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?