The Home Team / Can’t Keep the Guns Out? Then Let’s Keep the Kids Out!
I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN, but I'm not sure I can tell you
The diff'rence in Iraq and Iran
— Alan Jackson, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”
Country recording artist Alan Jackson wrote these words in 2001 in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Like him, I’m not a real political man, either. (I’m also not much of a singer.) In fact, until fairly recently, when I’d be driving around
Westport — doing errands, taking my dog to Winslow Park or Compo Beach — 95 percent of the time I’d be listening to sports talk on the radio, maybe five percent politics.
That ratio changed dramatically during the 2016 presidential campaign, culminating in the election of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. For me, it became all politics, all the time. While I like to think this fascination doesn’t mean I’m cheering for our country to go down the tubes, nor for the implosion of our mercurial leader, I do have to admit to a perverse pleasure in gaping at the inane and mean-spirited words, tweets, and actions of our Buffoon-in-Chief. (The flip side of this fascination is that these days I know almost nothing about sports — though given the teams I root for, that could be a blessing in disguise.) So addicted have I become with the news out of Washington that I’m now on a first-name basis with all my favorite anchors: Nicolle, Stephanie, Lawrence, Katy. The other night my wife and I tuned in to MSNBC for The 11th Hour with Brian Williams and were surprised to see a female hosting. “Oh, that’s Kasie,” I said.
The innocent and somewhat detached nature of my fixation came to an abrupt halt on Valentine’s Day, with the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Like so many millions of others in this country, I was even more nauseated by this latest massacre than I’d been by the previous ones. Why did this tragedy feel different? Maybe because this long-running series has been allowed to go on unchecked for way too long. Maybe because we’ve heard “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” from our lawmakers too many times. Maybe because of the hateful venom out of the mouth of National Rifle Association (NRA) head Wayne LaPierre ("As usual, the [gun control] opportunists waited not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain") and the sick taunt directed at journalists (“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it”) by Dana Loesch, the NRA’s Barbie doll spokeswoman. Or maybe because of the cogent, heart rending pleas for action from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors, almost all of whom sounded 10 times more articulate, 50 times more intelligent, and 100 times more sincere than a certain 71-year-old compulsive tweeter I could name.
Whatever the reason, since that day a little over two weeks ago, I’ve found it hard to think about anything else — especially in light of the chilling scare that caused an early dismissal at Staples High School on Tuesday.
And I have an idea: If we can’t keep guns out of our schools . . . let’s keep the kids out. If there’s no substantial movement on gun control legislation, let’s put a chain on the doors of our schools, let’s lock our arms, and let’s not let any of our kids in till the government is ready to make our schools safe again.
How to make this happen? My first thought was to contact like-minded people right here in Westport — friends, colleagues, teachers, principals, moms, dads. And then do the same in other areas . . . Virginia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Atlanta. Make this national. Maybe through PTA’s. Maybe by joining forces with existing gun reform initiatives, like Everytown for Gun Safety, or Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America . . . or Sandy Hook Promise, formed after the nightmarish Connecticut school shooting back in 2012, and based just about 20 miles away in Newtown.
I’m envisioning something big. This couldn’t be accomplished next week, or the week after. Maybe in time for the start of school next fall.
Then again, maybe this type of drastic action won’t be necessary at that point. There seems to be a good deal of momentum in the gun control / school safety movement right now. Moms are speaking out. Dads, too. And legislators. And major national companies, who are cutting ties with the NRA (Avis, Best Western, and MetLife, to name a few). And, of course, those amazing kids from Stoneman Douglas High. So maybe I can stick to writing, and walking my dog . . . and even get back to listening to sports talk radio again.
But if next fall comes around, and we’re no closer to making our schools safe from guns than we are now, this not very “political man” is gonna be ready.
“The Home Team” appears the first Friday of every month. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com.