If you know me, you know that I'm usually the painfully optimistic type. I think there's something valuable and worthwhile in looking at the world with big eyes and believing you can achieve anything you work hard for.
Yet over the years, I have been forced to become a cynic -- the word itself makes me wince -- when it comes to America and how it treats its fallen children.
Every time another school stops being a safe house and turns into a shooting field, America pretends to care. America pretends to mourn its lost souls and those who will never forget the day they lost their friends and fellow peers -- those who will always live with the nightmares. America feigns outrage and says something must change.
America promises, "Never again," with fingers crossed behind its back.
I say "pretends" and "feigns" because I've come to learn America doesn't care. This is the hard truth. America doesn't care that parents' hearts clench with fear when they hear the words "school shooting," afraid that their luck finally ran out. As a Colorado student, I know this fear acutely. America doesn't care that every morning I drop off my little brother at middle school, I send a wish out to whatever higher power is listening that I'll pick him up safely at the end of the day. America doesn't care that millions of other parents and siblings do this on a daily basis.
America doesn't care that having armed security guards at school doesn't do a single thing to make me feel safe in a place where I'm supposed to walk into a classroom ready to learn.
It's not paranoia if it's reality.
Why do I say America doesn't care? America has done nothing significant and lasting to change the current state we live in. America refuses to listen -- not at a national level and not at many state levels. Our politicians say things will change, but does it really? Us citizens? In general, we refuse to call our representatives or turn up to the polls or show political efficacy. The statistics show that we want change, but those stats mean nothing when we don't care enough to do anything for it or pressure our politicians to make change.
I'm not saying that I have the answer to our problems. I'm not saying we should abolish all guns in America -- I believe in the second Amendment, too. But like the over 90 percent of Americans who want some form of gun control (like background checks), I think something needs to be done.
America, wake up. Your children are going to school afraid that they might not come home or that their friends won't make it through the day. It's not just your older kids living with this fear -- your elementary school children have long-ago learned this painful lesson. The lessons nobody should ever have to learn are being forced upon us, and every time America stalls, more and more of us are getting first-hand experience of this nightmare.
Not all changes or laws are made equal. Some work, and some don't. I'm okay with getting rid of changes that don't work, but I'm not okay with no change at all. Replace bad changes with better ones. We're going to have to go through the bad fixes to find the good ones that will last and work, but we have to try.
Colorado is trying change. It got two state senators repealed and forced another to resign for fear of recall. The controversial law that sparked this remains, but voter approval holds a slim margin. We strongly support our background check laws, however. Even if we have to waddle through muddy waters and walk through landmines with controversial legislation, we're trying. We're trying change. And the change is, little by little, paying off: between July and December 2013, 6,198 private sale background checks kept 122 violent criminals and those with restraining orders from buying guns. It's something, at least, and that's better than nothing.
We're fumbling our way through the dark, but we're trying. Maybe we can find the light to help lead other states and the nation.
I'm not saying any of the gun control laws America continues to debate over would've stopped the high school shooting in Washington or any prior. I don't know. Maybe they won't in the future even if the laws are passed, but in Colorado, I feel a little more reassured knowing that 122 potentially harmful people mentioned earlier are out of the picture -- or, at least, that we have another barrier of protection. It's a small number and the system isn't perfect, but it's a start. I doubt it will ever be perfect, but we can at least do more to help reduce the threat.
Yes, we're going to have heated debates about this for years to come. Yes, we're going to have legislation that doesn't work or is ineffective. We're going to go through growing pains. Yes, not everyone is going to agree on what to do. But we have to do something. We can't know what will work and what won't if we're not willing to try. Try. If it doesn't work, ditch it and find something else to try. We can't move forward or figure out what works best without trying.
The fear of losing more children should outweigh the fear of the unknown. We need to get past our fear of change -- our fear of trying despite the controversy. Letting our fear of trying rule our decisions is akin to approving school shootings. I'm want the day to come when I can stop feeling like America has turned its back on our dead children.
We can't let this go on. We owe it to our nation, our neighbors, our friends, our families, our children and ourselves. We owe it to our future.
Earlier, I said America doesn't care. I'm optimistic that we can make America care. We can make America try and try again. It starts with you and me.
Be Goldilocks, America.
Care about your future generations.
You're nothing without them.