Age of Empathy
Published in

Age of Empathy

What I Do Not Tell My Granddaughter About the Massacre at Uvalde

And Why We Should All Sit Down

An older woman walking in the woods with a young girl, the older woman has an arm around the girl’s shoulders
Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Conversation with my granddaughter on Friday, May 27, 2022:

“Meema, did you hear what happened?”

“About the school children?”

She nods.

“I did. What did you hear?”

“My mom told me. She said that some of my friends might be talking about it, so she wanted me to know. She said a man shot children and they are dead.”

“Yes. That happened.” [I do not say, “Again.”]

“We were in the car when she told me. I sat like this all the way home.” She shows me a sad face, staring forward, with her mouth slightly open. She holds that face for five or ten seconds. “I just sat there like that. I couldn’t even talk. I sat that way until we got home.”

“That is just how I felt when I heard. Just like that.” I put an arm around her. She is sitting on a bar stool at my kitchen island. She leans her head over and rests it on me. “When you were sitting in the car, looking just like that, what was going on in your head?”

“I kept wondering, ‘Why? How could this happen? They were my age. Why?’”

“I wondered the same thing.” [So. Many. Times.] “Are you afraid?”

“I am a little afraid. But not too much. I mean, all the grownups I know on Whidbey are nice. They all LIKE kids.”

“Yes, most grownups like kids. Protect them. Love them.” [I do not say, “It only takes one…”]

“Plus, my school is super safe! They lock the doors, and they are REALLY careful about who comes in.”

“I’m glad to hear that!” [I do not say, “The door the gunman entered was propped open by a teacher earlier. It was a “locked” door. That’s what the parents would have been reassured in the past. “Our doors are all locked. We are REALLY careful about who comes in…”]


“Yes, Sis?”

“Can we watch a movie now?”

“Yes we can. Do you want snacks?”

When she is older, I will tell her many things. Today, I think them all, but I do not tell her. Someday I will break it down, in simple terms, so that she knows my view. But not today. Today I hold her close and we watch Disney movies. Today we both sit with sad faces, staring forward, our mouths slightly open, wondering, “Why.”

I do not tell my granddaughter that there are people who have been carefully taught what to say about guns, and they do not care if guns are killing people and hurting children. The people who teach them what to say take millions of dollars from the people who make the guns. The gun-makers and the people they pay decide together what the messages should be.

They try to make us so scared that we will want to have more guns. And they try to convince us that more and more guns are the only way to feel safer and safer. They forget, or they don’t notice, that, every day, instead of feeling safer and safer, we feel more and more scared. This makes the gun-maker people really happy. And every time children (or prayer-people or grocery-shoppers or concert-watchers) are killed with the guns they make, they put on a pretend-sad face and say, “Thoughts and Prayers.” Although ‘thoughts and prayers’ did not keep any of those people safe. (More on prayers in a minute.)

Here are some of the things these people are taught to say:

“Laws don’t keep bad people from being bad. New laws will not stop horrible people from doing horrible things.”

This, of course, is true. This is also why we have ANY laws. Because once you have a law against a horrible thing, you can put people in jail if they do it. But if you don’t have a law, the horrible people can say, “I didn’t do anything against the law.” And they are right.

“Guns don’t actually kill people. It’s the people holding the guns who are killers.”

This is also true. And if you are on the playground, and one of your friends starts hitting the other kids with a big stick, it isn’t the stick that is hitting kids, it is your friend. And if a teacher comes over, they will talk to your friend about how wrong it is to hit other people. But first, the teacher will take the stick away from your friend. This is right, and it makes sense. Every time we want to make a law to take guns out of the hands of angry people, or dangerous people, the gun-makers teach people to say that it isn’t fair. But it is fair. And it is the only thing that makes sense.

They forget, or they don’t notice, that, every day, instead of feeling safer and safer, we feel more and more scared. — Meema

“It’s not a gun problem. It is a mental health problem.”

