Last week, we all watched in horror as the news of yet another school shooting unfolded.
The next morning, as a chaperone, I walked a line of nine- and 10-year-olds down Liberty Street in Ann Arbor as they played a raucous game of “get the passing cars to honk.” 45 fourth graders, accompanied by 10 adults, stretched a tenth of a mile, exploding like the championship had just been won on a final-second half-court toss every time someone obliged.
The children didn’t know about the nightmare lived in a Texas classroom just like theirs the day before. They still don’t know that the lockdown drills they’ve engaged in since kindergarten wouldn’t save them if the gunman was barricaded in their classroom and had no regard for their existence. I imagine my son’s class, and the stories we’ve heard this year of their rowdiness and the “Lord of the Flies”-esque return to a social existence after the isolation and rage of the pandemic. I could imagine them with their inflated senses of immortality, righteousness, strength and power, jumping on a gunman, and the others swarming tackles. I can imagine them flung to the ground and shot on the spot. I can also imagine them all frozen in terror and crying for their parents. We all have too much practice imagining how these horrors play out in classrooms across America.
Many people honked for the children, with much-needed smiles spreading among us all contagiously. Many people were delighted to entertain the children, but how many of them would be willing to protect them? How many would be willing to have fewer guns or to take longer to get them or to be inconvenienced in the process of buying one to ensure that this vibrant, sashaying line of children might be protected from Uvalde’s fate? From Sandy Hook’s fate? From the fates of Parkland, West Nickel Mines, Red Lake, Columbine, Marysville Pilchuck, Aztec, Santa Fe, Santa Clarita and Oxford, and too many more to list? The history of failed gun legislation tells us that many more people are willing to make our children smile than to protect their lives in this nation. Shame on us.
So I ask you, what are YOU willing to give up for them? Does your need to have whatever you want right when you want it supersede their right to not be slaughtered in their classroom?
We should all be as ready to sacrifice for and protect our children as we are to entertain them.
Annie Bacon is an Ann Arbor writer and parent.