Mateo and Lucia tolerating me as I snap a photo to remember our end of the school year breakfast.

We Are Not Helpless

I can’t think. I can’t work. I can’t stop worrying about my kids at school. I feel so helpless. I can’t focus, and so I scroll.

My Facebook feed seems to alternate between end-of-school celebrations and expressions of sorrow as friends mourn the most recent gun violence tragedy in Texas. CNN plays in the background and suddenly one image marries the jarring contradiction of sorrow and celebration.

Xavier Lopez holds his honor roll certificate straight and looks into the camera of his mother who, by the tolerant look on her son’s face, probably goaded Xavier into capturing the proud mom moment. I’ve taken this photo of my children more times than I can count and these same photos have been flooding my Facebook feed for the last week: Proud parents, celebrating their children’s accomplishments. Unlike most parents, though, this was the last photo Felicha Martinez would take of her son.

Xavier and 18 of his classmates were gunned down just hours after their end-of-school awards ceremony. Their little bodies that should have been playing at recess were torn apart by a weapon of war. Their names and faces flash across the screen and mix with the children, still alive on my feed. My sorrow builds, and so does my rage.

“Children of the World, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way.”

A sentiment that keeps repeating as I scroll. No, it’s not supposed to be this way. However, it should read, “Children of America, it’s not supposed to be this way, but your parents and grandparents created this reality and refuse to change it for you.”

The dismay, horror, and terror we’re feeling as news of yet another massacre unfolds is inescapable. It’s easy to let these emotions paralyze us. It’s also natural to want to look away, turn the news off, and allow the 24 hour news cycle to filter the carnage of 19 children and 2 teachers away, replacing them with the images and conversations that comfort us with normalcy and the mundane. This is where we fail our children.

For them, active shooter drills are normal. News stories of school shootings, grocery store shootings, concert shootings, workplace shootings, street shootings, are normal. Rampant gun violence is normal. The adults around them doing NOTHING about it is normal.

And this is when the rage boils over. How can we so actively fail our children with our inaction? How can we allow ourselves to ignore the extremist legislation passed by state lawmakers that makes it easier for anyone to buy and carry a gun? How can we not DEMAND that our elected officials do everything they can do to protect our children from the epidemic of gun violence?

How can we allow ourselves to be distracted by red herring talking points blaming mental health, flippantly suggesting teachers “carry,” nihilistically claiming legislation won’t prevent all shootings, and the tried and true empty offer of thoughts and prayers?

I call BS on all of these as should anyone who truly wants to protect our babies.

We must clear away the clutter of our lives and look honestly at our reality, our children’s reality, the reality that we’ve allowed through inaction and distraction. A deadly combination of guns, extremism, and corruption have built this reality as we were convinced there was nothing we could do. The gun lobby and Republican lawmakers beholden to them have systematically flooded our country with weapons and consistently passed legislation removing gun safety measures. While we can, and should, place blame on these powerful entities, we must also recognize who gave them that power: voters and nonvoters. 

I was told today that I was wasting my time advocating for change. I’ll admit, I do feel that way sometimes. In fact, I’ve sent countless emails to elected officials, attended protests, written and shared article after article over the years, hoping that I could educate and persuade enough to affect change. All of these efforts feel futile in the face of gerrymandering, NRA lobbying, and an uninformed/misinformed/disengaged electorate. I feel myself numbing, allowing The Nothing of hopelessness to slowly consume my resolve with each senseless loss, shot by shot. But then I look at their faces.

Xavier’s sweet face, holding his Honor Roll Certificate. The faces of his classmates and teachers, all of them gone, torn away by senseless and preventable violence. Their parents grieve, clutching photos, all they have left of their children. The faces in my Facebook feed, sometimes beaming, often annoyed, as they tolerate their parents’ insistence, “Stop moving, please smile, pretend you like each other, just let me get one good shot to post.” The faces of Mateo and Lucia. The thought of losing them brings me to my knees. How can I look at those faces and give up? How can any of us?

Helplessness may feel inevitable, but it is a choice. Inaction is a choice. I may not be able to affect change, but I choose to try. I could not forgive myself if I didn’t.

 

If you want to stop feeling helpless and start creating a new reality for our children, below are some concrete steps you can take:

  • Call or Write your elected officials. Do it multiple times. Convince your friends and family to do the same. Drown out the loud and corrupt voices of the gun lobby. Click HERE for help finding and contacting your legislators.
  • If your elected officials won’t listen, send a message with your vote. Research candidates’ record on gun safety legislation and vote for legislatures who believe in popular, common sense measures that experts agree will decrease gun violence including background checks, increasing the purchasing age for firearms, and banning high capacity weapons. Commit to being a Gunsense Voter.
  • Educate yourself and then share what you learn with friends and family. Our children’s lives are too valuable to allow social niceties to silence us. Speak firmly and confidently about violence prevention through gun safety measures. Call out misinformation and share factual posts on social media.
  • Become a member of the growing community fighting to create change. Below are some organizations to consider supporting:

Everytown for Gun Safety

Moms Demand Action

Students Demand Action

Sandy Hook Promise

Brady United Against Gun Violence

 

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