Fear: the cost of freedom?

On yet another Monday morning shortly into the school year, the typical scenario played out in my home. That typical scenario includes repeated visits to bedrooms to get kids out of bed, usually some sort of panicked search for an item of crucial importance (although apparently not crucial enough to remember where it is in the first place), a discussion and/or complaints about the weather and its impact on wardrobe choices and significant coaxing on my part to get kids out the door on time for school. 

This scenario will repeat itself day after day, with only slight variations, for the duration of the school year. It’s exasperating. 

Yet no matter how frustrated I find myself getting, I make it a point to put all of that aside each morning to say, “Have a good day. I love you.” I absolutely refuse to let my kids leave each day with even the possibility of them feeling that I’m angry or upset. 

This is a practice we should probably all have with the people we love, but, let’s face it, there are times we all take those people for granted and we go about our day knowing our spouse went off to work following an exasperated eye roll or an irritated tone of voice. 

The real reason that I make it a point not to be angry or upset when my kids leave in the morning is because I live with an almost constant knot of fear in my gut. 

Like far too many parents, I live in fear that something will happen to my kids while they’re at school. 

Here at the Herald office, listening to scanner traffic all day is part of the job. I live in fear that one day that scanner will call law enforcement to our local schools for an active shooter. 

I wish I could say that the safety and security measures the local school district has put in place made me feel any better, but, in all honesty, they haven’t. 

This fear goes beyond simply sending my kids to school. 

My husband and I scope out exits and look for possible protective barriers nearly everywhere we go, planning our seating arrangements at movie theaters, concerts and more in ways we feel may best protect the kids. 

Places and situations that were once pure fun and relaxation have been tainted. I can’t remember the last time I completely relaxed when we were out. 

This makes me angry. 

My daughter has spoken to me about her reality at school. She asked me once how the 20-plus kids in her classroom could possibly hide in the area they’ve been taught to hide in. She’s commented multiple times on how much she hates lockdown drills and being scared at school. 

This too makes me angry.

I continually come back to the same conclusion. This is not normal, and it doesn’t have to be this way. 

On a recent Saturday evening I had the opportunity to visit Park City to hear Parkland, Florida, students Jaclyn Corin and David Hogg speak at an event hosted by the Park City Institute. It was an evening I’ll not soon forget. Corin and Hogg lived through an absolutely horrific experience when their high school became yet another in a seemingly endlessly growing list of those now synonymous with school shootings. 

Listening to them speak, I was struck by their ability to eloquently describe their background, their community, their high school, the events of Feb. 14, 2018, and the days before and after, as well as their mission now to bring change to our country. 

While the students touched on gun control and the March for Our Lives Peace Plan, which also includes elements of gun control, their discussion was about so much more. 

I myself am a gun control advocate. “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” is how the saying goes. True, but we certainly don’t need to be making it easier for people to kill as many people as possible with weapons and ammunition of war in the hands of those intent on causing harm. 

It seems to me to be basic common sense to institute reasonable laws, including universal background checks and the resources and manpower necessary to complete them, restrictions on the types of firearms and ammunition available to the general public, gun lock requirements, “Red Flag” laws and licensing in the name of public safety. 

I find it unacceptable that the entire country is currently hearing about the dangers of vaping and multiple task forces have been assembled to investigate the issue following less than a dozen deaths, yet tens of thousands of people die through gun violence each year and we seem to have just gotten used to it. 

The term “gun violence” involves far more than mass shootings, by the way, including domestic violence incidents and suicide. 

Beyond gun control, however, there are a whole lot of other issues involved. For instance, we need to stop scapegoating mental illness and claiming mass shooters are “mentally deranged.” No, they’re actually domestic terrorists and, as Hogg said at the Park City appearance, “Domestic terrorism is not mental illness.” 

It’s amazing to me that when someone who perpetuates mass violence is of a different religion or skin color, they’re readily branded as terrorists, yet when the person happens to be white, they’re somehow a “lone wolf attacker.” A great many of these people leave behind a trail of social media posts, manifestos or other lists of grievances that include white supremacist propaganda. Echoing what Hogg made clear in Park City, “Xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism are not mental illness.” 

They seem to sadly be increasingly acceptable viewpoints, both in the United States and elsewhere. Perhaps if these vile beliefs weren’t becoming so common, we’d be able to see the warning signs of violence earlier to help stop these individuals before they act instead of sending hollow “thoughts and prayers” afterward. 

There are also complex conversations that must be had about social equity and societal norms and what has happened to us as a people that makes so many resort to scapegoating, hatred and violence. 

Whenever these issues come up, I hear a lot about freedom and rights — the freedom and right to bear arms, the freedom and right to free speech, including hate speech. 

I have to ask, what about the rights of our children to assemble in their schools without fear of dying in that same school?

We desperately need to be having conversations about violence, and not just about whether arming teachers will make students safer, but about prevention and what’s happening in our country to make these incidents all too common. There’s no excuse for not putting aside partisan differences and having an honest, frank discussion. This isn’t about politics; it’s about our children’s very lives. 

I envy the parents who were able to raise their children in a time before they had to worry about this, before every day was accompanied by a knot in the stomach about sending their children to a place they’re supposed to be safe. It hasn’t always been this way and it doesn’t have to be this way. 

“We don’t need to live in an America where people living in fear is the cost of freedom.” – David Hogg


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