The Mom Stop: Divisions deepen as violence increases
My husband and I took our three young kids to north Alabama last weekend to visit the grandparents and spent a day on Wilson Lake. Our 7-year-old daughter rode the WaveRunner for the first time, her squeals audible from the dock as the watercraft jumped through small waves offshore. We fished and caught a catfish, the dogs excitedly sniffing the fish before we threw it back in the lake. We swam, grilled hot dogs and played “redneck golf” on the lawn. Our kids caught lightening bugs at dusk.
It was the kind of day that epitomizes the American summer.
The next morning, we awoke to the news that 49 people had been gunned down in an Orlando nightclub. Another shooting. Another tragic attack. Only this time, it’s the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
As we drove back home on Sunday, our three young children slept in the back of the minivan and I looked out the window. I couldn’t help but think of the tragedy, of the senseless killing and the young lives lost. Those were somebody’s grown children.
“Will things in this country ever get better?” I asked my husband.
He was quiet for a while, almost hesitant about how to answer.
“I don’t really know,” he replied.
I’m part of the generation that has come of age during a time when mass shootings and terrorist attacks have become — tragically — commonplace, when society has become desensitized to the news of yet another awful shooting or attack. I was in junior high school during the Oklahoma City bombing and a high school senior during the Columbine High School shooting. I was in college on 9/11, and was a newlywed when the Virginia Tech shooting occurred. When the innocent children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, I went home and held my two young children — who were only a few years younger than the Sandy Hook victims — and cried.
I am an American, and I am tired. I’m tired of the senseless violence and the attacks involving race, religion or sexuality. I’m tired of the divisiveness. Instead of coming together in a time of need and working toward a solution, when there is an attack the line between camps seemingly deepens. People argue over gun rights, mental health, religious beliefs or immigration. Instead of working together, the political parties seem to swing farther in opposite directions.
I’m tired of all the hate, the negative rhetoric that politicians spew after a shooting or attack occurs. And yet, nothing really changes. We pray for the victims and the families left behind.
And still, we know it’ll likely happen again, because nothing is done.
After the San Bernardino shootings in 2015, the Senate voted down proposals that would have expanded background checks for gun purchases and bar individuals on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms. Meanwhile, people like Omar Mateen, a New York native who had been previously investigated for possible terrorist ties, can buy assault rifles with little or no restrictions.
Fifteen of the assailants involved in the most recent 25 shootings have had a history of mental illness, and yet funding for mental health continues slashed by states, including my own.
Meanwhile, there are very few “safe” places anymore. Assailants have brought terror into churches, schools, movie theaters and other public gatherings. We remember the dead, but nothing is done to stop it from happening again. Instead the divisions deepen.
Maya Angelou once said that hate has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet. Our children deserve a better America than this — we all do. For their sake, for our sake, I hope there is positive change that thwarts future attacks.
There has to be, for the sake of this country.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.