I’m Grateful to be Living Outside America–And That Breaks My Heart

I’m an American.

I root for Team USA during the Olympics. I get a little misty-eyed when the flag is raised or I hear the first strains of The Star Spangled Banner. I sigh in delight over rockets red glare on the Fourth of July. I wax poetic about the joy of a cheeseburger and a Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee. I marvel at the expanse of sea to shining sea.

I’m an American.

But I don’t live in America any more.

I live in Europe now. Europe is not free of violence or discrimination, it’s not a perfect utopia where everyone is sitting cross-legged in a circle strumming Kumbayah. It’s not without problems or worries. It’s not even free of guns.

But it is a place without everyday gun violence, without mall rampages and movie theatre massacres. And without school shootings. And while we’re here, let’s stop mincing words, without the frighteningly regular slaughter of innocents.

My teenager gets on his bike every morning and cycles to school. I worry that some distracted driver will clip him. I worry he’ll be distracted and do something stupid. Sometimes I worry that he’ll ride without a helmet, despite my insistence.

I don’t worry about identifying his bullet-ridden body in a cold morgue because someone shot up his school.

I worry my fourth-grader will feel lonely on the playground. I worry he’ll get anxious about a test. I worry that he will come home with head lice because head lice is a pain in the ass.

I don’t worry about him hiding in a corner of his classroom while someone with an assault rifle is roaming the hallway looking for unlocked doors.

I go to parent teacher conferences. I worry that my kids will fall through the cracks because, truth be told, they’re easy kids to teach and sometimes teachers spend a disproportionate amount of their time with kids who have more challenging needs. I worry that they’re not drilling them in their times tables enough, because man, I knew those things backward and forward.

I do not worry about looking those teachers in the eye and trying to figure out if they would take a bullet for my kids.

I worry now that my teen has more independence he’ll make the right choices.

I never worry about those choices including walking into a store and buying a gun.

I worry my sons spend too much time on their computers, their iPads, their phones.

I do not worry when they scamper off to see the latest Marvel movie on the big screen that someone is going to come in and shoot up the theatre.

I worry they might give in to peer pressure.

I don’t worry about them going to other people’s homes where there may be unsecured, loaded weapons.

I worry about drugs. I worry about unprotected sex. I worry my soon to be high schooler isn’t working to his full potential and it might hurt his chances when he applies to college.

I never worry he’s going to get hold of an AR-15 and shoot up his school.

We all live in uncertain times. I sometimes worry about planes being blown out of the sky and trucks plowing into pedestrians.

I don’t worry about my kids living in a state of perpetual lock-down preparation. I don’t worry about whether or not their teacher is getting through to them how to be quiet in an active shooter situation. I don’t worry about their teachers carrying guns.

I’m an American who is sitting somewhere else, wondering if she can ever go home, because though I may bleed red, white, and blue, I am not sure I can stomach the idea of worrying about my children bleeding out on a classroom floor for someone else’s interpretation of a two hundred year old sentence.

I know I’m not the only one in this situation. I talk to dozens of other Americans, mostly mothers, some fathers, who find themselves navigating these same complex feelings. I’m both grateful that I can send my children to school free of these worries, and pounded by guilt that so many people I love have to someone manage them everyday.

I know there are others. So, so many others. I know I’m not the only American abroad who feels this way:

I’m an American who is grateful that right now I do not live in America.

And that breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces.

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This original version of this article first appeared on Medium, a new platform for me. If you like it, head on over to the original (linked right above ↑) and ‘clap’ for it. Thx.
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America is a Gun

No one needs an assault rifle. Or a semi-automatic rifle. Or whatever the semantic difference is that people think is important and is really not because that’s not the point.

No one needs an AR-15 to defend themselves.

No one needs to open carry a semi-automatic weapon.

No one needs one to protect themselves from whatever Boogeyman the government is shilling that day.

No one needs one to protect their land from gophers.

No one needs one to protect themselves against government tyranny because if the government’s got you surrounded at that point, sweetie, you are up the proverbial creek and all your AR-15 is going to be good for is paddling.

No one needs one for shooting deer. Or rabbits. Or grouse. Or clay pigeons.

No one needs to keep one in their back seat in case there’s an alien invasion on I-95.

No one needs an AR-15.

People want them. That’s the difference.

People want them because they’re “fun”, because it’s enjoyable to use them for target practice, or as I saw one person write, blowing charcoal briquettes to bits on a long, dusty road.

People want them because the NRA tells them that they might not be able to get one soon.

People want them because goddamn it, no one can tell them what they can or cannot have. (As the argument goes, if we start calling guns ‘uterus’, then we’ll be able to successfully regulate the shit out of them).

People want them because they fear over-reaching government.

People want them because they believe that because they are responsible, others will be too.

People want them because they believe in the absolute of a sentence written 250 years ago.

Here is my question: At what point in the evolution of society do individuals look at on the daily carnage (18 school shootings in the first 45 days of 2018. 28 mass shootings in the first 45 days of 2018) and say: I am going to rethink my enjoyment of target shooting with (fill in the correct semantic) weapon because it’s important for me to contribute to the well-being of society as a whole?

At what point does the individual say: Hey, I can protect myself and my family, I can hunt and target shoot, defend myself with the myriad of other weapons out there, and as much as I may WANT a semi-automatic, I can see that they are responsible for a lot of that daily carnage. In fact, between the years of 1994 and 2004 when there was a ban on assault weapons, I managed to do just that. And so, for the greater good, I’m going to push for a ban on those weapons of carnage. Even though it means I personally might lose out on my enjoyment, or my want.

