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The last few days have given me pause to think, to have conversations with my family and friends, to be angry, to be sad, and then, finally to wonder where I fit in this big picture and if it even matters.

When my boys were very little, I didn't buy them toy guns or want them to play any violent games but, like the stories you've heard from thousands of parents like me, my sons turned sticks from the forest into rifles or legos from the house into machine guns and held mock battles on an almost daily basis. They also turned the kitchen set into a space ship and the stuffed animals became citizens of democracy where my youngest son served as President. Kids' imaginations are wonderful but their games are built less on parent's desires and more on society's whether we like it or not.

We made rules to govern mock violent play - no aiming at people's faces and wooden swords couldn't be raised above the head. That was to prevent them from becoming a weapon with which to beat their brother. Not that kids need weapons to hurt their siblings but it's a matter of degree, isn't it? If I give them the tool to commit the crime then as a parent I'm also partially to blame.

You know my boys are military kids and it was probably unreasonable to expect that guns wouldn't be a part of their lives in some respect, especially after our nation went to war. I thought that if boys could own the play-weapons of their choice when they were little, they might not desire the real thing when they grew up. So my kids have owned their share of battle axes and swords, of plastic water guns and wooden rifles. Their outdoor games had names like Manhunt, where two groups of kids would hunt each other in the woods and the team that kept at least one member safe would win the game. If everyone else 'died' then so be it.

Today I have a fourteen year old who begs to play M games on the X-box and who we have allowed to venture into the teen games with first person shooters. I have a 17 year old who has expressed interest in learning how to hunt. Neither has expressed interest in following their father's footsteps but both are intrigued by weapons to this day, just like their dad, though neither have ever shot a real gun.

I realized after the tragedy in Newton that I don't know how to talk about gun violence with either of them. It's almost easier to talk about sex and that's saying something. My youngest came to me to complain that a well known personality had tried to place some of the blame on violent video games in our culture. I wanted to have the conversation with him but he was so horrified that someone would think that video games had anything to do with it that he couldn't open his mind to question his beliefs. He just set his jaw and looked at me with the glare that said I had failed because I didn't agree with him from the outset.

We as a society are so unprepared for this conversation. We glorify violence in so many ways - through movies and film, through video games and music, through 24 hour news channels and endless websites on the internet.

My kids know that I prefer peaceful solutions to violent ones. But they also know that their dad has gone to war carrying a pistol as his sidearm to protect himself from harm. They know that soldiers shoot the enemy and that the meat that we eat comes from animals that we kill. They also know that Adam Lanza was a mad man and that violence of that sort is wrong. But what none of us know is the middle ground. Our society doesn't do middle ground very well.

That's the conversation that the NRA doesn't want us to have, the one where we don't talk about getting rid of the 2nd amendment but we do talk about what the 2nd amendment actually means. Because as soon as they accuse us of wanting to get rid of it, I find myself automatically thinking that no, that's not what I want. But if instead I start to analyze it, to consider it, to ponder it, to question it my mind actually can imagine doing without it.

No Founding Father ever imagined assault weapons that could mow down a classroom without reloading a weapon. They never imagined a crazy lunatic taking out a movie theatre full of people. They never imagined a university campus as a killing field. They imagined battlefields as place to fight revolutions and proposed that an armed citizenry could best protect itself from an unjust government. After all, isn't that what we had just done? But in today's society, we're not fighting a revolution. In today's American society do we want or need a populace armed with military grade weapons and, for those that say we do, I want to know exactly why? Is it for the coming zombie wars or just to make a few of us feel safer when they go to bed at night? Why isn't a rifle or a simple handgun enough? And why is it so hard to have this conversation with  my own kids?

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Comment Preferences

  •  If dad's got a gun how does one not sound (6+ / 0-)

    hypocritical telling a child all the reasons guns aren't good?

    It's a lot like an alcoholic parent yelling at his kid for smoking pot. "Do as I say not as I do'  dilemma. And that is PREVALENT in today's society.

    "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones."

    "Life without emotions is like an engine without fuel."

    by roseeriter on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 03:41:51 AM PST

  •  I cannot imagine raising kids today (10+ / 0-)

    When my kids were growing up, we went through most of what you have experienced and more.  We talked about my experiences in Vietnam, and as a police officer, and used those conversations to explain why I had little tolerance for gratuitous violence.

    Now my kids are grown - two street cops and a middle school teacher - with 5 kids of their own in the age groups of the kids at Sandy Hook.  

