I won’t try to get too political here, but I want to share some thoughts inspired by a significant recent event, one I’m sure you may have heard about: Last Saturday, millions of students and their adult supporters marched across the country, an effort to highlight the need for stronger, stricter regulations concerning firearms — the “March for Our Lives.” The most publicized march occurred in Washington, D.C., but other “sibling marches” occurred, including here in Madison, where 2,500 participants marched up State Street and convened on the State Capitol grounds. (I wish I hadn’t been preoccupied last Saturday so that I would have joined in.)
The marches, as if you haven’t judged from the news of late, are the continuation of a movement inspired by students who survived a tragic shooting incident at a Florida high school last month. The students have been the driving voices and, in several instances, much of the organizing. One such voice was a 16-year-old high school student at Madison’s march. In this article, she expressed the same laments as many others of her age in Madison and around the country, including the fact that she’s never known a time when an active shooter drill wasn’t done in her school.
That very thought about taking such drastic precautions gives me pause quite a bit for two reasons. First, Male Mode Me has been a devoted volunteer in schools around here the past few years, and the thought of me being caught up in an incident where things have to be locked down and I need to help calm down a room full of young kids eaves me quite scared, if not just as scared as the kids in the room. Thankfully, I haven’t encountered a fire drill during my school visits, let alone a lock down incident. Here’s hoping that the situation when I’m in front of a class of kids never gets worse than one rambunctious kid not wanting to settle down and listen to the lesson being taught.
The other reason any scary incident at a school gives me great pause is one that is closest to my heart: My four nieces, who are 13, 14, 15, and (as of this week) 19. The 19-year-old has already graduated from high school, while the other three are in high school or middle school at the moment. I hope that all of them (or in the case of the 19-year-old, her workplace) never have to encounter a day similar to the one those kids and faculty in that school in Florida went through last month. I hope, too, that their classmates/colleagues never forget that firearms are not only dangerous but also never the cure-all to every problem our country’s violent culture seems to make them out to be.
That’s not to say that my nieces are safely ensconced from firearms of any kind. In fact, most of my extended family, in one way or another, are part of the hunting-for-game culture that is prevalent here in Wisconsin. From my late grandparents and my uncles to my brother-in-law, much of my relation are not above getting out into the woods and hunt for that big trophy. Heck, it’s not uncommon to visit my sister’s house and see her husband spread out on the couch watching the all-hunting-and-fishing channel on their satellite, or as I like to refer to it, “BubbaVision.”
My 15-year-old niece has, for better or worse, become part of that hunting-for-game culture, having “bagged” one or two “trophies” with a firearm (*sigh*) and obviously making her parents and grandparents proud. I’m not part of that culture, however. I never felt comfortable even practicing with a BB gun under my stepfather’s or stepbrother’s supervision so many years ago. I’m actually relieved that the rest of my family seems to understand (or at least doesn’t show disappointment) as to why I never took even a remote inkling toward sitting in a deer stand in the chill of a Wisconsin November just to even look at a 10-point deer.
I just hope that my 15-year-old niece, and my other nieces as well, don’t get too far gone in the whole hunting-for-game thing. They were all pretty good artists in their earlier years, and I hope they still know the importance of channeling their talents into less lethal pursuits. Even just drawing in a sketch book or filling in a coloring book will, I hope, have as much if not more of an impact on them and their development than the sometimes fruitless pursuit of an animal they can send to the taxidermist.
Simply put, I hope that the kids I encounter (whether they are those I see in a classroom for a couple of weeks or those I am related to) will be well-rounded, and that they not get caught up in a culture that can be dangerous and destructive, no matter how they’re introduced to it. I hope, too, that they encourage others to spread those positive pursuits; if they do, they will be just like those inspired by the kids in Florida, who are rapidly becoming positive contributors to the future of our country and our planet.