Why Are We Sad, Mama?

Driving through town, joyfully singing along to our favorite songs, I suddenly heard my daughter’s sweet voice ask, “Why are we sad, Mama?”

Genuinely confused, I responded, “I’m not feeling sad, KBear.  Are you?”

“No.  I mean why is the country sad?  The flags are only halfway up again.”

My heart broke just a little as I internally sought the words to explain to my daughter that two days before, a man open fired on a crowd of concert goers in Las Vegas.  How do I explain to my daughter that traumatic atrocities with deadly consequences happen?  How do I explain it in a way that doesn’t increase her own anxiety?  How do I explain that many people died randomly, unexpectedly, tragically, without her fearing that it could happen at any moment in our own neighborhood? 

Somehow, I breathed down the heavy queasiness in my gut and just gave my daughter the facts, with some reassurance peppered throughout.

“I don’t get it, mom.  They were just listening to some music and dancing.”

All I could say was, “Yep.  It’s pretty sad, huh.  And it just doesn’t make sense.”

And now here we are, just about a month later and the flags are once again at half-mast.  And I’m bracing myself for the questions again.  And still I struggle.

How do I explain to my kids that we’ve had 10 mass shootings in 2017 to date, nearly one a month (Mother Jones)?  How do I explain that every time there’s yet another mass shooting with seemingly higher and higher numbers of fatalities, in places that should be the utmost of safety, that our country gets agitated and demands change for about 1 week and then the conversation stops?  How do I explain that the adults in their lives, the adults in charge of identifying problems and implementing workable solutions, have effectively done nothing?

How do I explain to my kids that our country is sad because we’ve seen this one too many times and yet nothing changes.

I am not claiming to have the answers.  I do know that guns have a higher lethality rate than other weapons.  I know that when I’m safety planning with a person experiencing suicidal thoughts, the very first question I ask is if they have access to guns and then I work to decrease their access.  Guns have this way of turning a momentary, impulsive, desperate action into life-ending tragedy.  According to the CDC, in 2014, over 21,000 deaths by suicide could be attributed to firearms.

I also know that a complex problem like violence can rarely, if ever, be narrowed down to one simple cause or solution.  I know that legal firearms have been a part of my family history and no one in my family has died, or caused the death of another, by shooting.  We are somehow missing ways to more accurately identify risk.  Somehow, we are not addressing the needs of all of our people to the best of our ability.  Somehow, teens, young adults, and older adults have managed to squirrel away the means and the plans to carry out tremendously painful actions.  And we’re left to deal with the consequences.

But, I’m tired of dealing with the consequences.  I haven’t even been personally affected by a firearm death or a death in a national tragedy, but I’m tired of the consequences.  I’m tired of feeling heartache.  I’m tired of explaining heartache to my children.  I’m tired of that heartache not being enough to motivate change.

I haven’t committed my life into investigating and researching root causes of violence.  But, I do know there are people out there who have.  I know there are people who could at least brainstorm some solutions, pick one, and try it out.  Instead, there’s chatter, maybe a bill or 2 brought before the house or the senate, it doesn’t pass, and then nothing more happens.  The country mourns for a few days, watches video montages on the anniversaries, and then does nothing.  It’s time for more.

Whatever you think the solution might be, contact your legislators.  Let them know your thoughts.  Put the pressure on them to come up with a plan.  Any plan.  Anything is better than nothing.  I am not the most politically active person, but I can make a phone call, or write an email.  And I will.

I’ve had enough.  My daughter’s question will be changing.  Soon she will be asking me, “why are we mad, mama?!” which frankly, feels a lot easier to explain.