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Essay

We Can’t Hear You

By June 1, 2022 19 Comments
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Dear Congressman,

Hours after the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde I went to my fourth grader’s spring choir concert. He hates singing. He was sure to inform his grandparents that he might look like he was singing, but really he was just mouthing the words. 

Just before we left, my husband came into the kitchen. I was scrambling to get dinner together, sweet-talk my son into changing into a collared button-down, finish my work emails. “Did you hear about this school shooting?” he asked. “No,” I said. “In Texas. It’s an elementary school.” Next thing I knew I was standing with my face in my hands in the corner of our mudroom. My whole body agreed: No.

My kid’s school is big – three classes per grade. Our seat at the concert had a full section of fourth and fifth graders on our right, and a whole section of second and third graders on our left. There were kindergarteners and first graders in the risers on the stage. And for the opening number, their brave music teacher had every single student stand and sing. Six grades at once, almost five hundred children. 

The song they sang, by Macy Grey, went like this:

I know you’re fed up, life don’t let up for us
All they talk about is what is going down, what’s been messed up for us
When I look around I see blue skies
I see butterflies for us…
‘Cause there is beauty in the world

So much beauty in the world
Always beauty in the world
So much beauty in the world

It was hard to hold it together, I’ll be honest. Surrounded on three sides by all those tiny voices, singing words that we promise them are true: They live in a world that is good. That is beautiful. That is worth growing up in. (All singing except my son, of course.)

Congressman, maybe the reason you have been silent since this shooting is that you don’t know what it’s like to watch your 10-year old mouthing the words to a song about beauty in a broken world on a day when nineteen moms are identifying the remains of their 10-year olds mangled bodies. 

Maybe the reason you have not even attempted to exercise leadership in this desperate moment is because you don’t know what it feels like to deny every instinct you have within you and still send him to school, telling him (and yourself) that it’s safe in his fourth grade classroom, even while your Instagram is full of the faces of dead fourth graders. 

Life don’t let up for us these kids sang, whose respite from “code red” drills came only during the years when a global pandemic kept them from going to school at all.

What’s been messed up for us they sang, who know the best hiding spots in every classroom they’ve had since Kindergarten.

I know you’re fed up they sang to a room full of parents who have begged you, tears streaming down our faces, to please do something. Anything. We are desperate to protect our kids and we don’t have the power to do it. Only you do.

All they talk about is what is going down they sang. But that’s not true.

You don’t talk about it at all. 

My son mouthed along to the words that night. It really did look like he was singing. But he wanted to be sure we all knew the truth: he stayed silent the whole time. You know something about that.




If you haven’t yet phoned your government representatives to demand safe gun laws, it’s easy and quick to do it.
Find your Representative in the House, and the phone number to contact them: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Your Senators and their phone numbers are here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm


Here’s a simple script to make it very easy:

Hello, my name is _____ and I live in __(name your city)__. I don’t need a call back. I am calling to express my fear about school shootings and my frustration at the lack of action in Congress. Please do something now. We need you to pass gun safety laws (like backgrounds checks, red flag laws, and regulations on assault rifles) so that these preventable deaths can be stopped.

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

19 Comments

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Unfortunately, so good.

  • Ann McGlothlin Weller says:

    Thank you, Kate. Please send your post today to all of our Michigan Representatives and Senators.
    We need to advocate for raising the age limit for gun purchases, too. Three years ago, Congress made it illegal for an 18-year-old to buy cigarettes (age is now 21) in the face of lobbying by the tobacco industry. Surely–SURELY–they can do the same for guns. I hope. I pray.

  • Grace Shearer says:

    Thanks for this article, Kate. Thanks also for making it so easy to contact our representatives and tell them how we feel. I believe assault rifles don’t have any business being owned by individual citizens. Keep up the good work.

  • Ann Schipper says:

    Thanks, Kate, for leading the way.

  • Jack Ridl says:

    Oh Kate. Oh Kate.

    Our daughter teaches art at Holland Christian High. 15 years. I am teary now writing this. How can I want her to give up what she loves and I know your God loves.

    So moved by your remarkable son and your lyrically exquisite writing that unites the personal with all of us.

  • Gloria McCanna says:

    Why, oh why, do we put the burden of safety on the children???
    Hoping all politicians listen to the New Zealand Prime Minister’s commencement address at Harvard.

  • Sue Edema says:

    Thank you, Kate for speaking out. It is so heartbreaking . . . and seems as if NO ONE can do anything.

    Prayers for our country and our world and our government leadership that they do something about the access to the weapons that kill people.

  • Steve Bouma-Prediger says:

    Thanks much, Kate.
    Preach it, sister.

  • Pettinga Jayne says:

    Bless you Kate for this. I wondered if you have Canadian or perhaps New Zealand roots because you actually hold out hope that our leaders in the US might work together for sensible gun control reforms? Nevertheless, you inspired me to write them all once again.

  • Anthony J Diekema says:

    Thanks so much, Kate, for this powerful message! It shook some old memories from many moons ago when weeping and singing (I didn’t like either back then) “…..how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry. The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind” (Bob Dylan). We ALL need to put your message in the ears of our congressmen, and help you in that well-stated mission! Bless you!

  • Noreen Vander Wal says:

    Thank you for this. I just emailed both of my senators. I regret I needed you to prompt me to do it. It really is not hard to do, but sometimes seems so futile. I’m anticipating the canned partisan response to arrive in my Inbox any minute now . . . 🙁 But cynicism doesn’t give me the right to stop trying. Blessings to you.

  • Kate: Thank you for your excellent and moving essay on the insanity of guns in our society. I am not a hunter but have enjoyed shooting since I was 12, six decades ago, and I own firearms. I was born in Butterworth Hospital in GR but grew up on a farm in SW Minnesota at a time when most farms had one shotgun and one .22 rifle. So I am not “anti-gun.” But I am angered and sickened and dismayed by where U.S. culture and politics now are with respect to guns. It is societal collective suicide.

    We need articulate voices. Thank you for yours. Keep up the good work

  • KC says:

    There are already over 300 gun laws on the books and written into law. Maybe enforce these before thinking about adding new ones that only restrict law abiding citizens. 400 people each year are killed directly related to texting and 32 deaths per day directly related to drunk driving. Where is the outrage?? There is none, you’d rather blame an inanimate object rather that blame evil and sin. Darrel Brooks killed six and injured 60 with a car, are you blaming the car? Are you outraged? Did you call for a ban on cars? The answer is no.

    • Marlin Vis says:

      KC—just stop. Stop. Defending ownership of assault-style rifles less than a week away from the use of one to slaughter 19 children? Seriously. Not cool. Not cool at all. Now is the time to grieve. And to listen. So just stop. Okay?

      • KC says:

        No. My rights don’t end where your feelings begin. I will point out the hypocrisy every time I see it.

        • Marlin Vis says:

          It’s not about my feelings or your rights KC. It’s simply about tasteful timing.

          • KC says:

            So what exactly is the waiting period for commenting??

          • Kirk says:

            It is rather hypocritical to complain about someone dissenting from an opinion piece “less than a week” after the incident unless you are also criticizing the author of said piece.

  • Paul Kortenhoven says:

    Hi Kate and thank you. I am preaching tomorrow at the Woodland Drive-in Church (RCA). It is Pentecost and I cannot connect the joy of the Spirit’s coming to the sadness of Uvalde. I shortened the sermon and will spend some time reading and discussing Matthew 2:18: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.”

    Then we will pray and read/sing the Dylan lyrics that Tony Diekema referred to: “How many deaths will it take till we know that too many people have died?

    My letters to our leaders in Wahington are in the mail.

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