Exceptional in its penchant for violence, for a first-world country, the United States is a country I no longer recognize. It’s not the country I grew up in, where people rose up demanding equal education, equal rights for women and minorities, celebrating diversity and the wonderful complexity that is life. There’s some irony here because a lot of other people also pine for those “good old days” and their remembrance is much different from mine. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, feeling frustrated even as a young teenager with the restrictions placed on me simply because I was female. But I also felt empowered and hopeful because of all the adult women fighting for my future, by marching and by voting. I grew up in “ethnic” diversity where people made distinctions based on whether your family’s origins were from Poland, Germany, Italy, Ireland, or Puerto Rico. Only three black kids went to my high school and they were related to each other. Yet, we wanted to be friends, to be inclusive because at heart we were all kids. Our parents cared about the color of skin, but we didn’t. So I grew up frustrated and yet hopeful.
The country I live in now is unrecognizable to me. We don’t just make distinctions based on nationality; we deport people, even if the only crime they are guilty of is staying here too long. We want to roll back the clock on women’s rights and make them all handmaidens. Our path here has been insidious, only obvious when we look back and see the long road we’ve traveled.
We’ve come to embrace violence as just the way we exert our freedoms. The right to own an AR-15, a weapon designed for the sole purpose of killing a lot of people in a short period of time, is far more important than the lives of the people killed with an AR-15. The NRA has infiltrated our political system the way a cancer metastasizes. It kills, like cancer kills. Indiscriminately. No one is safe. In my eyes, the NRA is a terrorist organization, no better than ISIS.
Today I am going to my state capitol to stand with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people to demand that the Florida legislature enact serious gun control, to demand that these legislators stop being whores to the NRA and start serving the people they claim to represent. We must vote them out, vote out the NRA in November 2018. I can only hope that there are no more mass shootings before then.
Marie A Bailey
Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.