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The Greatest Tragedy

My family had just celebrated my son’s first birthday when the nation’s attention focused on a high school in Colorado where two students killed 13 people.

My daughter was less than a month old when terrorists struck the Twin Towers .

I’ve been a mom for 17 years, and I have absolutely no concept how it feels like to know my children are safe.

I  can only hope the odds that they are more likely to graduate than they are to be the victims of horrific crimes.

My children grew up in a world where violence is a constant. They’ve seen news footage of shootings in elementary schools, high schools, colleges and movie theaters. They only know a life in which such events are just another blip in an ongoing story about how unhappy, angry and unstable people resort to horrible acts to express their feelings. Phrases such as gun control and school shootings are a part of their every day vocabulary.

But despite practicing school lockdowns and opening their bags for inspection everywhere they go, my kids don’t focus on what others might do to them. My son is concerned about his SAT scores and my daughter is trying to decide what song she should sing for an upcoming audition. The threat of violence is just the constant white noise that constitutes the background of their lives.

But not so much for their parents.

On the same day that a television reporter and cameraman were shot during a live newscast, my son wore a blazer to school.

He is part of the morning news crew at his school television station, and he was going to be on air.

He left the house at about 6:45 preparing for a live broadcast while at the exact same time, another live newscast had just ended in violence.

White noise for him, another reason to worry for his parent, and another opportunity for pundits, politicians and every day people to argue about how to prevent another such incident.

By the end of the day, my Facebook feed was full of posts from people arguing for and against gun control and pontificating about mental illness and violence.

And I said nothing because I’ve come to realize my words wouldn’t matter.

People argued after Columbine. People argued after Virginia Tech. People argued after Sandy Hook.

And despite all that arguing, the shootings and violence continues.

I’m not writing this because I have a brilliant idea how to prevent such events.

I’m writing this because when my kids left for school this morning, the white noise in their lives was louder than usual and my concern for their safety was heightened.

I am writing this because I am tired of everyone talking at each other, disagreeing with each other and embracing their hatred and anger toward anyone who doesn’t think like they do.

And I am writing this because my children have grown up with such behavior and have come to accept it.

And that is the greatest tragedy of all.

I Couldn’t Get a Dog so I Got a Gun

rodney1Conflict among people is normal, and most of us accept it as a routine part of life. Conflict within ourselves is just as normal, but something with which we often struggle.

As a licensed social worker, I couldn’t get out of bed every morning if I didn’t believe people can change, that humans have an innate responsibility to support each other and that no good comes from belittling others.

As a rational human, I couldn’t get through life if I simply tolerated and never called out stupid and ridiculous beliefs and behaviors.

As a licensed social worker, I have to ensure that my conduct is appropriate, that I abide by a code of ethics and that I participate in ongoing continuing education.

As a rational human, I am dumbfounded by people who complain when they are required to meet expectations and criteria before they are provided with opportunities and privileges.

As a licensed social worker, I have an obligation to listen, try to understand the perspective of others and validate their feelings.

As a rational human, I simply cannot understand why others choose to ignore facts, scream conspiracy and throw around accusations that are hurtful. I have to call out people who choose to believe and spread all of the vile, ridiculous and illogical propaganda about gun control that I have been witnessing over the past few weeks.

The rabid followers of the NRA propaganda machine remind me of children blindly hitting a piñata at a birthday party. For most people, hitting the piñata is just fun game that results in children scrambling for a few pieces of candy. But  the NRA is turning gun control into a piñata  that must be destroyed and is putting the blindfolds on people as they swing at it. Those swinging the sticks are convinced that if they don’t break the piñata, they will never have candy again.

In reality, if the piñata doesn’t break, the children won’t be denied candy. They just won’t get the immediate gratification they are seeking.

Most parents allow their children to have candy, but they don’t want them to make a diet of it. Similarly, gun control advocates are not screaming that everyone’s guns should be confiscated. Instead, they are recognizing that too many lives are being broken and destroyed by guns and that something must be done. To counter that, claims are being made that the gun death statistics in the United States aren’t that bad.

Tell that to someone who has lost a loved one to a gun. For them, one death is too many.

Just ask Jackie Barden, whose son Daniel was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school in December. Jackie recently noted that the process for adopting a kitten is more difficult than getting a gun.

I don’t know much about adopting kittens, but I do know a lot about adopting dogs. As a volunteer for a dog rescue group, my role is to process applications. In other words, I do background checks. I check national “do not adopt” lists. I do a criminal background check. I conduct property checks. I review living arrangements. I talk to animal control and veterinarians about the applicants. And I call references. If I don’t find any red flags, another volunteer conducts a home visit.

Many families who want to adopt a dog are denied for a variety of reasons: they’ve had pets hit by cars; they haven’t spayed or neutered their current or previous pets; they aren’t home enough to spend quality time with an animal; they don’t have the money or space for a dog; they already have too many pets. The list is long and varied, but the bottom line is the same.  Rescue groups want to ensure the dogs have a good quality of life and, most of all, that they are safe.

We should want the same for people.  And yet, in the United States, people who are denied adopting a dog can walk into a store or a gun show and buy almost any gun they want.

We might be keeping dogs safe, but I have to wonder about the people.