With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Sunday, March 25, 2018

March for Our Lives

The young people are pissed. In the absence of leadership from the Baby Boomers and my generation, they are leading a movement. Tired of active shooter drills, of fear, of "thoughts and prayers" from our politicians, they are taking to the streets, the Capitol buildings, and the voting booths.

Aden and I went with some of the faithful group of Willow Creek activists to participate in the March for Our Lives. It was her first packed-light-rail, street-filling-bodies, signs-waving march; it was my fifth in a little over a year.

Our students' lives, our fellow citizens' lives - these are more important than just about anything else. The frothy-mouthed frenzy of just a few have pulled this debate so far to an extreme that we had lost sight of this, had lost sight of hope.  But we must have hope, and we must work to find and implement a solution, or our friends and neighbors will pay the price.

I wavered between tears and determination yesterday. As we got on the light rail, a mom got on with her child carrier on her back and a little boy affixed to each hand. They chattered to us about classmates who were "getting a new baby sister," how much they liked juice boxes, where they could find a potty at the march.  The six-year-old carried a sign that said, "Am I Next?"

We have let this go too far, too long. Our country is at war with itself and our children are suffering. It's time to vote, send money, vote, protest, vote and demand that the United States protects us and our children, and stops gun violence.

Monday, March 19, 2018

And Pray

"I guess we're all one phone call
From our knees"
- "Closer to Love" Lyrics, Mat Kearney

My Uncle David passed away peacefully yesterday after a battle with cancer. To hear about peace: a blessing. The long struggle before: painful for him and for his family.  Wrestling with this: my father and his older brother, Greg, the last Clavadetschers of their generation. To that end, an email exchange with my cousin, Christian, to pin family members to a place-time where-when we can celebrate our ongoing co-existence.

An email two days ago from college teammates. One of the kindest, most modest of swimmers, a woman only two years older, lost her battle with cancer over the weekend. She leaves a husband and two boys.Her heart made a huge difference on the lives of everyone she touched. She was a doctor, she touched many.

In Sunday School, corralling my co-leaders to pour out my doubts. We're not doing enough. What world are we leaving to our children? What kind of society, what laws, what light?  They responded, "the children are the light."

I said, "they light the way for us, but who lights the way for them?"

A time of struggle for me. I feel too acutely the weight of that ghost call, the potential for my heart to hurt.  Now is a thin place. I feel how insubstantial the curtain between alive and not-alive. Time slips through my fingers.

To my therapist, I confess: "I need to pray, to meditate. When I wandered, lost, before, that helped."  Thinking to myself, surely she has more concrete tasks for me, a better solution.

Her response, "Yes, that is all we can do," is what I know to be true, but not comforting. I want to do more, solve more, control more.

And I cannot do anything but appreciate the now, be grateful that my children are safe at this moment, that my cat sits on my desk, that snow melts and sun shines and yellow flowers bloom on my table. And pray.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Parent's Promise To Kids

"We want parents to sign a contract . . .promising their kids that they'll vote for leaders who put kids' safety over guns."
- Adam Buchwald, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in "Florida Postcard: Sign Here" by Charles Bethea in The New Yorker (Mar 12, 2018), p29.

As diverse arguments come across my Facebook, Twitter and email feeds about who and what is responsible for mass shootings in America (parents, teachers, security guards, students, guns, government, video games, etc.), I was able to fasten onto this immensely hopeful effort by two sixteen-year old students, friends of those who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Deciding to "change the world" rather than fall into despair, Adam Buchwald and Zach Hibshman came up with the Parent's Promise to Kids. The contract, which is simple, promises kids that their parents or grandparents or friends / aunts / uncles will vote for legislative leaders who support children's safety over guns.  You can find a link and download the contract at Facebook:  @ParentsPromiseToKids, or at www.parentspromisetokids.org.

Signing the contract, taking a photo with my kids, and posting it to social media partially satisfied my urge to do something for my children, to stand up to the madness that insists guns are OK and schools should simply be turned into high-security zones, where students will be so focused on safety that they won't be able to learn. Can they learn now, with all of the drills and news bytes?

For those who blame parents in this crisis - for not raising respectful children, for not disciplining their children - I take my share of the blame, but not for a deficiency in teaching my kids. I deserve blame for not standing up before now, for giving in to despondency on this issue and trying to block it from my consciousness.

Take hope from the following statistics in Margaret Talbot's excellent article, "Comment: Gun Shots" in the most recent issue of The New Yorker (Mar 12, 2018):

"According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted last week, eighty-eight per cent of Americans now support universal background checks, eighty-one per cent think that a person should be at least twenty-one in order to buy a gun, seventy per cent endorse a ban on high-capacity magazines, and sixty-eight percent support a ban on assault-style weapons" (p27).

So what then, is the problem? Apparently those who oppose the common-sense rules described above are extremely passionate, and focused on the single issue of lax or no gun regulation, while those of us in the vast majority find our time and attention split by other issues.  Lest we relapse, get distracted, quail before the money and passion behind the gun lobby, Talbot reminds us:
"People who want this moment to mean something should remember that they are the majority, and that they, too, can choose, for however long it takes, to be single-issue voters" (p28).

As I post this morning, I read that Florida just overcame twenty years of NRA - sponsored, pro gun lobby regulations and passed into law a bipartisan bill that makes baby steps toward commonsense regulation. The NRA responded by suing the state of Florida in federal court.  It's time to get off the sidelines and take action.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Guns

My Facebook alerts lit up the screen today with people "liking" my interest in the Cherry Creek HS student walkout. It's more than a week away, and student leaders have squared it with the school and the local police.  Though the walkout doesn't specify an associated cause, it appears closely linked to the recent student responses against gun violence. In my mind, at least, the walkout represents an action against politicians bought by the NRA, against government inaction that results in death.  Fully sanctioned, with parents pledged to join their students in support, it should be a beautiful thing, a way to channel anger into meaningful action.

I don't feel that beauty, that transformative channeling; what I feel is cold, gut-shrinking fear.  That my children, that anyone's children, should face death because they step onto a school campus, is mind-bendingly horrific and otherworldly. My sister and my sister-in-law are teachers; I can't breathe when I think too hard. There's certainly nothing to "like" about the situation, in fact, I can hardly bear to write this post, have put off writing it for two weeks. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy made me ill, the bravery and strength of newly branded student-activists made me grateful, then the negative reaction of many to the students (the doubt, the further threats) made me ill again.

As my friend pointed out, we have shrink-wrapped and child-locked our Advil containers so children (and some adults) can't open them. We have mandated helmets for bikes, skateboards and skis, we have removed swing sets from playgrounds and taken the high dives out of the pool. We are a nation overly cautious for our children - except when it comes to semi-automatic weapons. Who can sanction this madness? Young people can't drink until age 21 but they can buy rifles at 18.  Fully automatic weapons can't be sold but the parts that make semi-automatic weapons fully automatic are legal.  This must end.

I give money to Everytown  for Gun Safety (https://everytown.org/), an organization working for reasonable rules around purchasing guns.  They're small compared to the NRA, but if enough of us join, enough of us overcome our frozen fear to act, we can take on the behemoth that wants to sacrifice our children to its own interests. The walkout is just a start, this blog is just a start, and I hope that you start with me.