Today at school, we had a lockdown drill. As the alarm sounded, and the ominous voice robotically warned, "This is a lockdown. This is a lockdown," students and teachers locked their classroom doors and found the least deadly place to hide in classrooms. Administrators roamed the halls, testing all the locked doors, and I found myself shivering when our doorknob rattled as we cowered in the dark room. Finally, the all-clear was announced, and classes resumed.
Although they never quite resume the same, do they? My high school kids made nervous, idle chitchat about the safest places to hide; they talked about bullets and blood and death. As a teacher, I felt my own mind wander. What would I do if the worst happened? Would I keep my students safe? Would I sacrifice myself if that's what it took? As the memory of the doorknob rattling lingered in my mind, I thought of my daughter and knew I didn't want to have to face that choice.
My daughter is beautiful and smart and imaginative and strong. She is also biracial, which means that as a white parent I have had to quickly learn how to navigate the world for my brown daughter. Two months after she was born, Trayvon Martin was murdered. This was my awakening, that the world might not love and protect my daughter as much as I do. Then, on my daughter's first birthday, a young man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and massacred children. At that point I remembered the absurdity I felt during student teaching in 2008, when the high school I was working at did their annual lockdown drill. I'd graduated high school in 2003 and had never experienced a lockdown drill before. As kids shuffled outside, I wondered, This is what we do? We practice staying alive? That lockdown drill back in 2008 was my first realization that becoming a teacher was signing on to protect students, even if it meant sacrificing my own life. Parents send their most precious assets to us. But I never signed up to be a soldier.
This is what I think about now, during lockdown drills. I think about how kindergarten is just around the corner for my three year old and I wonder at the lunacy of her future self, participating in lockdown drills, practicing on learning how to stay alive. I've had to worry about that to some degree since she was born and I began to understand how the world treats brown children differently. But I don't want my kid to grow up learning how to avoid being murdered at school or the movie theater or church. I want politicians who proactively try to shift the paradigm. I want to vote everyone who accepts NRA money out of power (the NRA gave $27 million to politicians last year, proving once again how money buys power). If only.
If only ammunition was as regulated as Sudafed, which requires you show an ID at the pharmacy.
If only the NRA and gun lobbyists were treated like Cecile Richards, placed in a Congressional hearing, disparaged.
If only we could have an honest conversation about the prevalence of white supremacy in our country that may lead to less mass killings by young white males, instead of re-segregating schools and making police officers omnipotent.
If only we could put preventative efforts on gun safety like we currently try towards voter fraud, which incidentally has been proven to be a non-issue.
If only pro-life arguments extended to victims of guns, where more toddlers (82) than police officers (27) were killed by guns in 2013, according to the FBI and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
If only guns were regulated as well as cars, as Nicholas Kristoff recently pointed out in a New York Times article, reminding us that since cars have required a driver's licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns, we've reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent.
If only we took gun deaths as seriously as a shoe bomber at an airport, a single event which completely transformed airport security.
If only we went to war against gun deaths like we go to war against terrorism; gun deaths have caused over 313,000 deaths in the last decade, compared to 313 deaths by terrorism, according to CNN.
If only we treated guns as seriously as books and allergies; we ban books and make peanut-free schools, while our kids learn how to not die from a gunman.
I was in eighth grade when the Columbine massacre occurred. Why wasn't that single, horrific event enough to change a nation? How is it possible that 15 years later it has only gotten worse? That we have not only tolerated mass violence in our schools and public arenas, but promote it? Politicians- the people we elect- are enabling this. It is infamous now how Sheriff John Hanlin, the sheriff (yes, an elected position) serving Umpqua Community College, wrote a letter after Newtown calling gun control "an indisputable insult to American people". I personally feel worried that so many people, after learning about the massacre of children, are concerned about their guns above all. I think about this, each time I watch students cower in dark corners while doorknobs rattle ominously. Look at what your love of guns has done to our children, America. You have bought and paid for your guns on the back of our children. And when the time comes to join the rest of the developed world in valuing children's lives over virtually unregulated gun ownership, I hope there are still children left undamaged and whole.