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Gun Violence Kills American Childhood Experiences

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We wore jeans and long-sleeved, white-collared shirts that shielded our skin from the sun, as well as any potentially cooling breezes.

This is what I remember most clearly from the years when I twirled a flag in parades in my hometown.

I was in grade school, and looking back, I must have been tricked or coerced into participating in my school’s color guard, as it wasn’t the type of activity I would naturally have gravity. I like getting lost in crowds, not standing in front of them.

But I wasn’t a much-complaining kid, so I probably complained during those after-school practices that saw my classmates and I line up in the Texas sun and twirl some poles that felt heavy. in our prepubescent arms. Swing left. Swing right. No, you can’t stop wiping the sweat from your brow. The school was in a struggling neighborhood and instead of individual water fountains, it had a raised concrete trough that released water. After practice, we ran to him.

I didn’t expect to like participating in parades, but I have many fond memories of that time. My favorite moment was always at the start of each event when the performers huddled together, waiting to line up. Meanwhile, we were looking closely at elaborately decorated floats and eye-catching costumes. He felt a privileged view. My second favorite moment wasn’t really a moment but more of a compilation of them. It amazed me to see strangers on street after street loudly applauding a group of children in white-collared shirts awkwardly waving flags. It made me feel like I was part of something bigger and brighter than my reality.

I always thought that when I had children, I would drag them to parades. I imagined us packing a cooler, grabbing some folding chairs and arriving early to get a front row seat.

But now I have two boys who are in primary school and they have never been to a parade.

They have never been there because the risks of taking them to this type of public gathering have felt too high in recent years. Like many parents, even before last July 4 saw a gunman turn a parade in Highland Park, Illinois into a massacre that left seven people dead, dozens injured and countless traumatized, I had already considered this possibility in my mind.

I was a child when a classmate was shot and killed. This trauma lasts.

The country’s out-of-control gun violence has made it a necessary reckoning for parents of young children. In deciding whether or not to take children to concerts, marches and parades, parents must now weigh the potential for fun with the potential for a shootout. Or the potential for a perceived hit, knowing that a “pop” or a “bang” can cause a sudden stampede.

Americans are so on guard that rallies across the country in recent days have seen people scrambling to escape real and imaginary bullets.

“Viral videos of masses of people fleeing one perceived threat or another on American streets have become a staple of social media,” my colleague Marc Fisher wrote in a recently published article. “In many cases, such as Washington, Philadelphia and Highland Park on the Fourth, cameras capture people looking at each other first – at their friends and loved ones, as well as the strangers around them – for clues before decide to flee, almost as much if they trust the reaction of the crowd at least as much, if not more, than their own instincts.

In this article, he wrote about two Chicago teachers who celebrated on the National Mall. He noted: “Everyone seems to be on edge these days: when a bag of crisps opened on their tube train that morning, they remembered, the passengers jumped out.

Parents who make calculated decisions about which public events to attend with their children are not a hysterical response. This is reasonable, given the current atmosphere in the country. I say this as someone who grew up in a neighborhood where gang violence was prevalent and spent a career covering up shootings of all types.

The murder of an 11-year-old boy is not proof that black lives don’t matter to black people. This is proof of our collective failure.

After the mass shootings, we see images of the terrible aftermath on news sites and social media. We see abandoned shoes and backpacks. We see the pained faces of loved ones and the solemn expressions of first responders. We see photos taken during happier times of mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, friends and children who were shot. One image from the Highland Park shooting that will likely stick with many people is of a toddler in blood-soaked socks. Both of his parents were killed.

But what we don’t see — because it can’t be captured in pictures — is another kind of loss. We fail to see how the constant threat of gun violence has affected a generation of children who cannot attend school, a sporting event or a public gathering without accepting that bullets can fly. towards them and the people they rely on to protect them.

A girl’s reaction to the Nationals Park shooting has the world addressing the problem of gun violence in DC

We don’t see the children whose parents have made morbid calculations and decided not to take them to these public gatherings.

We fail to see how the country’s out-of-control gun violence is killing not only American children, but also American childhood experiences.

Lawmakers who claim to care about the country should be furious right now. They should feel as tired as parents who are tired of what they have seen – tiny coffins and orphaned children – and what they have not seen – their children enjoying the same freedoms they once had. They should push the boundaries of politics and do everything in their power to change this reality.

On July 5, President Biden job a tweet reading, “Jill and I hope you had a happy 4th of July, America. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.

Among the many responses was this: “Mr. Biden; I’m sure you won’t be reading this, but in case you are – PLEASE do something about gun control. I’m terrified of taking my kids outside. Parades, primary schools, shopping malls, nothing is certain. Help me please.”