On Memorial Day, I hiked our property’s wildlife trail with Max and my three-year-old granddaughter. We descended the rocky path into the ravine, wove through aspens and the dense stand of lodgepole pine, then scaled the granite formation we call Moon Temple. There, she released my hand to climb from one boulder to the next.
“Are you going to be a mountain climber when you grow up?” I asked.
She nodded, her eyes fixed with fierce determination on her next hand-hold. Watching her climb, my heart ached with love and the knowledge that across the country other families were grieving the loss of their children.
Since the Uvalde shootings, when 19 children and two adults were murdered by an 18 year old with an assault weapon, the death tally continues to rise.
I know many on the right believe more guns in the hands of the “good guys” will protect the innocents that our trained police could not. Gun sales spike after every mass shooting, and we will never get real solutions from lawmakers funded by the National Rifle Association.
I believe in the power of the written word to change minds. I’ve ruminated over taking the approach Jonathon Swift did in his 1729 satirical essay, “A Modest Proposal.” During that time, Irish families couldn’t pay their high rents, let alone feed or cloth their offspring. Much like today, the propertied elite were indifferent to the suffering caused by their greed.
Jonathon Swift proposed that, rather than watch their children starve, the Irish should sell their babies to feed the wealthy. He goes so far as to suggest recipes for infant flesh, “a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled.”
Swift’s proposal raised awareness and inspired activism. I thought something similar might shock both the left and right into working together to end this insanity. The parallel to Swift’s satire would be a gruesome scenario something like a “whack-a-mole” game at a county fair, but here the moles are school children cowering behind their desks. The exorbitant fees for this game would be paid directly to the 2nd Amendment-supporting representative of your choice.
But I couldn’t write it.
It was too horrible to imagine. If the facts of gun violence in this country aren’t shocking enough, my fiction never could be.
Are there words that could sway gun lovers, those who value their imagined personal safety (or sport, or collections) more than the lives of innocents?
I suppose this is the dilemma for all writers who hope to change the world through their words. Reading fiction can increase empathy. Writing for Peace was based on that premise. We shouldn’t give up transporting readers to new understanding and compassion, but sometimes the best course is to write and call our legislators, opine in our local papers and on social media.
When our children’s safety is on the line, the most powerful writing we can do is register to vote, to show up at the polls, and to elect representation that will protect our democracy and human rights—representatives who refuse to accept money from the NRA or the gun lobby.
So here is my very modest proposal:
I challenge my writer friends to keep searching for the right words, and to keep working for change…
…for the sake of our dreamers and future mountain climbers.
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