As a freshman in college, after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, I wrote a poem titled “Please Mr. President” that was published in The New York Times and then the Daily Herald.
I clung to an idealism meant for storybooks, addressing an envelope with my poem to the White House, half-believing that our president would read and share my words.
He didn’t. I’m still not sure why I was surprised.
I’d directed my hope and plea for change at our president. Two years later, I’ve come to realize that my hopes and pleas mean nothing to the people in power.
When I was 14 years old, standing in my kitchen, my parents told me about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We reached the absolute worst — a massacre of children — in 2012, and then because the leaders of our country placed priority on other matters, we watched Las Vegas happen.
We watched Parkland happen. And then Sante Fe. And then Pittsburgh. And then Virginia Beach.
Most recently, we learned that 22 people were gunned down in El Paso, Texas, and another nine in Dayton, Ohio.
I have friends in Dayton and in Texas. I was scared for them.
I was scared for all of us.
Each time a tragic event occurs, we follow a script that begins with well-meaning words from people in power and ends without action. During a vigil in Dayton, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s words were overshadowed by people shouting, “Do something.”
This discussion has been under way for a long time, but it’s difficult to move forward when progress is stalled by one excuse or another. It’s difficult to prioritize empathy, integrity and a sense of moral responsibility in a dialogue where money seems to supersede everything else.
Lately, politicians and civilians alike have resorted to blaming particular groups of people, hoping to pinpoint the problem and shift blame. We don’t have time for that. We have allowed the analysis, blaming and media coverage of mass shootings to become a partisan issue.
Yet it always has been, and will remain, a moral issue in which politics has no place. Set aside the right and left for a moment and realize that our own people are dying because of these divisions.
America, we must bind together and demand that this violence ends. We are blessed to look at that flag of red, white and blue fluttering in the breeze and remember the strength and power it represents.
America, we have so much potential for good, but we each have to want it.
A little over a week ago at Wrigley Field, I rose for the national anthem, feeling hopeful and hopeless at the same time. I watched our American flag fly at half-staff in light of the Ohio and Texas shootings.
In a moment void of partisan politics, I listened to acoustic guitar notes and patriotic lyrics waft over the baseball diamond. I watched 40,000 baseball fans rise together, bound by a pride and love for our nation.
It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
It was during those few moments that I realized we each owe it to ourselves and our country to start demanding changes immediately.
The time for politicians’ well-meaning words is over. People are tired of well-meaning words because well-meaning words represent a fear to do something more.
America, I don’t want to appeal to the emotions of Congress or the president. I want to appeal to you. To your emotions and your hearts.
To the parents who send their kids on buses to school, trusting each day that their children’s education will not be compromised because of gun violence. To the families taking their kids to the movies, to concerts, to shopping malls, praying that their city won’t be in the headlines the next day because of gun violence.
I don’t think it wise for any of us to wait for Congress to change its predictable pattern. It has been given ample chances to step forward and make concrete changes to prevent gun violence. It won’t bring changes to the table on its own.
And if it won’t, then America, we must.
The movement for change starts from the ground up, and it starts with the people. And not just the people or towns affected by gun violence but every person in every city. So let’s start with the small steps.
We can fill the inboxes of congressmen and women with requests for new laws. We can write letters to senators asking for sessions on gun regulation. We can speak peacefully and directly to our governors about taking action to solve this problem instead of talking about it, just as a group of people did during Gov. DeWine’s speech.
Countless gun reform groups are already advocating for change. Everytown for Gun Safety, started in 2006, has nearly 6 million supporters. America, we can join them.
For the safety and protection of our citizens, we each must step forward and speak until the people in power cannot ignore us.
Emily Dattilo, [email protected], of Arlington Heights, is a junior at Miami University in Oxford and culture editor for the school newspaper The Miami Student. This essay first appeared in the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch.
- Toronto FC advances to CONCACAF Champions League final with 1-1 draw against Club America
- Racing Royalty: Kyle Petty's Ride Across America rolled into Nazareth for a visit with Mario
- Racing Royalty: Kyle Petty's Ride Across America rolls into Nazareth for a visit with Mario
- IndyCar still working toward solution to stop debris strikes
- USMNT leaves Copa America Centenario with trio of budding young stars
- Will Power goes back-to-back with dominant win at Road America
- Player ratings: How did Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT do at Copa America Centenario?
- Copa America isn’t a World Cup, but it’s close enough for the USMNT
- U.S. have no answers for Lionel Messi, Argentina in lopsided Copa America loss
- Mazda MX-5 Cup heads to Road America for Rounds 5-6 of 2016