    I haven't asked, and simply cannot imagine, how my kids are handling the questions from their own children.  It has to be very, very difficult.

    I really hope that they - and you - can find a way to have the conversations that are now so necessary.

    I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

    by Wayward Wind on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 03:46:03 AM PST

  •  I hate when I forget to change the tip jar! (7+ / 0-)

    I wanted to say good morning before hitting the comments!

    So Good Morning!

  •  Mornin' angelajean and MOTs . . . (11+ / 0-)

    . . . and thanks for sharing your thoughts, angelajean. I think you hit on something here . . .

    Our society doesn't do middle ground very well.
    . . . that bears a closer look.

    I look at democracy as a very large pendulum of public opinion that few ideas or points of view can move by thenselves. Those that seek to move the pendulum either apply force to the pendulum slowly over a long period of time, or they move to the extreme position in hopes of shifting the pivot of the pendulum. Both methods serve to move the pendulum.

    MADD is a good example of the first way to move the pendulum. Over many, many years the force was applied until now public opinion is that drunk driving is not tolerated like it once was. The pendulum was shifted.

    The Tea Party is a good example of the second way to move the pendulum. They took such an extreme position on so many things that now we find ourselves talking about bargaining away things like Medicare and Medicaid that at one time were unspeakable. The pivot was moved.

    Moving the pendulum in the first way takes time and patience, but the move is generally permanent. Our nation usually feel like we have little time and less patience, so we tend to use the latter method if we want to move the pendulum. That's why I think we don't do shades of grey, subtle nuance or middle ground. We're impatient to move the pendulum so we take the extremes, hoping to move the pivot.

    Enough of the early morning philosophy. I hope everyone has a good day. Peace.

    - Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.
    - Frank Zappa

    by rudyblues on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:00:25 AM PST

    •  Thank you for this. (8+ / 0-)

      I was thinking a lot about the pendulum swinging last night and how there are times when I really believe in movements, like Occupy, to push the conversation to the left. But I know that kind of reaction doesn't always work and it seems that this conversation on Gun Control and Gun Violence needed something different. I think you've put your finger on it.

      How do we move this pendulum in a way that is lasting? You've given me a lot to think about and a good way to broach this subject with my kids. They like philosophical questions!

      Have a great day! Peace in return.

      •  Maybe a question to bring up with the 14 yo . . . (5+ / 0-)

        . . . is how and why we develop the proclivity to . . .

        set his jaw and looked at me with the glare that said I had failed because I didn't agree with him from the outset.
        . . . at such an early age.

        One of the most valuable lessons I learned in school was from a Humanities class where I learned that such behavior was really a defense mechanism, protecting my fragile ego from considering the possibility that I was wrong. Best lesson ever.

        - Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.
        - Frank Zappa

        by rudyblues on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:12:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Family is a safe place to practice behavior that (7+ / 0-)

          may not be appropriate - I think that's why we get some lip sometimes. I will tell you, we don't have the typical problems many parents have with teens. I'm not complaining that my kids never talk to me or don't want to deal with me. But my youngest and I are sort of stuck in a pattern that I'm trying to find a way to break and it is exactly this defense mechanism you mention. But I've always taught my kids that the best way to change a behavior in someone else is to change your own approach so I have to figure out what I'm doing that triggers this response. Other than just being his mom, that is :)

    •  How very true (7+ / 0-)

      In the early 70s, a DWI was viewed as no big deal...almost a rite of passage in the military.

      Less than a decade later, it made one a pariah in society and became grounds for discharge from the military on a second offense.

      The change in American attitudes was astonishing to watch....

      It can be must be done

      I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

      by Wayward Wind on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:07:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My Boy Scout Handbook from the 1950s (9+ / 0-)

    has firearm ads in it. Yet I and many others of that generation became pacifists and rejected the whole gun thing. Most kids like dinosaurs and trains. Why? They're big and powerful. Kids are small and weak and they know it.

    When baby animals play, it's faux fighting. People do the same. It's a survival mechanism. It's innate.

    But when that violence goes beyond survival or when people become confused as to what constitutes survival, then it's a societal problem, a tribal problem; not a family problem.  

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:02:04 AM PST

  •  Well, one thing for sure (5+ / 0-)

    I'm really glad my granddaughters are growing up in Chile. Its amazing to me that this is turning out to be  a godsend.

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:10:21 AM PST

    •  After having lived in many different places, (6+ / 0-)

      including Argentina, I'm curious why you think it is different?

