Joe and Me. (also guns)

Joe and I have known each other since freshman year of high school (roughly 25 years). We’re two months apart in age, and for four years of high school homeroom, he sat right in front of me. Because “Re” comes before “Ri” when you’re alphabetizing the “R” last names.

The town we went to high school in, it was small (back then our high school was the only one in the county). And Joe and his people have been around that part of the country for a quite a while. When I showed up in freshman homeroom, I’d only been a resident of Winder, Georgia for about 8 months. Total newbie from South Texas. Plopped right down in the midst of kids who’d known each other since birth. And likely so had their grandfathers. Joe was one of my first real friends in that small town.

Joe and I do not see the world the same way. His dad raised cattle. Mine definitely did not. We don’t agree politically. We don’t understand God or talk about Jesus the same way (though we’d both profess to be people of faith). He still lives in Georgia. I don’t. If given the chance we’ll argue until we’re both blue in the face because one thing we do have in common is a stubborn streak and a willingness to share an opinion.

Joe and I both love our friends and family fiercely. And we both love to laugh. And we both have known the pain of life not quite working out like we’d hoped and planned.

Joe and I vehemently disagree on the current gun violence issue in our country. Especially as it pertains to how keep our kids safe in schools and how we protect the ones we love from gun violence. Part of me wants to jump up and down and scream at him how wrong he is. That’s how much I disagree with him.

But that won’t do us or our children any good. Because like it or not, Joe’s convictions come from a worldview born of family and faith and life experience.

You know…just like my convictions. And yours. 

I abhor what is happening in our country right now when it comes to guns. My stomach twists into a hard knot when I send Curly Girl off to school most mornings. Because…what if? (I can’t even speak it.) I don’t believe more guns is the solution. I don’t believe forbidding guns of any kind across the board is the solution either. I don’t think chalking it all up to mental illness works. And I don’t think letting the NRA set the agenda for Congress is anything close to what’s best for our nation and our children.

And as a person of faith, I would add this–I believe we are breaking the heart of the very One who created us.

We’re so sick, y’all–so riddled with the disease of discord and selfishness and greed that we can’t even see our illness.

But I don’t know what the solution is. I. Don’t. Know.

And this is maddening. Because if I did, I’d do anything it took to make that solution a reality.

What I do know is that the problem–it is on all of us. And it will take all of us working together to fix it. We are, right now, failing so hard and fast at being a country that values every citizen…especially when it comes to our children. We have to stop screaming at each other. We have to stop pointing fingers. We have to stop glorifying violence. We have to stop being a society that values some lives more than others and that makes so many young people feel “other” to the point that they lash out in horrific ways. We have to stop blaming the other side of the aisle.

We have to stop. All of it. And find a way to listen. To really hear each other–each other, not money or power or political gain. We have to remember what it is to love. Ourselves and our neighbors and even our enemies. Perhaps most of all our enemies. We have to remember what we hold in common.

And then, maybe, we could ask ourselves these questions:

  1. Do we really love our children? More than anything else? If so…we aren’t living our collective lives that way. How can we change that?
  2. Do we really value the industry of guns designed solely to kill people over the safety of our loved ones? Do we really want to be a society that claims money matters more than life?
  3. Do we really think that the best way to stop gun violence is to put more guns on the street?
  4. Can we really chalk all this up to mental illness, thereby excusing ourselves from any collective responsibility?
  5. Is this really what we want our legacy to be as a nation? That the great and mighty land of the free and home of the brave became a nation of people who value their right to bear arms over (it would seem) most anything else?

I don’t know the solution. But I am so willing to be in conversation about how we work towards it.

And I will do so trying my best to remember that while Joe probably won’t agree with much of what I’ve written here, he loves his kids, too. That counts. And it will take both of us–and everyone else–to keep them as safe as we are able.

His kids…my kids…your kids…our kids…they need us to rise the occasion and show them how much we care.

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