February 22, 2018 by bellabettina79
Dear Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,
There are no words that can take your pain away. Nothing I say could possibly undo what you felt or saw, so I will only say that I think of you daily, I grieve for you and the families, and that I am always here for you.
If I can offer any advice, it would be to not turn inward when the pain comes. Reach out. Grieve openly. You all are bonded together in a way that no human should ever have to be. But you are indeed bonded. The tragedy you experienced on Feb 14, 2018 forever connected you. Be there for each other.
Each year you will feel the pain, even if you try to push it away. That’s how grief and trauma work, deep beneath the surface, in our subconscious. You may not realize, but as each Valentine’s Day approaches you will feel pain, you will be angry for seemingly no reason, and you will feel sorrow at the slightest of things. Remind your loved ones that you are allowed to be angry, even if they don’t know why. That is grief. Let it happen. Remember that it’s ok to feel.
And this is what I want America to know…your wanting to be safe in your school is more than merely a request to *not* get shot when you walk through those halls. For anyone (like me) who has experienced trauma, we know that returning to the scene of the trauma is horrific, agonizing, and cruel. You are being asked to return to that scene EVERY DAY for the rest of your schooling. Setting foot in that school will re-open the very deep wounds you now have. Those wounds have forever changed who you are.
I don’t want to live in an America that is numb to this reality. After a school shooting, each child is asked to be re-traumatized every day in order to get their diploma.
That is not the America I want.
And that is not the America we should accept.
Let every politician and NRA member know: The cost of these weapons is more than the anger about the shooting. More than the discomfort of “bad guys” (whatever the fuck that means). More than the funeral costs to bury the brave souls whose lives were taken by a person who manages anger with the barrel of a gun. It’s more than that. Much more.
Those who insist weapons stay on our streets because of 18th Century words must understand the financial costs as a result of abusing that “right to bear arms”. As American schools endure casualties for the Second Amendment, then gun lobbyists and manufacturers who insist on keeping these weapons legal should pay the cost of tearing down the schools where these shootings happen. It is not right to ask students and teachers to return to the scene of the worst day of their lives.
It is not right.
Tear down your school. Charge that bill to the NRA. Trust me, they can afford it. This is the cost of doing business. The cost of having weapons of war includes rehabilitation for the PTSD innocent people have due to collateral damage from gun violence. Perhaps they never thought of this cost before, but you must ensure they know it now.
There is a very good reason why your generation isn’t afraid to speak up when Generation X didn’t. It’s not that I didn’t care. It’s not that I didn’t try. It’s a product of where I am in the timeline of cultural norms and technology. I was an adult before Columbine, so I know the world before and the world after. I know a world before the Internet, and after. I know what it feels like to live in a world where we felt safe in school and in large crowds.
From my perspective, I wonder why we can’t go back. But you have a different cause – your anger comes from the viewpoint of never having experienced that safety, and you wonder why it never was.
That’s a good place for you to be in this fight.
As a Gen Xer I have my feet in both worlds – that of my parents, where I’m expected to be politically loyal, demure, and graceful; and that of the Millennials where I enjoy riding the wave of progress and technology. Growing up, my parents used to say in passing “Oh yeah, I was politically active as a kid”, or “Yeah, I almost went to Woodstock”. Know this: they began their adulthood marching in the streets and petitioning the government for their grievances EXACTLY as you are now….
…but something in them changed. I don’t know what it is – I’m still trying to figure that out. But something in them changed. They lost the vision of creating a greater good.
The closest those Baby Boomers came to what you experienced at your school was the Kent State shooting in May 1970. You may be shocked to know that public polls at the time showed the majority of adults thought the students were to blame for getting shot.
Let that sink in.
The kids were made to feel they deserved it.
That was how my parents’ world felt about children being shot. Despite the harsh reality that children cannot feel safe in their schools, let us be grateful that at least we all know that you didn’t deserve it.
Let’s build from that.
But I’m sure the Baby Boomers (many of whom are now our lawmakers) were impacted – perhaps even traumatized – by their parents and grandparents suggesting that the consequence of challenging authority was to deserve any deadly backlash from it.
Eventually, Baby Boomers stopped fighting that notion along the way, and began teaching others the same. I don’t know why.
Yet because of that, my generation was silenced when we grew weary of violence. The Boomers were doing what they thought was right. In hindsight, it wasn’t.
As a teenager, I was crying out for change. At 14, a friend of mine died of an accidental shooting. My favorite singers were dying to drugs and guns, and I wanted something done….Yet my parents and grandparents told me exactly what they’re telling you now: “You’re too young”, “You haven’t lived enough to know…”, “You’re being so ungrateful”, “You’ll feel differently when you’re older”, “Be quiet”.
It hurt to hear my parents say that. I backed down because I didn’t want to disappoint the very people who were supposed to love me unconditionally. I also had to depend on those same people in charge for any chance at publicity for my grievances…and they weren’t granting air time for something against their own agenda.
Remember, I grew up before the Internet and social media. To this day, when Generation X feels a need to rise up, it is still not our first instinct (collectively) to leverage the right tools of social media and cameras as well as you do. You’ve grown up with that technology, so it’s been a successful tool you instinctively choose. Keep doing it.
Lean on people like me. Remember that I am with you, I just need help catching up. I am still in awe of you, so brave and fearless. Let my generation come with you, because when you are weary (and you will get weary) we can carry you. This is the moment we have asked for, for so many years, but could not find traction. Together we can be a mighty force that causes a political earthquake.
Don’t settle for anything less than moving this country forward. It’s time you experienced the world I once knew, where schools were safe and assault weapons were banned.