In times of heartbreak and madness
When I need to speak my mind
I apologize for missing last week, I was laid low.
I know you may be here for the publication progress, but I beg your pardon for a brief pause. As many of you know, Nashville is my hometown, and Covenant Church is my family’s church, it is the community that I grew up in. Last Monday there was a horrific shooting at Covenant School that killed three children and three adults.
Last week I was heartbroken. I was heartbroken for Nashville, for my family’s community at Covenant, for all of our children who are growing up in this helpless, tragic culture.
I published an open letter with Pangyrus, the literary magazine that I work with. Please take a moment to read it here if you missed it on my social media.
Warning: if you didn’t like that one, you might not like what I have to say today, and you can stop reading now.
Because last week I was heartbroken, and this week I am mad.
I’m so tired of this.
Everyone wants to ask why. Yes, there is a huge mental health problem. Let’s put some resources there, for sure. And let’s not use that as an excuse. While someone is in a mental crisis, the best thing we can do to help them and those around them is to limit their access to guns.
I’m tired of people saying they have a right to whatever firearm and however many firearms their heart desires. What about the right to live?
Gun violence has surpassed auto accidents as the top cause of death for children under the age of 18. When car accidents were the number one issue, we did some things to create safety. We cracked down on drunk and distracted driving. We required seatbelts and car seats. Some people complained and resisted, but for the most part we complied and now we are safer.
To the people who insist on the right to own weapons that were designed for war, at least you should have a license for them. At least you need to take safety lessons, you need to keep them registered, and if you have more than one of them, yeah, you’re probably going to end up on a list somewhere, and you should, because that’s not healthy behavior and we need to keep an eye on you.
My high school student is the same age as the students who died at Sandy Hook. My college age daughter participated in walk-outs at her school demanding gun safety after Parkland. Nothing has changed since then. Something is broken here. Why can’t we help them?
The vast majority of people in this country support sensible gun safety. Come on, people, we are better than this. What do we need to do? I am supremely disappointed with U.S. Representative Andy Ogles from my hometown district, who wears an assault rifle pin on his lapel in Congress. I am supremely disappointed with Senator Marsha Blackburn, an old family friend that my mother campaigned for who is among the top recipients of NRA Funding. I’m tired of being polite and stating my opinions only with constraint within my circles. Something has got to change.
By not openly criticizing these people in positions of power have I been complicit?
When I grew up in Tennessee, I was required to have a note from my parents to check out Judy Blume books from the library but I could purchase a firearm. Why is this culture more concerned about what I might be reading than how many weapons of war are hidden in my basement?
I may sound angry, and I am, but I am also honestly asking the questions. Does this make sense to anyone?
I can be angry, but I’m trying hard not to make judgements. Judging only breeds resentment and can turn to more violence. I’ll focus on how many things we have in common. We all want to live in peace. We all want to provide a safe and stable place for our family to thrive. We all want equal opportunities to create a community.
And we can take steps to get in the way, to bother people, to ruffle some feathers. No one will change if they’re comfortable with the status quo. Let’s make doing nothing the thing that’s uncomfortable.
To the children, I am so sorry that this is the world that you have inherited. I am so sorry for what you have had to live through. But I know that you will be the ones to make the difference. You’ve had enough too, and I hear you loud and clear.
As this is a post about a tragic event that took place in a church, it seems appropriate to quote scripture here. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
There is a season for all things, and kids, if you are angry, now is the time to raise your voice and make yourself heard. I’ve got your back, and I am one of millions of mothers who will do anything to help keep you safe and to give you the space to thrive.
Because this substack is about The Tigerbelles book, I will end with a passage from the manuscript where Tigerbelle and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Barbara Jones talks about Coach Edward Temple leading the team through their struggles during the Civil Rights protests in Nashville:
“But you know what was great about Mr. Temple is that he didn’t let us have any fear,” Barbara Jones said. “He would tell us, ‘All you have to do is the right thing. That’s all you have to do. And don’t let anyone make you feel any less than what you are. Because you are somebody. And if they don’t know it now, but shoo, they’ll realize it later.”
The drive behind those 5am wakeup calls and afternoons in the sweltering heat was for recognition, for achievement. In order to prove themselves to the world, they had to behave in such a way as to make them impossible to undermine, and to ignore. The team, and their leaders collectively agreed to, “show them on the track.” In his team’s eyes, Temple saw the hope of what could be. It was quieter and not as flashy as a protest, but it was true, and in the long run, he believed it would mean the same.
I have faith that our kids will find their own voice, their own way to stand up for their right to live in peace, and I’m behind them all the way.
Until next time,
P.S. A little housekeeping – going forward I’ll be changing up the format of this newsletter. I’m going to try to have one longer newsletter a month with a few added features and news items, and one or two shorter ones like the ones I have been sending out. Please let me know what you think and if there is anything you’d like to see more or less of.