Yesterday, in Newtown, Connecticut, 26 people were murdered by a lone gunman who entered a primary school with an assault weapon. 20 of those lost were young children, many of them first grade students. Yesterday was a hard, hard, day to be a teacher, no matter where you live. I have no illusions that my voice has any relevance today, but the only way I am going to find a way to lift my broken heart up off the couch and back into the world is to raise that voice. So here, here it is – the sound of my heart, my head, my voice, as a kindergarten teacher, a Canadian, a human being, on this, the day after Newtown.
I try so hard not to be a self-righteous Canadian, the kind who lords gun control and health care and gay marriage over my American neighbours. I am proud of my country, but have no illusion that we are perfect. I love my American neighbours. Many of my best friends are Americans, and I have spent some of the best times of my life there.
But today… Today, America, if I could break up with you, I would. I am so tired. So tired of crying and fretting and worrying over you. Of watching you hurt yourself over and over and not take steps to get help. I am tired of getting fired up about your educational system, your health care situation, your social policies, your gun control, your elections, and now… this. I have spent 24 hours crying over 20 of your dead children, weeping over your teachers who risked and lost their own lives to protect their students. Because of you, on Monday, I will request that my school has a lockdown drill THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS. I will ask for, or make myself, a curtain for my office window, so that, should the very worst happen, I, and the students I work with, would have a safer place to hide. Because of you, I may have to answer questions from five-year olds about a bad man coming into a school with a gun. Because of you, I had nightmares last night so bad that I finally gave up and turned on the light at 4 am. Because of you, today, my head is achy, my eyes are leaky, my heart is heavy.
Of course, I can’t break up with you. I love you too much to do so, and honestly, I cannot walk out on you during a crisis. So, I am begging you: fix this. Get over your ethic of individual liberties and start taking some goddamn collective responsibility for one another. You failed the young man who did this, and in doing so, in allowing him to fall through the cracks, you failed 20 small children, their families, their school, their town, YOUR ENTIRE MOURNING COUNTRY, and the world. The ENTIRE WORLD is weeping over your children this morning. Wake up, raise your voices, start thinking about what is best for ALL of you, and not just what is best for EACH of you.
Make no mistake, I know the rest of us are not immune. This could happen here, and it has. But it is NOT a coincidence that, in the time since Columbine, your country has had more than twice the number of school shootings as ALL THE OTHER COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD, combined. We love you, America, and we want to help you, but you have got to open up your arms and start accepting that help. You have got to accept that there are other ways of living, of being, of looking after a people, of running a country, and that maybe you could learn a few things from the rest of us. Stop bragging about being the best country in the world, and start focusing on just being a better country than you currently are.
I am your friend, America. I have sung your praises from the rooftops, defended you from your toughest critics, called out my own country and others any time we get up on our high horses. I have lived in 2 of your states, climbed your mountains, splashed in your oceans, fallen in love with your beauty over and over again. I have lain in a meadow under your starry skies and wished with my whole heart that I never had to leave you. I have wished that my people could be more like your people in their kindness, openness, generosity.
I love you, America, but today, today, as your neighbour, your friend, your sister, I am begging you: FIX THIS.
Alongside the rest of the world, I pray for the children, parents, teachers, of Sandy Hook Elementary. If tears could mend their broken hearts, they would already be healed.