      There was gun violence on a daily basis in Buenos Aires... granted, no mass murder in a classroom setting, but kids in poverty dealt with violence everyday.

      •  I'll have to study closer but... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, DaNang65

        Chile seems to me to be a very, very safe place.
        Ive never been to argentina (but might go to BA this spring)

        In Chile, in order to have a gun at all--any kind--, you have to be licensed, which also takes in criminal and mental history.
        They have a 2.2 gun homicide rate, which is lower than Oregon's which is one of the lowest states, less than one perentage point from sainted Canada on ALL homicides.

        But what they don't have is a macho gun culture like we do. Guns have a symbolism in the United States they don't seem to have anywhere else I've been. Theyre really sensationalized, fetishized. (NOT by everyone)
        Our cculture is full of it. Every kid was brought up seeing guns used, on tv and movies if not in real life. every kid has seen dozens, maybe hundreds of play acted murders. Michal Landon on an interview I saw said that he'd shot 279 people on Bonanza---thats mass murder of epic proportions

        Its also fetishized in video games. these portray violence, murder and depravity like NOTHING you and I grew up with. I remember trying to talk to my son about Doom which was a super realistic Kill-everyone-and-rule-the -world video game whereby the object is to kill many people in gruesome ways as possible.
        Like your son, he was like: HUH?  this is violence? Doesn't matter whether they believe its violence or not, the message is there and cloud and clear: Good guys kill badguys, mercilessly, over and over.
        This is just one example. You can see the difference walking around the streets---there's no one dressing with the specific intention of scaring other people like on any city bus in the USA. There's no one giving you hard looks like WHAT YOU LOOKING AT SUCKA!! I took the metro carrying my granddaughter and just about everyone in the car offered theur seat.
        I'm sure there's bad neighborhoods to avoid, just like anywhere else but I feel safe walking around there, and I'm ALWAYS unarmed. But Ive picked up a few tricks over time that have held me in good stead

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:53:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Doom: (0+ / 0-)

          Actually Doom was a game in which you were killing aliens and demons that were trying to take over the earth NOT humans. It's a sci-fi/horror first person shooter. I'm not sure about the 'realistic' part of it either. Yes it was violence, but it wasn't on the caliber of Call of Duty, or Godfather, or Grand Theft Auto. If you actually follow the story line, Doom isn't really the game you describe at all. Now it's not one I'd let my 9 year old play, my 17 year old however has played it. He's also fond of Overlord. But he won't play Call of Duty. Not because of the people but because of the military dogs. He won't shoot a dog, even in a video game.

          "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

          by FloridaSNMOM on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 05:43:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It seemd violent enough to me (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            and then it got worse afterwards

            Happy just to be alive

            by exlrrp on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 06:09:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh it was violent (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              But if I remember in the original all the blood was green as they were aliens and demons, and it was about stopping a take over of the world. I have no objection to your objection to it being too violent, but it wasn't the game you were describing. It was a shooting the bad guys who were not human and trying to take over the world for nefarious purposes game. Kind of like the movie Independence day but on the ground instead of air battles.

              I have more objection to Godfather and Grand Theft Auto where you're killing cops and innocent bystanders.

              "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

              by FloridaSNMOM on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 06:15:47 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I might be talking about something else (0+ / 0-)

                Memory might be fading
                You were in a castle type of things with diffferent levels where badguys jumped out at you and you blasted them with a variety of different weapons.

                But that was one of the first ones, theyve gotten worse since then. He quit playing with them at college.
                I have to say it didn't do him much harm, he's never had trouble with the police and never owned  a gun. But he's a good guy with a good head on hs shoulders

                Happy just to be alive

                by exlrrp on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 06:48:25 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Wolvenstein perhaps? (0+ / 0-)

                  That's the one set in Nazi Germany, and was closer to what you described.  My other half concurs, that sounds more like Wolvenstein than Doom. It was closer in story line to a Call of Duty type thing rather than Doom.

                  "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

                  by FloridaSNMOM on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 06:52:13 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Good Morning Angie (5+ / 0-)

    I had the conversation with our 7 year old.   We have no weapons in this house and we have had conversation before about guns when she ever visits her little friends.
    This does not happen without supervision as I just don't trust the maturity of many parents or grandparents whom I know own weapons.  

    I explained to her that the man who killed those children had scrambled brains.  I have used that terminology when referring to drug and alcohol or out of control people.   She interprets that as someone who is not thinking right and their thinking is scrambled and it is.
    My husband was brought up with weapons and hunted and then after exposure to war had many weapons that did for some years   .

