Sum of Our Fears

This is not the post I wanted to write today.

I woke up to the news of the latest gun violence incident, this time in Las Vegas at a country music festival. Two of my friends were there and while thankfully they are safe I can’t help but think about the families and friends of those who were not so lucky. 

The video clips showing the chaos and the staccato sound of the gunfire are chilling, disorienting, unreal. But this is the reality of modern life.

I didn’t want to write about this, today or any day. 

Last week my son’s school held their annual Lockdown Safety Drill. This is now a requirement for Chicago Public Schools and my son didn’t say much about it. It brought to mind the Duck and Cover drills students did in the 1950s and 1960s in reaction to the Cold War era fears about nuclear war with the Soviets. Bomb shelters in the basements were not uncommon and the Cuban Missile Crisis brought that generation to the brink. I can only imagine how terrifying it would have been to be a child during that time, sensing the fear of the adults around them but not really understanding why they were all under their desks, hearing the sirens scream through the air, with heads tucked down, like some perverse game of duck-duck-goose. 

And then the drills stopped, some time in the mid-70s, perhaps when we started to fear enemies closer to home. In the White House, at Kent State, other foes, more domestic than foreign, took center stage for our nightmares. 

When Columbine shootings happened in 1999, it seemed unreal. After 9/11, there seemed to be no limit to the horrible way people could kill each other. And then Sandy Hook in 2012 left us all sobbing as we gazed upon the faces of the lost children and their stricken families. The Pulse Nightclub in Miami. So many others. So much death. So much fear.

And in response, the ridiculous Betsy DeVoss indicated that guns in schools might help us defend against bears. And our even more ridiculous Idiot in Chief expressed his ‘warmest condolences,’ while the NRA spent millions in donations and lobbying in the 2016 election to ensure gun control measures will never see the light of day in the House or the Senate. 

I hear sirens in the distance outside, something that happens from time to time and before I had children I honestly never paid much attention to them. But on the morning after yet another senseless massacre,  I close my eyes and make a little wish that the emergency isn’t at our school, at any school. I wish them away from anyone, everyone. Did I kiss my boys goodbye this morning when I dropped them off? My heart races, even as the sirens fade away. 

It’s so easy to be scared. The President is more concerned about NFL players asserting their First Amendment rights than he is about threatening North Korea with war, and Americans can’t go to a concert without fear. But let’s all just Duck-and-Cover in the classroom for an enemy we can’t pretend to predict or realistically defend ourselves or our children from.  

Don’t get me wrong - I want the school to be ready. They have to be ready, just in case the unthinkable happens. But I don’t want this to be the reality. I want them to be scared of the dark and spiders and the occasional bad-tasting cold medicine. I want to be scared of broken arms and hearts, tryouts and letdowns, the occasional book report. These are fears that I can fix, foreign and domestic. But not this. Not today.

Not any day.