By Amee Vanderpool
Welcome to another day in America following a school mass shooting where innocent children and teachers were killed. We can talk about all of the things that were different this time, in the hopes that it wakes more people up to demand that something be done. We can talk about all of the things that were the same, in order to make sense of it all or to find someplace to start to make a change. As we begin to pick up the pieces again, while going forward in this no-man’s-land-feeling of being numb from the shock, and overwhelmed that nothing will ever change, let’s make the conscious choice to focus on what we can do.
My first week in law school, my very favorite professor (shoutout to Professor Michael Gibson at OCU who teaches contracts) attempted to teach a group of terrified people how to read the most complicated legal language they would ever encounter. Dissecting legal opinions in gigantic books when you are feeling overwhelmed is difficult, but attempting to understand business contracts and how the law is applied to them is some next level brain torture. Those legal books may as well have been written in Gaelic, because you spend years just learning how to re-read English.
Our law school used the Socratic method of teaching, which is another form of pressure as you are called on to answer a series of questions from a reading that you could barely comprehend. Everything about law school in the beginning sends a signal to your brain to just shut down. You are on constant overload and lucky if you can successfully tread water. Professor Gibson knew this well, so he started every round of questions with the following phrase: “We are going to begin with the Maria VonTrap approach to statutory interpretation, which is to say we simply start at the beginning, the very best place to start.”
I still think about this when I endeavor to attack a legal opinion or difficult piece of writing that usually contains a preface, a table of contents, citations, an appendix, and on and on. Just take a deep breath, start on the first page, and think about Julie Andrews and her soothing and gentle voice. Maybe we should be using this same approach now as we attempt to reform our gun laws in the United States.
First, we see the headline and the opening summary statement of the event: “The former student who shot through the doors of a Christian elementary school in Nashville and killed three children and three adults had drawn a detailed map of the school, including potential entry points, and conducted surveillance of the building before carrying out the massacre.” This is so bad. We are drawn in by a sentence that is calculated to make us feel a heightened sense of fear and compassion, and we don’t know if we can even continue to the next sentence about how many children were killed.
We don’t have to. I am asking you not to take in this portion for once, because it does nothing to move the dial on getting anything done in Congress. This is the part that is immobilizing people or making some shut off from feeling anything altogether, and this part does not matter to our task at hand. The reason is that as a culture, we have decided to place ourselves in a real-time game of predator, where we give nearly everyone access to a gun, while simultaneously pretending we care about fragility and the need to be decent in shielding ourselves from the brutal visual reality of the fallout.
I am making a plea to everyone who wishes that things could be different and who yearns for change, but feels overwhelmed in how to go about making that happen. We need to take the Maria Von Trap approach to revolutionizing the way we approach freedom in our country. We have to take a deep breath and shake out all of the nonsense, and just start at the beginning.
Here are five things you can do today instead of going down the rabbit hole of cable news’ coverage that only seeks to keep you tuned in to their coverage, like a terrible drug that pumps fear and anger into your system with nice little breaks every fifteen minutes to sell you more things you don’t need.
1. Make a small, grassroots donation to an organization that is actually doing something to change the laws in this country to protect our children. The organization I choose to support first is Moms Demand Action (also known as Everytown). This organization is making incredible movement in the war against the NRA and those who seek to prioritize money and power over the lives of American citizens.
2. Read about the top three changes that activists are working on with gun control to and find out how you can help to keep pushing for reasonable progress on certain gun restrictions.
3. Read this article about how bullets from an AR-15 tear through the human body, shattering everything in their path.
4. Call both of your Senators and your Representative, regardless of their political affiliation. The way to get the message to members of Congress is to voice your opinion on the issue as a constituent. Don’t leave a message, don’t tweet at them, don’t go on social media and make passive statements. Rather, call their offices DIRECTLY, in your home state. You do this by finding the names of your two Senators and your Representative here. Then you google their names with the phrase “local office phone numbers.” You call the local offices and you keep calling until you reach a person, because each staffer has to record your call and follow up with a message. When people do this in large numbers it makes a big point with politicians on where the dial is sitting, and it forces them to see that people are not tuning out. It is worth your time.
5. Volunteer for one event in the next three months. If you are someone who has limited time, you can go to the events page of Moms Demand here and find an activity that fits your schedule. If you have no free time in the next three months, then double your donation to the organization and make a plan for six months away. Do not look away and do not tune out. Even the smallest effort will cause a major shift in energy for the entire movement and this is the key to change.
I do a Sunday recap every week to go over all of the important details of the week before we go on to start another week with more issues and craziness. In this recap I make a point to detail EVERY MASS SHOOTING in the United States by location, the number killed and the number wounded. You can send this out to everyone you know, so that people can see this is happening in every corner of our country.
This is not just a problem with crime in big cities like the Republican Party would have you believe. We have an epidemic in every small corner of this country, and the GOP continues to profit from the lobbyists and organizations who promote murder and fear in exchange for money. Know the facts, don’t go numb, stay involved in a way that will create progress and momentum and commit to making a small donation of your time and/or money to effect the change you want to see.
WE CAN do this. I’m not giving up. Please join me.