Living in America, at one point, seemed to be something really special. Home of the brave… land of the free. But what does that mean exactly? It’s a fickle thing that freedom.
Yes, we are free in the sense that we have choices that many do not get, and do not have the control over us that some countries do, but we are slowly becoming uneasy about partaking in the exact things we should be able to enjoy as a free country. People are becoming frightened to send their kids, or themselves to schools, malls, banks, movie theaters, even churches.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a whole, are we happy? Scrolling through news headlines, do we seem like a healthy, well adjusted country worthy of praise?
At some point, freedom has become synonymous with entitlement. I’m American, so I get what I want. Whether that means a fancy sports car I can’t really afford, a new credit card to rack up debt on pretty jewelry or the newest iPhone, or a giant stockpile of assault weapons in my closet. I want it, I get it. Our sense of entitlement and the belief that just because we were born in America and therefore deserve more has led to our current and terrifying state.
We are conditioned to strive for the American dream, but our environment is not conducive to what we are taught we deserve. The economy went toe up, we have little faith in our government, there’s so much debt, not enough income, too many dreams stifled by the limitations the real world brings on. We are set up for failure by believing that the American dream means bigger, better and easy to obtain.
This sense of entitlement combined with mental instability combined with – and this is a big one – unbelievable access to a plethora of weapons has led us to this current debacle. As President Obama has stated, “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis.”
We are one of the only developed countries, though, that can’t get to seem a strong handle on one very big component. Do you know what that is? The answer is – ding ding ding – GUN CONTROL.
This does not mean every gun is illegal. This does not take away your second amendment right to protect yourself and your home. This is not to say all guns are bad all the time. But there are laws that can be made and rules that can be enforced that will make them more difficult to acquire. I should not be able to go onto Facebook and buy a gun on the Swap Shops, end of story. The majority of those in disagreement about gun control laws will argue that criminals will find a way to break the law if it is their intention to do so, therefore stricter gun laws will not curb mass shootings. If that line of thinking is accurate, then why do we have laws at all? Drunk driving laws will not stop every single person from driving after having a drink. Do you know anyone who does or has done drugs? Probably. Did you know there are laws against that? Is stealing illegal? Did you know that there are currently thousands of inmates in our prison systems on that charge. The point is, yes you are right. If someone is that set on doing something then maybe they will find a way. Every law is like that. They are all broken by somebody at some point in time. Does that mean they are irrelevant? No, I didn’t think so.
We are turning a blind eye to these tragedies by becoming conditioned to them. I remember Columbine. I was young when it happened, sitting at my Grandma’s house, glued to the TV. I watched the media coverage, saw the crying students and parents. I tried to wrap my head around it. Since Sandy Hook, it’s almost as if we have just turned off our shock meter. That particular incident was so tragic, so unprecedented that once we got past that, nothing else has really phased us. Talking with someone the other day, I mentioned the Seattle Pacific University shooting; They didn’t even know what I was talking about. When I get a breaking news notification about a new shooting, I sigh and put my phone down. I don’t always click the link for more information anymore. This is a problem. We are all a part of the problem. Mass shootings are becoming, in our minds, equivalent of hearing that there’s a bad storm happening in another state. We recognize it, we think, “man, that’s just too bad.” Then we move on with our lives. A bad storm is something we cannot stop. This increase in violence is something that we can try to curb. But we don’t, because it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take people who can step down off their political high horse, put personal agendas on the back burner, and think about the state and future of this country.
We are a free country, yes, but freedom doesn’t mean a free-for-all. We can’t always do what we want when we want. We keep getting all these wake up calls – then consistently slamming our hand on the snooze button, once again closing our eyes to the bleak situation around us. I don’t want to be scared to send my daughter to school in a few years, or for her to have to learn how to use a special bulletproof blanket while she is there. I don’t want her to be scared of the outside world because those in charge have failed her and her generation. I don’t have the answers of what we can do, but I’m willing to be part of the conversation. What about you?
By Skyla Sullivan • firstname.lastname@example.org