Gun-makers say this right away every time someone kills a lot of people with a gun. And it is true that sometimes people are not able to think straight, and have some big emotions and want to hurt people. But all other countries have people whose thinking is bad, and they do not have so many people killed by guns. Why? Because they keep the guns away from those people.

When we try to make laws to keep the guns out of the hands of people who aren’t thinking straight, the gun-makers and the people they pay try to tell us reasons why this won’t work. But it does work. They are lying. Plus, they never want to spend money on the people who are having trouble with their thoughts and emotions, so the problem stays here and they can keep blaming it. I do not believe those people are the ones having the most trouble with their thoughts. It is the gun-makers who are not thinking straight. I wonder if money makes you unable to think. That’s what it looks like to me.

“Our forefathers wanted us to have any gun we wanted, as many as we want, and all the time.”

People are taught to say this as if they knew what the people who created this country were thinking at the time. They don’t. Besides, if there were assault weapons in 1776, the people writing the constitution would have been more specific. They were smart men [sorry, it WAS just men] and they did not want us killing each other ten or a hundred at a time. I am fairly certain of this.

“Assault Weapons are just another gun, and it’s fine to make them available to the law-abiding citizens who want them.”

This is not true. Assault weapons were made for people fighting wars. Now the gun-makers want to sell them to everyone, so they say, “It’s just another gun.” It’s not. It is way more dangerous than a hunting gun, or one that you keep at home in case of burglars. Assault weapons were made to fight wars. Now they are used to kill children. We need to send them back to wars, where people need them.

“Everyone should be able to buy a gun when they turn eighteen.”

This is a stupid way to think. Why? Because brain development doesn’t even tie up loose ends until around twenty-five years old. The gun-makers and their employees will tell you that eighteen is a good age because that is the age when we send people to fight in wars. So if they can fight for our country, they should be able to buy a gun. What they forget to notice is that the ones going to fight are trained in how to use their guns. And they are taught to be safe with it, and to use it only when they have to, but not otherwise.

No one is teaching regular old eighteen-year-olds any of these things. Twenty-five would be a better age for buying guns. (And if you look at statistics for who ends up in jail, unable to control their thoughts or behavior, forty-two would be an even better age. But that is just my idea.)

“We are sending thoughts and prayers to the families.”

This is another thing that gun-makers and their employees say right away when people are killed with guns. I’m not sure why they think this is a good thing to say. For decades they have been saying this each and every time someone kills a lot of people with a gun.

Maybe they thought, at first, that this would solve the problem. Maybe they thought that God would answer their prayers and make people with guns stop being mean. If that was what they thought, they should be able to see by now that it doesn’t work. The problem has only gotten worse.

If you see that something doesn’t solve the problem, (and clearly “thoughts and prayers” did not solve the problem) but you keep using that same response as if it solves the problem, there is something wrong. Either you are very stupid because you haven’t noticed that God is not solving the problem. Or you are hoping, like the Wizard of Oz, that all the smoke and flashing lights will fool people into thinking you are amazing and close to God. But you are not. You are the opposite of God, and you keep using His name to hide it.

(I’ll tell you a secret. I think a lot of people are looking at the sky and saying “God, how can you keep letting this happen??” and crying and carrying on. But they don’t hear God saying, “Hey! I’m asking you the same question!!! And you are my eyes and legs down there. Get ‘er done!!”)

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The gun-makers want good guys and bad guys ALL to have guns because then gun-makers will have lots more money. But this is another lie. At Uvalde, there were 19 good guys with guns standing in the hallway of the school. They stood there for an hour. They did not stop the bad guy with the gun.

