Wednesday, May 25, 2022

5 Things I Do to #KeepGoing After a School Shooting

Here we are again. Heartbroken. Sickened. Angered by the repetition of another school shooting in America. This time at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX. To paraphrase something I saw on facebook today, “The most disheartening word in any news about a school shooting is ‘today’s.’” Lord help us, we know this won’t be the last American school shooting. With that heavy knowledge, I’m struggling to get through the day. I see many of you are, too. So, I thought I would take a look at what I'm doing to get through it and offer practical suggestions for how to keep going in the fight against senseless gun violence the day after a school shooting. Because we must keep going.

The first two suggestions are for everyone. The others are for those that have emotional capacity to act on behalf of those who need more time before getting back into the fight. It's important to realize that some in the movement are victims and survivors who are deeply triggered by every fresh tragedy.

1. Get Dressed

Image: Moms Demand Action t-shirt
I know the feeling to call in sick and stay in your PJ’s with your head under the covers is strong. I feel it, too. But get up and get dressed anyway. Wear something that usually makes you feel strong even if you're not feeling it standing at the closet. 

If you have a red Moms Demand shirt or a Wear Orange shirt, wear it. As you move about your day, you may bring comfort or inspiration to those around you. Someone may see you and think, “I feel better knowing she’s out there fighting to change this.” Others might even think, “This is the last straw. I’m gonna finally join.”

If dangle earrings or a big necklace makes you feel better, put that on as well. For me today, it is the little silver octopus studs my youngest gave me a few years ago. Their cuteness makes me think of how much she loves me and knows what makes me smile. The love of my kids gives me strength for this work. So, yes, it is an octopus earring day.

2. Take care of yourself

This looks different for everyone, so do what works for you according to your physical abilities and mental needs. When I need extreme physical activity to burn the anger away, I head to my punching target downstairs (an addition during pandemic frustration). Today, I was more sad than angry. I went into nature to smell the loamy earth, surrounded by the sound of wind in the leaves high in the trees. I contemplated the resilience of grass and honeysuckle in the park. No matter how much you cut it back, it always grows in thick. That’s why they call our kind of work “grassroots advocacy.” The roots are deep and the grass always comes back.

Image: A single red blade of grass 
I noticed one odd blade of grass that grew in as red among the green. I thought that was strange. Then, I turned the corner and saw a field full of red ones. That reminds me of how it is when I wear my red Moms Demand shirt alone and then walk into an event where a whole crowd of people are wearing them. I’m not alone. You’re not alone.

I also had a good cry. A sobbing, loud ugly cry thinking of the terror of all the children and the parents who were going about their day when they were suddenly told their babies were gone. I cried and cried. Then, I was done and felt I could move ahead for those parents who can’t do that today. It’s okay if you cry. It only reveals empathy. As I cover in great detail in my book, From Changing Diapers to Changing the World, a mother’s empathy can be her advocacy superpower. The ability to understand someone else’s pain and explain it to someone else is extremely powerful.

3. Take an easy advocacy action

Take an action that is comfortable for you. Sharing someone else’s tweet or Insta post about it? Writing a tweet or facebook post?  Calling your U.S. senators and reps, state senators and reps, or governor? Writing a blog? That’s what I did. You’re reading it right now. You can share it if you want. 

Here's an easy online action to contact your senators asking them to pass bold gun safety legislation.

The easy action is a warm-up for the next two things on the list. It builds confidence and inspires us to do the next thing. Don’t underestimate the easy action. It’s not unimportant because it’s easy. Your action combines with many others to make an impact. Also, it inspires others. I posted this image on facebook and a friend of mine replied she is joining Moms Demand. Reading that, I cried some happy tears.

4. Take a harder action

Okay, you did the first action. What’s next? Maybe this is where you’ll call the congressional offices because the phone call is not so easy for you. Can you write a letter to the editor? Newspapers report about school shootings, so you can reply to the newspaper with your own feelings and thoughts about what your elected officials should do. One of the quickest and most powerful ways you can reach them at this moment is to mention their names in the paper. Thank them if they are a champion of sensible gun policies. Call them out if they have done nothing to combat gun violence and death. Remind your community that elections are coming up and we have the power to vote officials in or out.

If letters to the editor are easy for you, try writing an op-ed. The 600-700 word length of an op-ed is always harder for me, but somehow the words come easier when I’m fueled by strong feelings. Here’s an op-ed I wrote about school gun violence in 2018 and one I wrote about home gun violence in 2020.

5. Sign up for an event

Sign up for something that will get you out of the house soon and into a community of action takers. It’s so important to know you are not alone. You are not an oddball for thinking it’s wrong that firearms are the #1 leading cause of death for American children and teens.

Moms Demand Action always has events coming up whether it is a monthly information meeting or something special. At the time I’m writing this, we’re just about a week away from Wear Orange day, a gun violence awareness day, on June 3, 2022. It's a Friday that kicks off Wear Orange weekend. There will be events and activities all across the country. Find one here. Sign up. Can't get to an in-person event? No problem. Here's a virtual event tomorrow 3:30EST with Everytown.

I’ll end with a story from the horrendous storms St. Louis had about a week ago. The torrential rain and booming thunder was so bad it kept waking us up all night. I felt like I barely slept at all. At 5:26 AM, the biggest boom of all shook the house. I know the time because I sat straight up in bed. But something else happened just as the lightning faded. I heard one solitary, incredibly loud “CHIRP!” Some little bird responded to the storm by letting the neighborhood know it was still there and still alive. The first bird of the morning. I got up and discovered the rain had stopped. I stood outside and little by little all the other birds joined in. By 6AM, the cacophony was so loud, you couldn’t even ignore them in the house. So, that’s my metaphor. Robb Elementary was another terrible storm. But we are still alive and still here. This blog is my CHIRP - a tweet, perhaps, when I post it on Twitter - that I add to all the other voices of moms and others saying we’ve had enough of this madness. Let’s be so loud they can’t ignore us in the House or the Senate.

Image: Raindrops on red hibiscus flowers the morning after a storm

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