Just over two weeks ago, while families gathered to watch Fourth of July fireworks at a park less than a mile from my home, a gun was fired. In addition to shooting the intended victim, the gunman also shot and injured an eight year-old girl.
Just two days ago, a man opened fire in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, He killed 12 people and injured dozens more.
While one incident was right down the street and the other was across the country, my initial reaction to both was the same. I wanted to hug my children and thank God they were safe. And then I wanted to scream about the insanity of it all: “Why does such senseless violence keep occurring and, even worse, why is it creeping into my world?”
In “my world,” the only violence we ever witness is in the form of entertainment: on television, in the movies and in video games. It’s not a place where people have to fear actual violence.
In “my world,” safe neighborhoods are easily defined, and we avoid violence by avoiding unsafe locations. It’s not a place where my daughter’s friends tell her “that shooting at the park was in my backyard.”
In “my world,” guns are used for hunting animals and shooting targets – not for shooting people. It’s not a place where people use violence to resolve a dispute or share their rage with the world.
In “my world,” when a horrible crime does occur, we rally around and pray for the victims and their families. It’s not a place where, only hours after a shooting, we try to turn a tragic event into a political advantage.
But I’ve come to realize that “my world” is a complete fantasy, but it’s a fantasy I also want my children to believe.
On July 5, I was driving by the park where the shooting had occurred only hours before. My daughter, sitting in the passenger seat, noticed all the people picnicking and swimming and asked “why are those people even at that park? Don’t they know it’s dangerous.?”
She was talking about a park that she has walked to and played in hundreds of times: a park where I walk my dog every day: a park that is the gathering place for most community events in my town.
And so, I told her that the shooting was an isolated incident and she shouldn’t worry or avoid the park.
What I didn’t tell her was that if we tried to avoid every place where there’s been gun violence, our options would be very limited. At the time, movie theaters weren’t even on my radar.
But theaters are creeping onto my worry list now.
Just last night, while my daughter was performing in a local production of “The Wizard of Oz,” the alarms in the theater unexpectedly went off.
No one in the audience moved, and the youth on the stage continued to perform. We were probably all hoping the same thing: that the smoke on the stage had tripped a fire alarm. We were also probably all just a little worried about the same thing: that someone with a gun had entered the building.
The alarm was turned off, my concerns ebbed and I went back to the fantasy of “my world.” It’s actually a very nice place, and I like living there. If I didn’t, I’d go crazy with worry.
Sadly, I’m having to leave it more and more often. And until we stop arguing about solutions and actually start working together, “my world” never will be a reality.