      I would explain to them that there is no glory in war nor killing.   You don't get nine more lives like in video games.   It is final.

      Maybe I would explain to children this age, the same way Wesley Clark did....If you want to fire weapons..join the military.   A Father who is in the military could and should have the talk.  There is no need to have an assault weapon for protection.  Unless that is your job.  A father in the military has that job.  To Kill the enemy.

      We have police who are supposed to serve and protect in the US so there is a start.  We must learn to trust our law enforcement, somewhere along the line.  Another conversation that needs to be ongoing.   The culture of violence is all around.   Guns are part of it.  There is more in the culture of violence.  There is fear and hate..The biggest threat of all.

    You are in a bad position along with all active military famileis Angie.  They have been exposed to guns, though and there you have an advantage.

    Best of luck.  thinking of you during this time.  

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:32:09 AM PST

    •  Thank you very much for these words Vetwife. (5+ / 0-)

      I appreciate them very much. Your little girl is a very lucky one to have you as a mom!

      •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BOHICA, angelajean, FloridaSNMOM, DaNang65

        This Mom has been very very upset over all of this and since we have had drills , I too have been paralyzed by fear for her safety.  They have buzzers.  They have also been on lockdown several times.  There are woods and trespass and gunfire and  I cannot tell her that the bad man was far far away as I am quite sure he and his brother have been very close before the tragedy.  The grandmother lives within 12 miles.   I know there are other scrambled brains around.  I shudder and think this could happen anywhere and this area is very gun oriented.   Glock shops I pass on the way to schools,  They advertise it.
        I am very afraid and fear should not grip me so I have to rely on my faith.  I know it can happen in skating rinks, school, movies and restaurants.  It happened at Chuck E Cheese.   It is very hard to raise children especially my generation of absolute disgust knowing I only had to worry about ducking and cover...The A bomb.

        We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

        by Vetwife on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:46:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent (6+ / 0-)

    Thank You for This Diary.

    Any mom or dad will see this through the lens of parenthood, and in your case- no armchair rhetoric allowed: Just genuine, 'on the ground' concern.

    I have 5 sons- mostly grown now. One of them is an avid gun collector and assault rifle owner.

    I am ANTI-gun... Seen a little too much.


  •  Morning (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, DaNang65

    a slow moving wave to do something about these guns is developing. we have to help push that wave.

    we all can contact our 3 reps.
    I will be calling Larry Kissell, Kay Hagan, & Richard Burr.

    Jan 4th I will call newly elected Richard Hudson.

    Should we get serious also & call once a week?
    Write & request a reply once a week ?

    Just Do It

    fits very well here

  •  I've talked with my kids... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, DaNang65

    My daughter doesn't seem to have grasped it, though her friend only a couple of years older has, and she and I talked about it a little over the weekend. But her friend's mother was killed by a gun, so it's a bit more personal for her.
    My son was completely shocked and outraged that anyone could do this. He wants to know the why's and how we stop it, so we've had a much more in depth talk. He's never seen or held a gun in real life, other than holstered at a police man's hip.  He has nerf guns and water guns, but that's as close as he's come. Once he got really angry at a cousin who pointed a more realistic toy gun at him, because you don't do that (except with water guns).
    I won't say he never plays violent video games, but it's cartoon violence not realistic. He also (now) knows very well the difference between video and tv and real.

    We have talked about the difference between having a gun for hunting, having a gun for protection, and having the types of guns being used in these horrors.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 06:05:57 AM PST

  •  as a parent of a teenager, I have found (0+ / 0-)

    that talking to her about "uncomfortable" stuff is more "uncomfortable" for me than it is for her. She has friends of all persuasions and she doesn't hesitate when it comes to debating them on issues where they disagree. She knows intuitively that so much of this stuff just doesn't make sense. At the same time, she laments her friend John, who argued the pro-gun position on her FB... she's worried in advance b/c he's going straight into the Marines after h.s. graduation this summer.

    Heart her, what a great kid. :-)

    I think you (generic you) have to trust yourself more, as a parent. They do hear/see you even if you don't realize it at the time, it does sink in.

    Get out there and get peace, think peace, live peace, and breathe peace, and you'll get it as soon as you like.” ~ John Lennon

    by Lady Libertine on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 06:41:04 AM PST

  •  Oregon Weather Report For The Deaf (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaNang65, angelajean



    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 06:56:00 AM PST

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