What is a Patriot?

“You are afraid of surrender because you don’t want to lose control, but you never had any control–all you had was anxiety.”

                                                –Elizabeth Gilbert


What is a Patriot? 

I sent my beautiful, twelve-year-old girl to school today. It was a rare, sunny, Spring morning. I had to have a difficult conversation with her. I waited for her favorite pop song to end on the radio. I looked over to the passenger seat to gauge her adolescent mood. Then, I muted the radio and told her I had something important to talk to her about. It was a conversation I did not want to have. It was a conversation I shouldn’t have to have with a twelve-year-old.

I told her if there was ever an active shooter at her school, I wanted her to find a way out of the building at all costs, no matter what her teachers tell her. I told her to trust her instincts and get out of the building with her hands raised where I will be waiting for her and fighting to get to her. I told her to hide if she is in the direct vicinity, but do not hide with all her school mates like sitting ducks on a lake as the nineteen did in Uvalde. Hide and then run to me as soon as you can.

Usually, Iyla reacts to my lectures with an eye-roll and “I know.” Not today. I almost wish she did. “Okay, mom,” she nods with a solemn look on her face. I wish this was an unnecessary conversation.

I fight the urge to squeeze her too hard and tell her too many times how much I love her as she exits the car and heads into her school building.

On the ride home I’m in tears. I’m enraged–again. I’m panicked–again. I’m heartbroken–again.

I send more money to Moms Demand Action. I send letters, make calls and sign petitions. I plea with our senators and congressmen to stop lying to us about gun laws, and start doing their job to make safer laws to protect their citizens, their children and their futures. Americans know what we can do to decrease gun violence and mass shootings. We have the research. We know it’s not mental health or violent video games. Our leaders are not speaking truth. We know that gun laws make the biggest difference in gun violence. In states with strict gun laws, violence goes down. In countries which restricted access to guns, gun violence sharply decreased. Our leaders are supposed to protect us, they have the power to stop this madness, this disease, and they are afraid of losing money and power, so they lie and turn away.

As a mental health professional, it is disgusting to hear media and politicians blame this already struggling, stereotyped and underserved group when we have the data showing mental illness is less frequent in homicide than in the baseline population. Furthermore, if they really believed the cause of gun violence was mental illness, and they really cared about our safety, they would fund a major mental health bill. They haven’t.

We have become a nation that loves guns above all else. Sixty-percent of my tax dollars fund a military that hasn’t won a war since WWII but continues to insist on being armed three times more than any other nation.  Our police shoot at anything they fear. States hand out death penalties to those it feels deserving of losing their life, and they are usually poor and black. We have the highest rates of incarceration and the highest rates of recidivism. Our movie theaters and televisions screens are packed with violent shows worshipping the military. How can we as a nation idolize the military, police, death and violence, have no gun laws for its civilians and then blame gun violence on mental health or anything other than our government?

I took my five-year-old nephew out for a birthday lunch and while we were eating chicken-nuggets I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He didn’t hesitate. “A policeman so I can shoot the bad guys.” Like most eighties-kids, I also had dreams of being Maverick and joining the Air Force to be a fighter pilot after watching the movie Top Gun. As kids we idolize the military and police force, but as I’ve grown-up I’ve seen the other side of all that bravado. I want to be proud of my nation–a true patriot, but my country has a reputation of violence and oppression that many seem too proud of. I know we can do better–that is why I’m so disappointed, so angry. We must do much better.

Mothers are watching. We know when our children lie to us, and we know when politicians lie to us, too. Stop using our tax dollars to fund the murder of the innocent. Stop. We will not go away. We will continue to vote and our voices will only get louder every day they continue to lie, look the other way and do nothing but line their pockets and protect their power. We cannot heal if we are unwilling to hear the truth. 

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