Almost 5 months in.
Exactly 144 days.
213 mass shootings.
42 just in May.
22 just on May 24.
17 just on May 24.
Countless the loved ones affected,
As beds lie empty in want of peaceful dreamers,
And once abundantly light rooms rest in horrific, heavy silence,
While well-loved toys will now collect dust,
With dreams shattered and futures unnaturally upended.
The siblings and the friends wandering aimlessly
with desires that can never again be answered in this life.
The parents and guardians picking out burial wood
when they should be picking out new shoes and suits and toys
and snacks their babies loved so much.
Unimaginable, the excruciating breaking of hearts
as so easily accessed bullets shattered
Immeasurable the anger and rage at this maddening world.
Countless the “thoughts and prayers.”
Countless the “passionate, moving speeches.”
Countless the empty words and promises and plans to ensure
“This cannot happen again.”
Countless the rhetoric that is as tired and expected as these shootings.
Countless the tears in the wake of yet another
Loss of life,
Freezing of Time.
Easy the access to these guns and bullets and simulations.
Easy the hate that spreads and the pain rooted deeply.
Easy, evidently, the orchestrating of active-shooter trainings.
Easy, it seems, to see action over protection of the unborn.
Hard the access to food on weekends and up-to-date schoolbooks.
Hard the adequate resources and funding of our education system.
Hard, evidently, the actual policy reform to proactively protect our children and teachers.
Hard, it seems, to see action over protection of those already born.
Every teacher knows.
We know what spots in our classes to check.
We know escape routes and drills.
We check the rooms we enter for
and last-minute, Hail-Mary weapons to save our kids
for the day we now trust will come and how we will respond to it.
We speak to our own families and friends,
“When, not if, but when this happens,
And should I fall, here’s what to do next….”
Some of us take self-defense.
Some attend active shooter trainings.
Some have tourniquets prepped.
Some plan exit strategies in the same hour they plan Lord of the Flies units,
because the line continues to blur between fact and fiction.
Some will not make it home.
We all question if that will one day be us.
Some look at vests they can wear undetected under clothes
Because we want to live
but we don’t want to scare our kids.
We are being told teachers should carry weapons.
We laugh humorlessly.
You don’t trust us to teach,
You bind our bones by banning books,
You implement policies that make no sense,
You keep us underpaid and unsupported,
Because you lack faith in us to teach,
Which should be our only job.
Our children and colleagues are murdered around us,
Our kids are suffering in homes in which they feel unsafe,
Amongst peers who attack them,
They carry the weight of the world,
Some disappear in the backdrop of classrooms filled to the brim with 35 students,
Or in cramped hallways where no eye sees all,
And some collapse.
And some take it out on others who did not hurt them.
And your solution, instead of raising our society,
addressing the real issues these kids face,
working to empower them to be self-sustaining and empathetic,
is to arm us?
You don’t trust me with a book but you’ll place a bullet in my hand
and tell me
to pull the trigger?
All the hats you expect us to wear without complaint,
and now add a captain’s garb and vest…?
Enough with words alone.
Enough with telling teachers all we can’t do and all we must do without offering any support.
Enough with expecting teachers to just take this as another part of the job.
Enough with expecting our children to not be traumatized by this.
Enough with not listening to our children or seeing them.
Enough with downplaying the problems they face.
Enough with offering ridiculous solutions that would only further damage us.
Enough with prayers and thoughts if they exist without action.
Enough without actual change.
Enough with children having their lives stolen because all we can do is talk and pray and think.
Enough empty beds and broken dreams and toppled homes and communities.
Taking a stand cannot come without action. Contact your representatives. Be vigilant about policies. Advocate for our kids, our teachers, and our education system. We exist within a democratic system, we need to use it not be used by it. Words alone are not enough, we have got to get action and policy change.
It is already abundantly obvious our current way of doing things is not working. This latest but not last tragedy only further proves that. These elected officials were put into positions to work for us. Let us demand that they do. Let us demand they stop placing their own power above our children’s security and right to safe education.