At what point does the individual say: I can see that the other factors always listed in these instances–mental health, criminal activity, intent to do harm, that those things do not exist in a vacuum. Other countries experience violent crime, but nowhere close to the gun violence ripping through the United States, on a weekly, daily, hourly basis.

At what point does the individual say: Enough, my tenuous and questionable right to own a weapon meant for quick and efficient killing of other human beings (and let’s not fool ourselves, it wasn’t created to shoot clay pigeons or those human shaped targets with concentric circles they like to show on CSI–it was created to efficiently kill human beings) is stripping away the fundamental right to life of other human beings. Other human beings with whom I must share the planet, the country, the city, the school with.

At what point does the individual say: Why should my questionable right (and indeed, it depends on which way the Supreme Court wind is blowing that decision) to own, collect, or use an assault weapon come above the rights of 365 million other Americans–the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I guess I’m asking, in my typically long-winded way, is at what point do we rise, as a whole and agree that there must be, in any evolved society, a hierarchy of rights. And where are we, as a whole, as a nation, if we cannot agree that the rights of children to grow into adults, for spouses to grow into retirement, for colleagues and others to live to their full potential–the right of all of us as citizens to walk, as protected as we can possibly be, through a life unmarked by violence– comes above someone else’s ‘because I can’?

I know there are going to be folks that read this and immediately defend 2nd Amendment rights. I’m not advocating for the confiscation of all guns. I am absolutely advocating for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. I am arguing and advocating for clear and sensible gun regulations, safety and responsibility. We can and should wrap into this conversation issues surrounding access to health care, including mental health. But please, if you are going to advocate for mental health changes, give me a detailed plan. What, when, how, who’s going to pay for it? Because while a ban on assault rifles, like the one in the decade between 1994 and 2004 will help, a lot, it won’t solve the problem of why so many American boys and men (statistically speaking, almost ALL) feel entitled to take out their rage on others. Let’s figure out why. But in the meantime, let’s not give them an easier way to do it.

Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough To Make Me Go Home

Noah Posner, died, Sandy Hook, Connecticut
Noah Posner, died, Sandy Hook, Connecticut

I don’t recognize the country I left eight years ago.

I don’t recognize my home.

When I left, I never feared being shot over a parking spot or of my life ending in a pool of bloody popcorn kernels while watching a blockbuster onscreen. I didn’t have nightmares of my children being gunned down at school, brain matter spattered like so much chalk dust on the floor.

I didn’t think about having to raise my kids in a country where the unfortunate killing of a gorilla elicits more of a call for change than that of the slaughter of fifty human lives.

Home to me was never the right to buy and own an assault weapon, a weapon of mass destruction and killing power, a right which is fought and politicized more than the right to have the inevitable bullet wounds from those weapons stitched back together.

Home was never a place of such irony, where shouts for better mental health awareness and treatment are voiced as a means to curb mass shootings, but the outcry over a health care system to pay for those things is even louder.

Home was a country fifty years past desegregation, not a place when social segregation and demonization were once again being put forth as viable answers.

Veronica Moser-Sullivan, died Aurora, Colorado
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, died Aurora, Colorado

When I left, home was a country on the brink of electing its first black president, not a country on the verge of electing one who brags about the size of his penis, who spews hate, who objectifies women and thinks that calling a sitting United States senator “Goofy” is the way to make a country great again.

When I left home was still  looking to learn from the nightmare of September 11, not collectively failing to learn from Newtown, San Bernadino, Lafayette, Charleston, or Binghamton, a country so afraid of protecting itself against what could happen, it is completely blind to what is actually happening.

Home was not a place where the right to kill superseded the right to live.

Eight years ago my home was not a country shored up on thoughts and prayers, because thoughts and prayers? They mean fuck all when you’re counting bodies.

Home may no longer want me. Home may tell me to stay where I am, good riddance, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Marci Breaux and Jillian Johnson, died Lafayette, Louisiana
Marci Breaux and Jillian Johnson, died Lafayette, Louisiana

But I’ll tell you something. I am exactly the type of person my home needs. I, and the folks who think like me, the ones who teach your children, who look after your health, who research the way to cure your diseases. The ones who understand the benefit in paying taxes, of investing in infrastructure and health care and education, in inclusiveness, of compromise and equality, who are willing to stand up for all, not just a few.

Just like eight years ago, home is poised on the brink of another election, another historic possibility. An election which will set the tone not only for the next four years, but for the next generation, if they last that long.

I hope the choice is one which helps welcome me home again.

 

 

The Exception to the Rule

true-false.-dental-quizThe one who cried rape just to get even

The one who scammed welfare and lived like a king

The one who had an abortion at 30 weeks because she changed her mind

The one who claimed to be transgender to do some peeping Tom foolery

The one who strapped on a suicide vest just because he was Muslim

The one who doesn’t have a job just because he’s lazy

The one who accused a celebrity just for the money

The one who had extra children just for the food stamps

The one with a gun who stops a burglar 

The one who stole the job just because he was Mexican

The one who got the promotion only because she was black

make-black-eyes-bruises-hickeys-fade-heal-faster-5-different-ways.1280x600The one whose eye was blacked because her boyfriend was acting in self-defense

Sure.

It happens.

But when did the exception become the rules by which we live?