No Excuses and No More Silence

No More SilenceBack in March, I attended an anti-violence rally in Elizabeth, NJ as a representative of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It was one of many humbling and heart-breaking moments I would have this past year. At the rally, filled with people talking about what has been done, what can be done, what must be done about gun violence and domestic violence and violence in our communities, a mother stood up to speak. She was raw and angry and unapologetic.

She said that yes, she was sorry for “the babies killed in that Connecticut elementary school,” but that she is hurting too. And, she wondered, where is the attention to her family? Five years ago her son was shot dead on his way home from visiting friends. This mother described still waking up every night just before 1 AM, the time when her son was shot and killed and left on the sidewalk. She half-wailed, “Where is the sympathy for my dead son?” She wondered where was the outpouring of help for the son she still has with her? It was painful to watch and hear. It was honest, unpolitical, furious, and desperate. Five years later the pain was still tender and raw.

It’s the horrific mass shootings — the Tucsons, Auroras, Columbines, Washington Navy Yards, Oak Creeks, Newtowns — that get the most attention. It’s difficult to distance oneself from going to movie, attending religious services, hearing a public official speak in a public place, going to school. So when these massive and public atrocities occur, we are forced to confront — if only for a moment — the reality that it really could have been us in those theatre seats or behind those desks or in the benches of a house of worship.


It’s much easier to blink twice and say, about the vast majority of the gun deaths in the United States, it’s a dangerous neighborhood, it was late at night, he had been hanging out with a bad bunch of friends, he should have just handed over his jacket, and so on and so forth. All the excuses and arguments our brains make to allow us to maintain our sanity in this insane world.

But the pain of the mothers, the families, the communities is the same pain. And it lasts much, much longer than the attention span of the unflappable public.  These survivors are left to fend for themselves with the stress of knowing that their neighborhood pops up as dangerous in the statistics, or that they have to come home late from work, or that some of their friends can be trouble.

But it’s all of us. There is no separation. And there is always an excuse or rationalization…until it’s you. And then others will do the same and separate themselves from you. People who don’t know you will find a way to blame you, at least a tiny bit. Yes, they will.

But we mustn’t. And as uncomfortable and sad and guilt-inducing and potentially condescending it is, I ask you to no longer be silent. Do more than SMH at horrors that pass by on your screens. Educate yourself and others. Speak out to legislators. Take responsibility for your family and your community. Speak for people who are barely holding themselves together. Speak up now — to keep ourselves together.

Please join BlueWaveNJ, the NJ Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, the Montclair NAACP, Organizing for Action – NJ, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns on the anniversary of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary for a Remembrance of those lost to gun violence in the past year. On Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 9:15 AM come to 67 Church Street in the UU Congregation at Montclair for remembrance and resolve. RSVP at this link. 


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  1. @Kristin Frankly, this is disappointing: “Against Illegal Guns.” This appears to be a no brain’er. Drop the middle word, and I’d be much more enthusiastic to follow your parade.

    But it isn’t going to work. There is no way laws can now stop guns (illegal or legal) in this country. It has gone too far.

    You need to feed children. Send them to school with warm clothing and a sense of purpose. They need to eat healthy in school, be taught by good teachers who begin their curriculae from the children in front of them. They need to go home to decent housing that is heated and comfortable. And they need to feel good about themselves and that there is somewhere they are going in life.

    Violence and the achievement gap are not distant cousins. It’s not about guns; it’s about violence, disrupted lives.

  2. “You need to feed children. Send them to school with warm clothing and a sense of purpose.”

    Some good points irb. Another approach would involve figuring out how to dissuade those who cannot provide such support indefinitely to their children from ever procreating in the first place. That would be powerful.

  3. @stayhyphy two points:

    1. You will probably have as much chance at achieving this in our society as getting guns off of the street relying solely on the law.
    2. I am sure this is not a society I would want to live in.

  4. I agree with #1. Im confused by number 2 though. What is not to like about a responsible society in which the participants put the society as a whole first?

    But back to guns. Until we are willing to move on hand guns (responsible for an overwhelming majority of gun related homicides) we won’t accomplish much.

  5. @stayhyphy, Do you put society first? Do you put the good of your town or country above your own good? I know I do not. And I would not believe myself if I pretended that I was acting in the interest of another good beyond my own.

    A society imposes itself on you in ways you are largely unaware of. The fact is its will is always terribly more powerful than your own.

    Yes, responsibility is an important and a great good, but that is largely a personal good. The greater good is accountability; and this is largely a public good. Superintendents Alvarez and MacCormack were never the ones most wrong. And it is not their policies on education that are really what is at stake. The Montclair Board of Education failed to hold their superintendents accountable, and that is the largest reason why they failed. If the public does not hold the MBoE (or any part of its government) accountable, it too (government) will fail.

    No doubt Mayor Jackson had good intentions in instructing the MBoE to follow the School Superintendent. He wanted a smooth running and harmonious town. But his advice was exactly the opposite of what it should have been. He should have said: I believe Superintendent MacCormack is a talented, gift, and inspirational leader for the School District. You Members of the MBoE, however, should watch her like a hawk and hold her accountable at every turn. Had he said that, and had they done that, Montclair would have a good education system under Superintendent MacCormack and the current MBoE, regardless of whatever education policies they pursued. They would put critics like me out of business.

    Go back and listen to the speeches of Nelson Mandela after he got out of prison.

    Agree on handguns. In fact, any gun or weapon you want to take out of existence is fine for me any day of the week. But violence remains the core issue.

  6. Before you “dissuade” people to stop “procreating,” which kind of time machine will you use to determine that they cannot support their children “indefinetely?”

  7. idratherbe:

    Thanks so much for taking a post about victims and compassion and choosing to focus on one word in the *name* of a national group. And then thanks for hijacking the comment section to go on about an unrelated topic.

    I don’t usually respond to anonymous or fake monikers, but since this issue is important to me, here you go.

    It is illegal guns that are used in the vast majority of crimes. In NJ, which has relatively strong and common sense gun laws, 75% of the crime guns are brought in from out-of-state — mainly from states with weaker gun laws than we have.

    While it’s true that violence is and has always been an issue, firearms make a violent act much more deadly. In suicides, this is especially true. In fact, just over half of all gun deaths in the United States are suicides. NJ has one of the lowest suicides rates in the country as well as one of the strongest sets of gun laws. The correlation holds when other state suicide rates and gun laws are compared.

    Where legally purchased guns are concerned, of course horrific events occur. The recent Colorado school shooting was committed with a legally purchased long gun. However, it is *illegal* guns (especially in NJ) that cause the mass devastation.

    And as someone who taught high school for many years in an area where many students were confronted with the threat of gun violence daily, I can assure you that in addition to feeding, clothing, and giving children a sense of purpose, helping them to feel safe and secure is paramount. And I throw that in there to help your hijacking of the thread come full circle.

  8. @Kristen:

    I am stunned that you don’t see how this connects to the Mayor and The Superintendent. Keep reading idrather and learn how they tie into every issue that arises here. It’s magical!

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