Even before Columbine, I had grown up in the early 90s as a teen where school shootings were not just rampant but metal detectors had come to be seen as “normal” school fixtures at certain LA high schools. It wasn’t unusual for stories of black and brown high school students murdered or injured by gunfire on school grounds to never blow up national headlines as Columbine did. It seems the bloodshed at certain high school campuses were expected as typical, and that was made even more obvious when Columbine happened with its national media uproar. The uproar surprised me at 21, a naïve Senior in college. I will never forget that day when I listened to the radio while driving to my Violence and Social Order class, and news had broken about Columbine. In that instant, I wondered where was all the coverage when someone had been murdered or injured by gunfire at an LA High School that wasn’t predominantly white? Before Columbine, coverage was pretty much nil, and I have never forgotten that piece of 90s history.
On March 24, 2018, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington, DC, and around the country, to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today.
In the 1940s, a young boy named Ralphie
tried to convince his parents, his teacher, and Santa
that a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle
is the perfect Christmas gift. We all laughed
when he was given the ubiquitous warning:
You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
Toy guns wrapped under the Christmas tree
met ecstatic delight when children
still pretended to be cops and robbers
pealing laughter as they ran in circles
chasing brothers, sisters, cousins, friends.
But in the 21st century Ralphies have aged
into your Charlton Hestons and toot their
2nd Amendment horns to their
2nd grade grandchildren
who now play a different game at school
diving under the big art table where
they crouch together like multiple babies in a womb
a scrunched foot against a bent knee
a head resting on a head
hands wrapped around legs
huddled in the dark
chairs and tables
stacked against the door.
They don’t peal laughter but weep
at pretend gunfire
in a Wild Wild West kindergarten classroom
where teachers are expected
to pack heat. Today,
it’s no fun to pretend.
“Every victim has a mother. Tribute to every mother who lost their sons and daughters to crime. A soldier who died fighting for their country has a mother. An innocent life taken by war waged by extremist ideologies has a mother. A life ended by a mentally ill individual has a mother. Victims of terrorism, gang hazing, drug war, a selfish act for financial gains all have mothers. This is the pieta of a mother.” – Pamela Gotangco Hupp
WHEN WE HAVE CHILDREN
When we have children
we like to think
the world will be better
when they finally arrive
as if by some miracle
the world will have fixed itself
but the world is
what it has always been
rolling with the tides
where our children get pulled
into the crest of the wave
as we hope they don’t tumble too hard
or too fast and crash upon the shore.
Their lives spread before us
like a Dead Sea Scroll
crumbling and indecipherable
while still full of possibilities
when it is they who will save us
but not from our grief.
If we could make a list of the names
whom we lost this year
who would these children be or maybe
they’d be a mesh of
unique, tragic, hopeful beginnings
birthed into struggle
before anyone could even see
the shadows on their skin.
What time will you be home?
A mother asks
but her child cannot answer this time
the absence filling her belly
with all of the good things