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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.