Life, Liberty and An Active Shooter Plan

I woke up to an email from my daughter’s middle school in my inbox this morning. The email explained that the school district had been working with law enforcement last night, trying to determine if reported threats of violence were credible. The police received several phone calls from students and parents, citing whispers about a gun in school. Today.


Las Vegas happened two days ago.


My daughter sat across the table from me. Between bites of cereal, she sang along with the radio.


Then she asked why I was crying.


She’s eleven. She loves books and music and sleeps with a stuffed animal. She is already terrified of mass shootings.


Should I tell her there were threats? While police believed there was no validity to the threats, there were armed police at the school today as a precaution. Was 6:45 this morning the time for another discussion about public shootings and a threat to her school? It seems like I ask myself these questions every day.


If you are a proponent of an unfettered second amendment, I have a few questions for you instead.


Why does your right to stockpile weapons of war trump my daughter’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?


Is my daughter reveling in her liberty, in her freedom to fear for her safety in every public space? My child is scared of being shot on the street. At a concert. A movie. The mall. Or school. And there is precedent for every fear. Maybe it doesn’t curtail her actions or change her movements. But living in fear is its own type of prison, one fortified by every person who claims his right to collect guns is greater than her right to safety.


I was crying while I dropped my eleven-year-old off for school in front of armed police. There is nothing happy or freeing about worrying if your child will get shot at school. We reached a state in America years ago that the pursuit of happiness fell far behind the pursuit of money and ammunition from the NRA.


What part of “a well-regulated” Militia don’t you understand?


A well regulated Militia. It’s literally right there in the first sentence. How does “well-regulated” translate to barely regulated? Unregulated?


How about the security of the State?


How did the Bill of Rights get so twisted, that the security of the State doesn’t include citizens feeling safe on the street? Children feeling safe in their schools?


Part of the job of government is to regulate danger. We have laws relating to the operation of motor vehicles, food safety standards and recalls for products that “might” hurt an infant. Guns are treated as some magic object, free from the cumbersome burden of product safety research or regulation.


On the subject of research, why isn’t there more research into guns as a public health threat?


In 2014-2015, there were four laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola which originated in the United States. This caused the CDC to revise guidelines, to monitor the patients’ friends and possible contacts. Nationally, staff was trained on Ebola containment protocols. The military was deployed to West Africa. Research led to changes in patient care and a coordinated public response across multiple countries and continents.


In 2017, 1516 people have died from gun violence. Yet the CDC isn’t allowed to research gun violence.


What about the right to an appropriate public education?


Off the top of my head, I know four kids who stayed home from school today. They didn’t go to school because they were scared they would be shot. The parents felt strongly enough to allow those kids to stay home.


As part of an appropriate public education, the middle school already has active shooter drills. Every kid has an “active shooter plan” in place. Most of the kids plan to run for the woods.


I’m not upset with the school district. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and they have to do what they can to keep the kids safe, including an “active shooter” plan. I appreciate their taking threats seriously, involving law enforcement and keeping the parents informed. I’m sure they feel as helpless as I do. But to claim that gun violence doesn’t impact learning is somewhere between obtuse and criminal.


What do I say to my daughter, every day? Do I ignore the threats? Do I discuss it? Do you truly believe these discussions make an eleven year-old feel free?


I sent my daughter to school today because I believe that if I keep her out of public spaces, out of school and away from her own pursuit of a best life, I let the gun interests terrorizing our nation win.


But what do you say to an eleven year old who is already scared? Ignore it? Do I suggest she just hug her stuffed bunny a little closer at night and hope for the best?


There’s not much freedom to choose, honestly. When she gets home today, we will have our first discussion about the idea of “if you hear something, say something.” I will teach my eleven-year-old to police the halls of her own school and community, to look out for her own safety and that of her peers. There’s little choice in a country so in love with guns that for many people keeping an arsenal is more important than keeping her safe.


You really want to argue that teaching my daughter to run for the woods in the event of a school shooting is allowing for the pursuit of happiness?

Socially Responsible Investing and Climate Change

Here’s the first in a series on Socially Responsible Investing. I’ll talk to people in finance as well as those involved in a variety of social justice movements. The first interview is with the Rev. Jenny Phillips, an amazing woman who helped steer the United Methodist Church towards divestment from fossil fuels.


Traveling With A Health Conditon Is Hard…Why I Do It Anyway

My son and I are currently sitting in the LAX airport, in front of Gate 138, waiting to board a flight to Lima, Peru. From there we fly to Cusco and spend a couple weeks exploring ruins, night hiking in the Amazon and sea kayaking on Lake Titicaca. I hope.

Here are the two things I know for sure about the trip. One, T and I will have an amazing adventure, do things we’ve both dreamed about and make memories together. Two, parts of it will suck.

It’s hard to quantify what travel is like “now”. My husband explained it once to someone by asking about their worst vacation experience, and then saying  that would be an exceptionally good trip for us.

What I expect: I will, at some point, vomit on the side of the trail from either pain or medication or a combination of pain and medication. T will have to spend a recovery day (or three) with me in a hotel, rather than out adventuring (yes, it’s a verb in our house). I will miss some of our planned and guided activities and will ride along while T bikes/swims/kayaks.

I’m not saying that to complain. I’m ridiculously excited to travel with T and he’s fine with the expectations I’ve laid out above. It’s (almost) a non-issue because we’ve all learned to set our expectations to reality.

So why go, right? Why risk the pain and the drama and the difficulty?

If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s the importance of holding on to the things that make me happiest and the importance of fighting to define my life on my own terms and by more than what I cannot do. It will always be easier to just stay home. It’s easier not to travel, not to write, not to see friends or support my kids or live a life beyond what it most comfortable. And over time, that is often my only choice. But the things I love-my friends, my family and the adventures we have together are worth fighting for, even if that means fighting through (too much) pain to do them a few times a year. More than that, traveling is where I am happiest, even if I’m physically uncomfortable. Grabbing my kid’s hand and jumping into the world, as best I can, reminds me of who I am, even if how I express that is different now.

And so we planned. We used guides and support staff, things we might never have done before, built in rest days and back-up plans for my back-up plans (including but not limited to several discussions with my doctor  and making sure that T understood what might happen so he could explain to somebody else if I couldn’t). I planned for the worst and hope for the best, as the saying goes. Good or had, it’s worth the effort for me to share the world with my son.

Wish us luck, good weather and amazing adventures.