for gun restrictions has fallen since a poll just after the Sandy Hook shootings. Not a surprise, but still a disappointment to me.

    • Yep. We all do it. I do it. We have far too much information about the world not to do so. But we can also choose our causes and work to mitigate them.

      And yes, according to that poll, support for more gun regulation has fallen slightly. But several states incorporated better laws over the last year. What we need, though, if federal Universal Background Checks and stronger restrictions on trafficking. Otherwise rampant profiteering will still fuel the domestic arms trade.

  7. This is very true, “there is always an excuse or rationalization…until it’s you.”

    I have been fighting this battle for 22 years. For 22 years I have been speaking up. For 10 of those years I have also been speaking in prisons and youth detention about the impact of violence on victims, not just direct victims but families and communities.

    The problem? We are lost in the noise. We don’t count, especially if we survived. No matter how horrific the violence. No matter how horrific the aftermath. In some cases even our own family members think we should, ‘just get over it for God’s sake.’

    Sometimes, those of us who survive are too damaged to speak out. We are physcially damaged and we suffer emotionally. We have nightmares. We have on-going physical battles as well. Up until recently our physical damage was shockingly considered a pre-existing condition so we fought alone. These aren’t rationalizations, this is a society that wants us to disappear.

    • Valentine, Thank you so much for your strength and advocacy! Your passion and strength comes through — and it matters. The trauma inflicted on too many cannot and must not be forgotten — or “lost in the noise.”

      I know that everyone has her/his own methods of coping, and for some that can be in quiet ways; others choose to be loud. And I know that I — and many others — do NOT want you to disappear into the statistics or “just get over it.” Again, THANK YOU!

  8. Calamity Rae says:

    While I probably hold different political views regarding the gun debate currently going on in our country than you do, what I have ALWAYS moaned about, what I constantly talk about, is the fact that it rubs me the wrong way when “we” choose to only focus on the mass shootings and NOT talk about what is happening and HAS been happening in lower income communities regarding gun deaths. And to be honest, I take NO ONE seriously if they *only* talk about what gets thrown across the television screen week after week as opposed to using their own heads and looking up REAL statistics about where gun violence has the biggest impact on a community. Because if people refuse to have *that* conversation, then for me, we have nothing to talk about. Thanks for this post.

    • Agreed. I do think that people in general are closer to a situation they can relate to their own lives. I think I got that across in the post. But if we want to address the true, underlying problems of gun violence, we need to deal with causes that aren’t as simple as “MENTAL HEALTH!” or “BAN GUNS!” or “MORE GUNS!”

  9. Calamity Rae says:

    I feel like I need to clarify my response. Our American gun issue has been an issue for a while. I’m the type of person who becomes bothered by “fashionable caring”, which is what I believe is occurring with this issue. If people REALLY care, then they need to have the uncomfortable conversation surrounding gun violence in lower economic communities. Those communities have been in pain for a very long time. And that’s why I appreciate, very much, this post.

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