Protective Rage.

Saturday, when my friend Deanna and her family were visiting, we took the commuter rail into Boston to visit a museum. We took three rows: she and her husband and youngest daughter, Jeff and I in the row behind them. Owen and their oldest daughter chose to sit across the aisle from us, by themselves. With a deck of cards between them, they played War and Go Fish the whole time.

On the way home, a visibly, loudly drunk man came into our car. He went up and down the aisle a bit, talking nonsense to people, before sitting down in the seat in front of D and her husband and youngest daughter.

And a few minutes, later, he started talking to Owen and their older daughter. He was so drunk that what came out was almost gibberish, his words slurred together badly.

I was, quite literally, trapped in the window seat, two rows behind him, blocked from the aisle by Jeff, who told me not to worry, that he was keeping an eye on him.

But I had a clear view of the kids’ faces, which reflected a mixture of discomfort, confusion, and amusement.

It went on for far too long. At one point, the man said, what? Does no one TALK on this train? and Owen responded to him, Yeah, we talk. Jeff shushed Owen gently, telling him not to speak with the man, to play their game instead.

And the whole time, my internal danger alarm bells were going off, louder and louder and louder. This is not okay. Why didn’t the man just pass out and leave the kids alone? Why did he keep trying to talk with them? I leaned over and asked Jeff to talk with the conductor about him, but he said only Don’t worry, it’s okay – I’ve got my eye on him.

And for a little while, it seemed like he was going to quiet down and leave the kids alone. But then he said something, again, interrupting the kids’ game.

Jeff leaned over and told the kids that they should probably move their seats a row back.

And that was enough for me.

I stood up, shaking with anger, looked the guy straight in the eyes and said, loudly, It is NOT okay to talk with my children. You will leave them alone now. If you continue to talk to them, I will get the conductor.

I might have been yelling. I know that when I sat down, I was nearly crying with anger. It was probably a good thing that Jeff was blocking me in my seat, because I probably would have stood in front of him and physically made him move his seat.

It quieted him. He complained loudly about the fact that he was just talking, that he hadn’t eaten in 7 days, but he left the kids alone after that.

And we laughed about it when we got home – how the guy was pretty harmless, just drunk and chatty and how me going all Mama Bear was a touch of overreaction. And we joked about the fact that I called D’s kids “mine” too.

It was instinct that made me react the way I did; pure instinct. Children I love were in a situation where I thought there was trouble, and I just reacted.

I was able to diffuse the situation, and I kept “my kids” safe.

*********

Eddie Justice texted his mother from Pulse.

She was asleep when he first texted her to tell her he loved her, that there was a shooting at the club. And over the next 45 minutes, she did all she could to help.

But she was trapped her bedroom, far away from the bathroom in which Eddie was hiding.

She could do nothing but call 911, text her son, and hope. And grieve when she learned that her son was one of the victims.

I can only imagine the rage, the panic, the instinct screaming at her PROTECT YOUR CHILD!

But she couldn’t keep her son safe.

*********

I am so tired of taking a moment to honor victims. I’m sick of hearing about the “debate on gun control” – which isn’t a debate at all, just a bunch of people refusing to listen, hellbent on screaming their own opinion on the internet, not interested in compromise or even WORKING towards a solution. I’m so fucking tired of non-action, the rhetoric.

Because I now live in a world where I put my 8 year old son on the school bus every day, knowing that there’s a chance some angry person could storm his school with a gun and mow him down. Or he could die at the finish line of one of my races. Or, when he’s a teenager, in the mall or a movie theater. Or a club.

There are myriad ways my son can die; that’s always been true. He could choke on a hot dog or grape. He could die from allergic reaction to something he eats. He could forget to look while crossing the street and get struck by a car.

But the one that I’m most scared of is the one that IS PREVENTABLE. The one that is done on a mass scale, with assault weapons, all because we keep screaming at each other that the RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS IS OUR RIGHT, goddammit.

Our right to bear arms means our country allows anyone to by an assault weapon, without background checks. It means the CDC can’t even research the causes of gun violence.

And our right to bear arms means that more mothers will sit there, trapped, unable to protect their children.

This is not okay.

It’s not at all okay.

THIS IS NOT OKAY.

And this is me, standing up and screaming, shaking with rage.

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7 Responses to Protective Rage.

  1. Thalia says:

    You are so right to feel so angry. It is awful to see how wrong something is and yet not be able to do something about it. From outside the US it is hard to understand the intractability of this problem, but I have to believe at some point it will be possible to do something. Maybe with a democratic congress and some votes against the relevant senators you might have a chance….

  2. Turia says:

    It is just impossible for me, as a Canadian, to watch what happens over and over and over again in the US and comprehend it. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be an American trapped in this cycle of wilful blindness.

    We had a “homegrown terrorist” attack our Parliament buildings in the fall of 2014. He fatally shot one of the (unarmed) soldiers standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then ran off into the Centre Block where he was shot and killed.

    He was using a deer-hunting rifle (the Winchester model 94) which has not changed in design since 1894. It carries eight cartridges. It’s not semi-automatic. When you run out of ammunition, you have to reload each cartridge one at a time- you can’t attach a clip or a magazine.

    He was all set on a deadly rampage, but the gun he was able to get hampered his ability to kill. Gun control works. I wish with all my heart one day your country will recognize this.

  3. Ana says:

    Yes. A million times yes, I’m standing up and screaming with you!

  4. Deborah says:

    Yes. This just gets scarier and closer to home each time it happens.

    And fwiw, I think your reaction to the drunk guy was totally appropriate.

  5. Maddy says:

    I love you and your mama bear reaction to the drunk guy. I would have done it for your kids and D’s and I dont have kids. And Sean would have made fun of me for it. But I back you lady. No one needs anything semi automatic for hunting or protection. We gotta start somewhere and it may as well be there.

  6. Justine Levine says:

    Yes. I was there, too, thinking how I would have felt if there was nothing I could do to protect my children, wanting desperately to protect them. Those innocent faces broke my heart. I signed every petition I could, made calls, but wondered if I were doing enough … <3 I am screaming, too.

  7. As a non American, I often wonder about your presumed liberties. Now I live inn South Africa where there is an awful lot of gun crime, but nothing like the mass shootings you guys see. I often shake my head, and wonder why you get to be called the first world, and I live in the third, when the guns seem to reduce your guys humanity and çivilisation’ for want of a better word. The right to bear arms needs to come with an insistence on maturity. Personally I think guns should be banned period. I can see no reason whatsoever to carry them…

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