Fuel for change

We can’t live in fear of mass shootings

Graphic by Margaret Debenport

Graphic by Margaret Debenport

The principal comes over the intercom. This is just a drill. We hide in the darkest corners of rooms, away from doors and windows and under desks. One or two laughs might be heard to break through the anxious air. But there is an overall seriousness to our hiding. We are anxious. We are anxious because we know that at any day, at any time, this could be more than a drill.

Our lives could be ended with a single bullet: whether it be at school, a concert, a place of worship, shopping or walking down the street. How do we learn in a classroom without worrying about all the ways to exit the building should the unthinkable occur? How do we say yes to large, public gatherings without wondering if our goodbyes will be our last? How do we stroll casually through the mall without fear that our lives will be over if we wander into the wrong store at the wrong time? How do we live, if not in fear?

Last month 29 people died in mass shootings in Texas. Twenty-two died in a shooting at and El Paso Walmart, and seven died at a shopping center and movie theater in Midland-Odessa.

Our fear is justified. Although only two percent of gun deaths were caused by mass shootings, gun violence was the third highest cause of death in 2017.

If we allow those who carry out mass violence to force fear into our lives, then we submit to terror before it is carried out among us. However, if we allow the fear to push us to do better, to create change, and explore solutions of ending unnecessary deaths, then we take our fear and turn it into fuel.

We can fuel a better tomorrow. We can fuel schools where students focus on classwork and not on the caliber of gun used in last week’s school shooting. We can fuel the protection of the most sacred American freedom, allowing everyone to worship freely without hatred threatening them in the form of bullets. We can fuel fun experiences where anxiety of the unthinkable won’t stop us from stepping out of our houses.

Only if we let it our fear be turned into fuel will we create change. The fear we have can be transformed into a vote for someone who supports better gun laws. The fear we have can be changed into a phone call or meeting with a local representative. The fear we have can be used to support victims of gun violence and their families.

We must not and can not allow ourselves to be stuck in a cycle in which we cower in fear, post our thoughts, and wait until the next tragedy to happen. Taking our pain and creating change is the only way we can escape circling the drain of violence.

Whatever you think causes or does not cause shooters to take lives does not matter. What does matter is that we have a problem. A problem that we need to solve. Whatever you think we need to fix it, advocate for it. Raise it up. Care. Care before it’s too late for you to do so.

Take your fear and make it fuel.