Like so many others, the terror and tragedy of the recent mass shootings have brought me to my knees both figuratively and physically. The horror of Buffalo, Uvalde, Tulsa and even yesterday’s shooting in a concrete plant in Maryland continues the nightmare AND truth that we live in a uniquely violent gun filled country. The data and TRUTH of that last statement is undeniable and not a partisan view of fact/news vs “alt facts/news.” The following table is from a recent United Nations study that clearly shows our unique and, in my opinion, “nightmarish” place in the world.
An underlying truth that this table doesn’t highlight is that an incredible number of these “gun violence deaths per 100,000” are deaths of children. The fact that our county is not only this violent but also this “unsafe” for our children is not acceptable and cannot be the legacy that we (our generation of American adults) leave to the generations to follow.
It is in this context, in a dark and discouraged moment last week, that I was inspired by the poet Amanda Gorman. She was interviewed on NPR regarding her perspective and response to the recent gun violence and she described herself as “optimistic and stubborn” on this topic, which she collapsed into the single descriptor that she was “obstinate” regarding the current trends. That adjective hit home for me…. I want to be MORE “obstinate” regarding gun violence…I want to be MORE “obstinate” about supporting advances in gun regulation and controls … I want to be MORE “obstinate” about ways to make our society safer for our kids as school, at home and in our communities…. And the list goes on! She continued on to read her recent poem “Hymn for the Hurting” which I have added below, and it inspired me deeply. The stanza towards the end hit home to me and her admonition that we all “May we not just grieve, but give: May we not just ache , but act;” is so profound…. in the midst of OUR nightmare of American Gun Violence, we all need to find ways to “give” and “act” for the sake of our children and our communities. I hope you find her words as poignant and powerful as I have!
Hymn for the Hurting
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
Even our children
Cannot be children,
It’s a hard time to be alive,
And even harder to stay that way.
We’re burdened to live out these days,
While at the same time, blessed to outlive them.
This alarm is how we know
We must be altered —
That we must differ or die,
That we must triumph or try.
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.
May we not just grieve, but give:
May we not just ache, but act;
May our signed right to bear arms
Never blind our sight from shared harm;
May we choose our children over chaos.
May another innocent never be lost.
Amanda Gorman is a poet and the author of “The Hill We Climb,” “Call Us What We Carry” and “Change Sings.”