I can think of nothing this morning but acceptance. I’ve tried resisting. I’ve tried letting our leaders work it out. I’ve tried anger and fear and sarcasm. But it looks like the only thing left is acceptance. To live in the United States, a part of the bargain is living in a fishbowl where I will never know if my movie or church service or country concert will be the scene of my death. Apparently, there is nothing to be done, and there is nobody willing to say this is unacceptable in a country such as ours. Our lot, it seems, is to live in fear – or acceptance – that we could be gunned down any moment.
I have a shock of fear go through me now when I arrive at an event or in a movie theater. I look around. “What if it happened here,” I ask myself as I look for the closest exit and plan how I would hide – envisioning that he would still find me and shoot me point blank. I eventually let it go because the odds are high that it won’t happen to me today, but they certainly aren’t zero. I even watch closely the guy at work with an anger problem. What if?... could he? .. should I say something? and it scares me to death.
When I was in Louisiana, my friends urged me to carry a gun. I don’t want to carry a gun… not because I hate guns but because I don’t want to live that way. I don’t want to be afraid. I also suffer from depression. I don’t want to have easy access to a weapon that could end my life in a moment of desperation. I know people who took their lives due to the accessibility of a gun in a bad bout of depression. For me, the odds are higher that I would shoot myself than the odds of someone shooting me. I can’t believe I have to weigh these odds in America, the land of the free.
One of the reasons I moved here to this little town was to get out of the violence in southern cities such as Baton Rouge and Memphis. I chose in both of them to not be afraid. I just told myself that I was going to live my life as if nothing would happen, and I did. But I knew that one day my luck might run out on that. A small town in Southwest Michigan would be a safer spot, I thought.
There were nights in Baton Rouge where my fear would keep me awake. I’d hear sirens and gunshots, and I would feel the fear and anxiety shoot through my body. My silly mode of coping would be to get up and put my living room chair up against my front door. I knew it would stop no one, but for some reason it felt like I did something, and sleep would come. Thankfully, it didn’t happen every day, but it happened often enough. The last weeks I was there I would count the days until I didn’t have to worry about gun violence any more. I did not want to grow old in a place like that.
I don’t have any idea if gun control would solve anything. I don’t have any solutions. But, once again, I have to grapple with the tears that fall empathetically with small-town churchgoers who were going about their lives and were gunned down in cold blood. They, too, didn’t think it could happen to them that day. Once again I have to stuff my anger – with its underlying fear – that our country does not know how to solve this problem. Once again, I have to accept that I am an American. And in this day and age, being an American means wearing a target on my chest hoping that no one chooses to take aim.
My heart is sad for our country and all of its victims. We don’t even hear about the daily victims of gun violence. The numbers of deaths by gun violence are staggering. And we just keep looking away. The victims are shot … more victims face lifelong injury … other victims lose loved ones, and others – like me – lose their feeling of freedom and safety. We are all victims at some level of gun violence in this country.
Welcome to America … the land of the free and the home of the brave.