Today I wanted to write about anxiety and mental illness and a party and agoraphobia. More accurately that is what I planned to write about yesterday when Z and I figured out our schedule for Sunday to include some writing time for me.
Right before we went to bed we saw the jury had come back and delivered a not guilty verdict. Maybe tomorrow I’ll write about anxiety and mental illness and a party and agoraphobia. But today I can’t.
Today the boys played in the backyard while Z worked on a climbing structure he is building for them. They ran around, they used toy hammers and chisels and mallets and screwdrivers. They hit each other, pulled hair, kicked. Time outs happened. I watched them play, yelled at them when they started in on each other, gave out kisses when T fell onto a stool. My mind was half with them and half thinking about Travon Martin and his parents.
My boys. My beautiful boys with their blond hair and their blue eyes. My boys who are too young to understand that terrible things happen in this world. We are trying to figure out how to explain it to T. He is still obsessed with guns and weapons. He isn’t allowed to play guns at home, he isn’t allowed to have toy guns. It’s all abstract to him at this point. You shoot at the bad guys. Case closed.
The other day I was making dinner while T sat on the sofa and watched Disney Jr. The movie Pocahontas happened to be on. I hadn’t seen it since it first came out. I walked into the room and looked at the screen. A young man was pointing a gun at John Smith and Pocahontas’s brother as they fought with a knife. Suddenly I remembered that the brother was going to get shot. T was riveted. I had the time to turn the TV off, but I didn’t. I stood there and watched it with him. When Pocahontas turned to the kid who shot and cried, “You killed him!” I faced T. “Look at that. Look. That gun killed that man. That is why Daddy and I hate guns. They kill people. The kill good people. They kill bad people. They kill by mistake. They kill on purpose. They are horrible and unsafe and we do not think it is cool or funny when you pretend to have them. Police have guns to protect us, but guns are dangerous. They can kill.”
A little heavy for an almost 4 year old, yes. But T has been fascinated by death for months, it has been a frequent topic of conversation.
So we are trying to let him know what we feel about guns. It is going to be a long road. Obviously he didn’t get what I was trying to explain, but over time he will. And many people will disagree with our approach. That’s fine. We are all allowed to have different views. We are going to teach our kids that in our family we do not believe in owning guns. We don’t think they make us safer. And frankly, we don’t think other people should have guns either.
We are going to have to have a lot of difficult conversations as the boys get older. But we don’t have to have The Talk. Our boys will never be told that they can’t run in public for fear of raising suspicion of the police. Or that they can’t wear a hoodie without being targeted as a criminal. Our boys will think of the police as people who will help them, not as ones who will accuse them of crimes they didn’t commit.
Our boys are different than black boys or brown boys. They are going to get different opportunities. They are going to be treated better-I was going to type for their whole lives, but you know what? I hope and pray (fake pray? agnostic pray?) that it won’t continue for their whole lives. I hope equality happens in their lifetimes.
Today I’m numb and sickened and horrified by the world we live in. I will never understand what it is like for Travon Martin’s parents. And I’m not even grateful for the privilege that accompanies the color of my boy’s skin. It is dirty privilege. It is wrong.
These words don’t come from some ivory tower of race relation perfection. I’ve done and felt plenty that I’m ashamed of in my 36 years. I need to do better. Z needs to do better. You need to do better. We all do.
I wish we lived in a country where all families were treated with the respect that our family receives.