Tuesday 28 March 2023

Morning View of Tennessee from London

Some quick thoughts on gun violence from overseas: 

Today, Dash and I had a lazy morning. We both slept in a bit, though he snoozed even longer than I did, and while he was cuddled up next to me I shared some photos of our fun times around London yesterday. 

And, of course, going online exposed me to the news that, yet again, a bunch of American children and their teachers were shot to death in their school. 

When Dash woke up, I showed him the photos I'd shared of him being silly, then we watched a video on Instagram, and the next thing in my feed was this courageous woman speaking out against America's gun insanity. 

After we watched it, I explained that the United States is different than a lot of other countries, because we have a lot of guns around, that guns are extremely dangerous and kill people, and unfortunately a lot of kids in the US die because of guns. 

I left out the part that kids can get shot in school, because I am not ready for that part of the conversation, and probably never will be, but coming up with age-appropriate ways to talk through the above was about enough for my pre-caffeination parental brain in one morning heart-to-heart.

I did explain that other countries, including the United Kingdom, used to have this problem, too, but when a lot of kids were killed with guns, they quickly took away a lot of weapons and made it very hard to get more. I also explained that our city and state (San Francisco, California) are trying to fix this, and because of that we are broadly safer than lots of other cities, but that it is hard because so many people in our country think that is against the rules to restrict access to firearms. 

Now, yesterday we visited the Tower of London, which was both a medieval war machine and the storehouse of weaponry for the crown. Dash did the things that lots of kids have done before, including ogling armor and seeing a vast array of sharp, pointy and loud, blasty things that were used to suppress and kill people. We got a direct look at Britain's violent past, and we could also talk about what has changed and why we don't do those things now. 

One of the things we noted as we came into the Tower was the London Wall which used to enclose the city. And, so, Dash quite naturally suggested that we should build such a wall around San Francisco. We talked about all the reasons that would or wouldn't work, and he eventually conceded that probably isn't the best solution these days, even though it worked pretty well a long time ago. 

Then he said, "It's a good thing that we're in England right now." 

Kid, I have to agree. Before his time, I lived here as a university student and beyond, and I gradually set down my worry about being shot in public. Cars backfiring stopped making me jump. Police here generally don't shoot people, and mostly don't have firearms. Despite moving here literally on the day of the most deadly terrorist attack on London in recent history, being here provided me peace that I hadn't experienced in the States. 

And, once we moved back to San Francisco, I had to educate my British husband about what you do and don't do when you hear gunfire, and which parts of a wooden Victorian house are safest when bullets are flying out front. A low level of hyper-vigilance re-entered my life once more. 

As Dash's school days crept closer, and school shootings continued, I mentioned to James that the US might not be the best place to raise a child. The UK has plenty of mess of its own these days, in no small part thanks to a rightwing faction that is similarly disinterested in human well-being as its American counterpart, though honestly nowhere near as advanced in its depravity as the GOP they seem to be aping of late. 

In the US, Republicans both demand that women be enslaved to childbirth, but also that our children being mown down in school should be accepted as the price of freedom. Dunblane at least ended the latter half of that discussion here in a swift fashion, even under Tory leadership. The protracted suffering of Americans because of gun fetishism is unimaginable in most other countries that we would consider our allies and peers. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It doesn't have to be like this. I went to high school near Columbine, and was in lockdown for hours in a trailer on the day of that massacre with reports that the gunmen--boys, actually--were en route to our school next. How that wasn't the end, I'll never know. Why I have to explain this to my kindergartner now despite having lived through that then is impossible to understand. 

Thank you to Ashbey Beasley for jumping into this press conference and speaking directly about your action. Over 20 years of uselessness since Columbine, and actual loosening of gun safety regulations in the interim, leaves me angry at America's continual failure and unwillingness to do what is right.