I’ve never been athletic or sporty. Growing up my brothers all played soccer and I did ballet. I begged my mom to let me play with them, but I was her only daughter and she needed me to be a girly girl. I get that. I was kind of afraid of the ball anyway. But I was jealous of the team aspect. Going to their games, their end-of-the-year parties, seeing them give each other pats on the back…I wanted that sense of belonging to something. There’s a comfort in knowing that you are part of something greater…that everything you’re doing and everything you’re working for is for more than just you because you have a whole team depending on you.
I always felt this the most when there was an injury in the game. Everyone from both teams huddles around the man-down, and the rest of us hold our breath until we find out he’s ok, letting out a sigh of relief as the circle of red and white jerseys around him breaks and he, with the help of two teammates, limps his way to the sidelines. There’s a short applause and acknowledgment of his sacrifice for the game, but then it goes back to just that…the game. And now everyone is fighting all the harder because they see what’s been lost and won’t let it be in vain. The substitute feels the pressure because it’s up to him now. He has to show that he can make things happen. That he can and will do what his injured teammate can’t right now. They play and they play hard. The game must go on.
I hope a sports analogy doesn’t come across as insensitive at a time like this, but the United Stated suffered a huge injury yesterday. Sometimes crap happens and we deal with it and move on…but this? Parents seeing the end of their children’s lives? Kids watching their best friends taken from this earth? Brothers and sisters finding out that the littlest one among them won’t be coming home anymore after school? This isn’t natural. This isn’t expected. This isn’t “part of life.”
The ball has been dropped, and the rest of us now can make a decision. We can rush to the sidelines with the injured parties, and for some of us that will be necessary. Maybe that’s where we belong. There is a process to healing and recovery, a process that never reaches full completion in tragedies such as this, but that can be helped along by kindness and compassion and a shoulder to cry on into the wee hours of the morning.
All of those things are necessary…but they’re not enough. People need to know that this has sparked something. That change will come of it. That no more countless lives must be lost in shooting after shooting simply because we’re too scared to talk about it.
It is often said after great tragedies that “now is not the time for politics.” And maybe to a certain degree that is true. Now is not the time for hostile attacks across political parties, it’s not the time for self-centered aggrandizement, and it is most certainly not the time to allow personal agendas to surface and get in the way of progress. If that is what politics means to you then I wholeheartedly agree that now is not the time.
But to me politics is about a conversation. It’s about change, it’s about progress, it’s about making things better so that more people won’t have to suffer in the future. It’s about realizing when enough is enough. Enough lives have been lost. Enough suffering families have been left behind. Enough deranged shooters have hit their breaking points. I’m ready for that conversation to happen right now. I want to talk about gun control now. I want to talk about treatment for people with mental disorders now. I want to talk about childhood bullying that leads to adulthood bullying right the hell now.
If you’re waiting for this wound to heal then I have news for you. It won’t. There is no greater symbol of innocence than a child, and yesterday 20 of them were taken from us. This is a sensitive issue. It will always be a sensitive issue. It will never be funny, it will never be old news, it will never be lighthearted. At least I hope not. Because this? What we’ve seen happen? Well, we shouldn’t have had to see it.
The ball has been dropped, America. But to pick it up and keep playing isn’t our goal. The task we are faced with here is not just to finish the game, but to end it. To end the game that uses violence as an attack and silence as a defense, the game that has stolen our innocents and our innocence, the game that ends in tears, and bloodshed, and long sleepless nights. We need to stand up and do something. We need to make this stop. We owe it to our country. We owe it to our team. We owe it to the 20.