In fact, they were also afraid of the bad guy with the gun. When the director of South Texas Public Safety was talking to reporters, he said that officers [good guys with guns] were “calling for additional resources. ‘we need body armor. We need precision riflemen. Negotiators.’” Then he said, as if it solved the problem, “Approximately an hour later U.S. Border Patrol tactical teams arrived. They make entry. Shoot and kill the suspect.” []

I will not say to Sis, “You know what happened in that hour that the good guys with guns were waiting? Nineteen children — one for each of the good guys with guns who were standing in the hallway — were killed. Plus two teachers. Those children did not have body armor either. They did not have precision riflemen. And the only negotiators they might have had were the teachers, but they were already dead. The children were scared and they were dying. And they were calling 911, begging for people to save them. Just like you would.”

Illustration by Tom Haney (used with permission)

I also will not say, “I think about that hour every night. I think about you and your brother and your cousin. I think about what it would be like to be sitting on a curb outside your school wondering if you were alive. I would be crying so hard. Just like the parents and grandparents I saw on the news. I would be yelling, like they did, “Get in there! Go in without a vest!” or, like they did, “Let ME go in!!!!!!!” I would be so worried.

And if I found out that you were shot, Sis, my life would never be the same. I would be sad forever. My heart would fall out of my chest. I would have that same sad look that you had in the car when your mother told you about all this, and it would become my regular look. I might have to go home and lie down and never get up. Yes, I’m pretty sure about that.”

“You know what happened in that hour that the good guys with guns were waiting? Nineteen children — one for each of the good guys with guns who were standing in the hallway — were killed. Plus two teachers.” — Meema

I’m old now. Old enough to know that “Follow the Money” is the answer to way too many evils. Old enough to care about a lot of people, and old enough to have lost a few.

I’m also old enough to remember what “sit-in” meant. It meant sitting in the Dean’s office until the local news came to interview us on the Vietnam war. It meant sitting in front of government buildings after the National Guard shot down some of our fellow college students. I’m old enough to have studied the way Mahatma Gandhi took India back for its citizens by sitting on his thin little butt. Old enough to know that sitting in the front of a bus could change a country and the world. (For a while…)

What if we all just sat the f*ck down? Until Congress finally did its job and remembered who the REAL employers are?

What if teachers and students and nurses and doctors and grandparents and parents and churchgoers and concert-lovers all sat down? What if truck drivers parked and taxis pulled over? What if bakers let the ovens cool, and factory workers stopped putting bumpers on cars?

What if we all — or at least the majority of the American public who want change — refused to do another thing until Congress addressed this problem in a meaningful way? What if we gave them the summer to do something, and then in September — say September 11, since we seem to remember that day well enough — if nothing had been done, we all sat down? A general strike until we were safer?

We would not be asking to get rid of guns. We would be asking to have a safer America. We would be asking for laws — real laws — that:

Keep the guns out of the hands of dangerous people — Background checks, ‘Red Flag’ laws, Assault weapon ban, raise the age for purchase to 21. (42 if we can get away with it.)

Help the people who are out of control — Crisis intervention teams to work with police, more mental health beds, scholarships for mental health counselors along with better pay, suicide prevention measures with a focus on veterans

Make owning a gun a responsibility — licensing laws requiring ongoing training, a national database for background checks so states are equally responsible, laws requiring insurance if you want to use a gun, like you need it to drive a car.

And if we didn’t get these — or most of these — we would sit it out.

Man sitting on cement steps with a sign reading, “how do our battered and tender hearts bear all this pain?”
Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

What if we all told legislators that they had June, July, and August, to, as God so aptly put it, “Get ‘er done.” And if they didn’t, we were all going to sit down. In the streets, in the hallways, in the gun shops, in the schools, in the cemeteries and the cafes.

What if we did that? Would you join me? I’m asking you to pull up a folding chair and sit it out with me.

You’ll know which one I am. I’ll be the old lady sitting next to Sis. We’ll be staring straight ahead, with our mouths just a little bit open, looking very, very sad.



We publish high-quality personal essays, humor essays, and writer interviews. Our goal is to provide a place for experienced writers to share authentic stories and connect with others, collectively celebrating a common passion, striving toward an age of empathy.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store