Saturday, March 23, 2013
This abandoned old house held a family when I passed it on my bus ride home each day in elementary school. As I took this photo the other day, my mind drifted back to my childhood in this rural community. Guns were very much a part of our lives back then. My father had an old rifle to shoot at the rats which frequented the chicken coop next door to our house, My best friend's father was an avid hunter. Most of the boys in my class at school were taught to hunt and given guns of their own as soon as they were old enough to use them safely. They were a fact of life -- a rite of passage -- and the only gun deaths were unfortunate hunting accidents.
Our schools were safe. Some of the boys in our class may have been a little wild, and fist fights often settled arguments, but none of us EVER worried about being shot to death in school.
Our world is very different now, and my opinions on guns have run the gamut since those early years when they were just part of the background of my everyday life. As guns developed into the more vicious assault rifles we see today, I supported the banning of assault rifles. As I reeled emotionally from the increasingly common mass shootings in schools and public places, I believed that increased regulations on the sale of guns in the form of strict background checks was necessary.
And yet, part of me questioned if guns were the problem at all. I still remembered all those boys from my childhood who had guns, and I wondered.
After the horrendous school shooting in Connecticut in December, suddenly everyone was talking about strict gun control laws; our NYS Legislature passed a gun law seemingly overnight. And, suddenly, the questions being raised loudly and angrily were those of gun owners worried about the loss of their Second Amendment rights. While I feel the NRA and many of the nation's gun owners have gone beyond reason in their vitriolic rhetoric, I do feel that we walk a slippery slope when we begin passing laws without proper debate and thoughtful consideration.
Another question arises with more stringent background checks -- we talk of required reporting of anyone with psychological issues which point to violent behavior. Once again, while this might be a particularly worthwhile tool in the prevention of these violent shootings, aren't we possibly violating the civil rights of our citizens. What about the Iraq veterans with PTSD -- will some of them be placed on this list because of the anger they struggle to deal with? What about the troubled teen who goes for counseling and is forever labelled as a possible threat? What is the best way to protect our citizens?
The larger question in my mind, though, is the lingering memory of those boys throughout the 19th and 20th centuries who had guns, and yet, did not turn them on each other or on society in general. What is the key difference in our world today that causes our young people to commit these horrendous acts of violence? What flaw in our society or in our parenting creates an anger so intense that it explodes into a killing rampage?
In our rush to solve the problem of gun violence, we must not focus on the long-time gun owners, or trample on the rights of average citizens to purchase guns. We must put more time and effort into determining the causes of the mental state which allows a killer to coldly plan and implement the killing of innocents. We should look into the music, movies and TV shows to which our children are exposed -- there are very few with any redeeming moral lessons. We should examine the video games our children are playing, and their computer usage. We should make sure our schools provide psychological services beginning in early elementary school to any students who seem to be struggling with anger, neglect, poor performance, etc. As parents, we must make the time to provide a strong family environment of love, discipline, moral responsibility, and compassion.
There is no easy answer to this dilemna, but we MUST make it a priority to find the root causes of this violence, and work to correct the problems. Every minute we spend fighting over gun control is wasting precious time in prevention of the mental problems that drive our young people over the precipice, and endanger our society as never before.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
I am currently reading a lovely book, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, by Wendy Welch -- the story of a couple who opens a used bookstore in a small southern town. This book speaks to me and to the dreams I once held in my heart.
Looking back, I realize I have always had an entrepreneural spirit. Although my chosen path as I came of age in the 1960's was to be a full-time Mom, there were always precious dreams of the options open to me when my children were older.
As my best friend and I sat together in our living rooms in the 1970's, surrounded by little children and toys, we talked of opening a little downtown lunch place someday, serving our homemade soups and breads to busy State workers. We both loved to cook, and this seemed like a wonderful business that would work well for us. But, this was not to be. She ended up as one of those busy State workers, herself, and I spent my days doing the administrative work for our family electrical construction business. I still think of that dream as I simmer soup on the stove and lovingly ladle its warmth and flavor out to family and friends.
In the 1990's and very early 2000's, my dream was to open a small antique, gift or used-book shop when my daughter finished high school. It was a prosperous time of nostalgia for the Victorian era -- shops such as these were numerous and successful. I treasured this dream of mine -- picturing a shop in an old building with lots of character -- warm wood, coffee, tea, mulled cider for sipping, comfy chairs here and there, fresh flowers -- and personal attention to the needs of my customers. A lovely dream.
But, reality has been much different -- struggles in the mid-2000's to keep our failing construction business afloat, and the birth of my precious grandchildren. Once these little ones were born, my dreams of a quaint shop were replaced with the strong desire to care for them while their mothers worked. Since the first day I began this new chapter of my life in 2007, I have never regretted my decision. I provide them with safety, security and unconditional love, and I am rewarded with hugs, kisses, and innocent trust. I believe I am doing the most important work I could do.
However, there are days when I do miss the dream -- the little shop, the flowers, books, antiques, and the aroma of coffee. As I read this book about the used bookstore, I am enchanted by the life the owners lead and the people who frequent their shop. The dream is still vivid in my heart, but my best laid plans have been replaced by a calling much more important -- a change in plans I will never regret.