“Do you have any personal connection to gun violence, or is this an important political cause for you?”
At Wednesday’s rally against gun violence at the high school, I asked this question of every parent that I spoke to, every adult on the field who was not there as part of the administration. I was thinking that maybe a few would have a story, but what surprised me is that everyone did.
Every person I spoke to had a personal connection to gun violence: a father murdered during a robbery, a toddler killed by a playmate, a family argument turned lethal, a rejected boyfriend out for revenge, a drunken teenage shooting game, an aunt’s suicide, a drug deal turned into an execution, a hunting accident.
Perhaps we were the adults at the rally for a reason. The national school walk out had drawn praise and scorn from every corner, and students all over the country had observed the 17 deaths of the victims of the Parkland massacre in many ways. The voices of teenagers rang from the podium, demanding change, decrying the politicians who allowed this slaughter to continue.
As I heard one tale after another, with the usual caveats – please don’t use my name, don’t quote me, it would really bring up a lot of stuff if this was published – I began to see another pattern I was familiar with.
#MeToo has shed a healing light on many stories that might have languished in the dark forever. When I went to ask the question, I thought I might get one or two stories. But there was no one there who didn’t have a tale to tell. And that becomes a tale in itself.
The personal often becomes the political when we realize that our issue is not a one-off. It isn’t just your problem. It’s a vast systemic chain of problems that no one person can change.
It might seem like a non sequitur, but it’s not. If you watch Bonnie Bassler’s TED talk (www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXWurAmtf78) about how bacteria communicate, she relates that there is a moment when the numbers surge, and enough bacteria are all together, all communicating, and then the tide suddenly turns.
While we think of ourselves as far superior to bacteria (why I don’t know-) this is exactly how social change works.
You have a personal connection to gun violence, and so do I. How many of us do? Many more than we previously imagined.
My kudos to the kids and the grown-ups who put together the protest on Wednesday, and my heart felt empathy to everyone who shared their stories with me.
The tide is turning.