By Gina Spley
I don’t know about you, but since the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t cried or given my children suffocating hugs.
I’ve spent my whole life in school. I was in high school when the shootings at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, in 1998 and then, a year later, Columbine shocked us. In the 20+ years since, I’ve taught in elementary, middle, high school, and college classrooms where I’ve practiced lockdown and active shooter drills that feel more pointless every year. I was once locked in a windowless classroom for three hours while the police dealt with a student who had brought a gun into school with intent to cause harm. I can no longer sit with my back to the door and constantly monitor rooms for refuge – and exits.
We must all protect our American liberties. In this constant state of terror, no one really aspires to life, liberty, and happiness.
David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., and co-founder of March for Our Lives, an organization dedicated to eliminating gun violence, repeatedly tweets that this time will be different. I So wants to believe him. As a social media researcher, I see the disconnect between Twitter activism and the mere mention of the Uvalde shooting in my news feeds in the weeks since it occurred. But just because people aren’t posting about it on neighborhood Facebook groups doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten. We have endured over two decades of ongoing violence in America. We are negotiating our third year of a global pandemic. We are tired and when you are tired you feel helpless.
Fred Rogers, known to millions as Mister Rogers, once said that in times of crisis we must rely on those who help us. Do you know who are some of the biggest helpers in Uvalde at the moment? The staff of the El Progreso Memorial Public Library. There aren’t enough psychologists in Uvalde. Robb Elementary School, which, like all elementary schools, provides important community childcare, is no longer open. The librarians run stories and singalongs for children during the day. They bring in consultants and provide access to telemedicine. The Oceans of Possibilities summer reading program is expanding to provide a space for children and their parents to engage in fun activities together. Their doors are wide open to all members of the community to help them heal.
Hogg urges everyone to attend the Our Lives rally on June 11th in Washington, DC or in your local community. If there isn’t one, he’ll prompt you to create one. (Several are planned on Long Island and in New York City.)
After filming in Parkland, 800 local marches were planned. Can we get to 1,000? Can we show them that this time will be different?
I’m not naive. I’m a pragmatist. I know that one rally on Saturday is not a panacea; In America people will still die from gun violence. But, you know what? I will appear on Saturday. I’m not going because I believe the political system, which continues to fail us, will change. I’m leaving because one day my children will ask me, “What have you done?” I’m leaving because we need to grieve together, rather than having this tremendous sadness and feeling in the back of our minds that every time we go to a school/ go to a grocery store/yoga studio/movie theater/nightclub/mosque/synagogue/church, that could be the day it happens here. I leave because while change can be elusive, resistance is possible. I’m leaving because, at the end of the day, we only have each other.
wanna join me
Go to March For Our Lives at www.MarchForOurLives.com/march22/ to find your local June 11th. One is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. at the Nassau County Legislature in Mineola and one at 3:00 p.m. at Fireman’s Park in Great Neck. Or donate to the El Progreso Memorial Library in Uvalde at www.ElProgreso.org/donations to help them maintain outreach programs for the children there.
dr Gina Sipley is a professor at Nassau Community College and the author of the forthcoming book Just Here for the Comments: Lurking as Digital Literacy Practice (Bristol University Press).