First of all, let me state how excited I am that my child will be able to grow up in a country where equal rights are extended to all people who want to marry someone they love. Only a few years ago, I took my daughter with me when I went to the polls to vote against North Carolina’s Amendment One, which barred any legal recognition of a relationships that weren’t legally registered marriages between men and women. A man accosted me in the parking lot and told me I needed to vote in favor of the “marriage amendment” in order to “protect your little one’s future.” I threw some choice curse words at him. It was maybe not my finest moment, but I feel vindicated today. I also feel sad for that man, wherever he is, for believing that my child’s future might actually be affected by marriage equality in any way that isn’t positive.
I posted a blog during the Amendment One campaign about why I was against it. Although there were many reasons I opposed, my argument was that I would not vote for legislation that restricted love. Of course, my family has never needed protection from gay people; the idea is ridiculous and laughable. And yet the amendment passed, and I can remember how dismayed I felt that fear, misunderstanding, homophobia, and crass political grandstanding would carry the day. And here we are, only three years later, with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of equal marriage rights (nearly a year after our local circuit had already ruled such legislation unconstitutional). My child is still too young for any of us to know what her orientation and gender expression might look like, but I am less prone to worry now because I know that our unqualified support for who she grows to be is more likely to be reflected in the society around her.
My excitement and joy over this ruling does not, however, overcome my fear and anger over the most recent mass shooting in this country, which took place in Charleston last week. I am glad that the Confederate battle flag has come down in South Carolina. I suppose we can all slow clap for South Carolina’s decision to do something that is only 150 years overdue. The ongoing national conversation about our country’s deeply rooted racism continues, and although I am not always sure what to say, I am trying as hard as I can to listen closely so that I can raise a child who will be an agent of healing and change. I want to be intentional about bringing up a child who can notice her own social privileges and notice the disadvantages and struggles of those around her. I am hopeful in the promise that she will be smarter and kinder and more compassionate than I am and will be an enthusiastic ally for the cause of rooting out racism in our society.
However, our conversations about a flag and the racism it symbolizes have given the country an excuse to not talk about something scary and terrible: our nation’s obsession with guns. It seems this time around there has not even been an attempt to even pay lip service to the idea that the gun laws in this country need to change. I suppose this means I need to give up any hopes of there being gun control in this country. That is frightening to me because I don’t want my child or my family to be murdered. But more than the real fear that it might one day be my child who is senselessly gunned down by a psychopathic murderer is this stunning realization: America truly does not care. Despite the pain being suffered by the families of victims of gun violence, despite my fear for my family, despite my own grief and anguish about how violent our culture is, our society is a place that simply does not care if innocent people are murdered. We’ve seen it recently with the countless cases of police officers killing unarmed black men with seemingly zero repercussions or accountability, and now we’re seeing it with the complete lack of any discussion regarding changing gun laws. Nine innocent churchgoers murdered during a prayer meeting, and nothing. Two years ago, it was twenty kindergarten children; nothing. So clearly, I must draw the conclusion that America does not give a shit.
I have plenty of friends and family who are gun owners. I have heard all the reasons they give about why gun control is bad and gun ownership is good. I accept none of them. A gun is a tool whose sole purpose is to kill. That is why guns were invented and that is their only use. If you buy a gun, you are seeking to own the ability to easily kill. If you use your gun for hunting, then you are using your gun for killing. If you use your gun for protection, then you hope to scare off other people with your ability to kill. Apparently, America is so in love with possessing the ability to easily kill that it will gladly and willingly accept the periodic murder of innocent people as a result. That is the society we live in; that is the society my child will grow up in. Used to be after we had one of these shootings – in a church, or a school, or a movie theater – people would ask, Is nowhere safe? And the answer is no and we’re fine with that.
I can already anticipate the arguments that this post will elicit. Because, you know, Americans really fucking love their goddamned guns. It’s their guaranteed right under the Second Amendment! If anyone ever read my blog (which mostly they don’t), then I could expect my comments section to fill up with trolls telling me a) how stupid I am, b) what a pussy I am, and c) why I represent everything wrong with this country. Fine. Every time you talk to me about why you own a gun, what I hear is why you want to have the power to kill. And if not seeing the capacity to easily take another life as the primary achievement of humanity makes me stupid, then I am stupid. If valuing life over the ability to kill makes me a pussy in your eyes, then I gladly accept that. And yes, my anguish over gun violence definitely makes me wrong, because this is a country that loves gun violence.
I am befuddled, infuriated, and despondent that there is more investment and energy in this country in keeping marriage benefits away from gay people than there is in keeping guns out of the hands of psychopathic shitstains. That is seriously fucked up. What propels us to be so fearful of the wrong things? Gay people getting married doesn’t kill anyone.
I am glad that our society is coming around to accepting people of different sexual orientations and, hopefully, of different gender expressions. I am hopeful that my child will grow up in a culture that will not constrict her as she seeks to discover who she is and commit her life with whomever she finds love. I’m glad my child will be able to marry anyone she wants. That’s assuming she doesn’t get killed by someone’s gun. I’m glad we’re moving towards some measure of inclusion, but I deeply grieve the violence that undergirds the foundations of this country. I’m afraid for my child, I’m afraid for my family, and I’m afraid for the soul of my country. Not just because we are a violent culture, but because we have stopped pretending to care. Well, I still care and it’s breaking my heart.