Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Teens and Parents: Finally Something You Can Agree On

This Murder of 17 students and teachers has me crying almost daily as I listen to the horrific stories of survivors and parents of those teens who were killed. I am not alone! Everywhere I go, everyone i talk with is sad and angry and frustrated with the inaction that our leaders continue to exhibit even when presented with the most common sense and no-brainer solutions. Thank god, the students of Douglas High School have had enough and have united in their action to force the hand of our politicians who up until now have seemed disinterested in the safety of its citizens.  They are our inspiration and our role models! Walks outs, demonstrations, marches, yes to all of them!!! But the issues of bans on all assault weapons, and a more comprehensive process for background checks also need a long view and a plan that doesn't end with protests and placards and chants.

Though teens and parents mostly have separate lives and agendas, here is an agenda that crosses all boundaries between parents and children. We are on the same side! Parents are terrified, kids are terrified, and most of us feel helpless to effect real change. Here is what I propose for the long game.

1. If you are involved with your parent organization at your child's school, propose teaming up with the student government organization for a brainstorming session for actions, protests, etc

2. Organize with the school administration, faculty, parent organization and students a variety of teach ins. Invite lobbyists and legislative experts to teach your school community about lobbying, how bills are introduced and passed, and how your community can engage in that process to enact law. Reading history from a textbook, or living in the moment and experience and making change...which do you think contributes to real learning???

3. Engage your entire school community to identify those members of congress that have taken huge amounts of money from the NRA and have A+, A, A- B+ B B- ratings from the NRA. This may be the only time you will hear me say that grades matter!  Identify elections and candidates who support these issues. Contact their election headquarters. What kind of help do they need. For those members of congress not supporting changes in gun laws, contact, call, visit their offices in Washington., hold them accountable.  Hold bake sales and fundraisers to pay for bus trips to Washington to let those members of congress know how you feel. Make sure that all 18 year old students are registered to vote. Bring someone to campus for voter registration.

4. This is the time to teach your children that they have power! As a college student during the protests of the Vietnam war, and a child during the civil rights movement, I learned that yes....citizens when united can make a huge difference. Teach your kids that! It is as important if not more important than chemistry or calculus! It can save their life!!! If you have school age children, you have a community action group ready to go. Your school, whether public or private is at the center of your kid's life and yours! No need to reinvent the wheel, use what you have and what you already know! Call your principal, your PTO president, your student government leadership and ask.... What are we doing and offer to lead! Anyone can do it!!

Below is some motivation. The first is link to a poet who wrote this piece right after the shooting. Watch it with your kids. I am still thinking about it!

And the second is a letter from Jaime Guttenberg's uncle. Jaime was a 14 old victim of the shooting. She could be anyone's daughter, or sister, or friend or neighbor or niece or grand daughter! 

Dear America,
We buried my brother, Dr. Michael Guttenberg, this past October. He was a 9/11 hero and 16 years later he died of a 9/11 related cancer. Our country came together after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to overcome evil. We fought 2 wars, we subjected ourselves to onerous changes in air travel security, and we willingly gave up civil liberties to give ourselves the illusion of safety. 
But we are not safe. This weekend we will bury my niece. Her name is Jaime Guttenberg and she was the 14 year-old daughter of my brother Fred and sister-in-law Jen. She was Jesse’s younger sister. Yesterday, she was murdered by a gun at her high school in Parkland Florida.
Jaime was in the 9th grade. She was a pretty girl with the world’s best smile and her soul was sensitive and compassionate. She was intelligent and feisty and she danced with beauty and grace. She always looked out for the underdog and the bullied and she probably had been kind to the student who shot her. She planned to grow up and become a mommy and an occupational therapist. 
Fred and Jen are the world’s most loving and over-protective parents but they could not protect Jaime from the sickness that has gripped our country. Unless we change, nobody can protect us. My friends and fellow citizens, your guns are not protecting you. Your guns are killing our kids.
Why is your hunting hobby more important than my niece’s life? Don’t you see that your “second amendment” rights have been twisted and distorted beyond any rational interpretation? Why should my niece have been sacrificed at the altar of your “freedoms?” Why don’t you trust our police to protect us from crime? Don’t you realize that mental illness has been and always will be a part of the human condition and that weapons of war should not be available to those among us who dream of mayhem and death? Don’t you see the blood on all of our hands?
I don’t care that Nikolas Cruz did this. If it had not been him, it would have been some other sad sick young man. I do care that he was able to legally purchase an assault weapon. I do care that the NRA and our so-called political leaders enabled him. 
I don’t care if Nikolas spends the rest of his life in jail or gets the death penalty. That will not bring back Jaime and it won’t stop your kids from being the next victims of a “versatile, customizable” deadly weapon of war. I do care that the NRA is dismantled. I do care that our Congress and our President outlaw these technologically sophisticated tools of murder just like every other civilized country on this planet. Failure to act will make our politicians complicit in Jaime’s murder. I want them to face charges and I want them brought to justice.
My family does not want your hopes and prayers. We want your action. Join us in fighting the NRA. Join us in deposing any politician who cares more about campaign contributions than my beautiful Jaime. Join us in supporting leaders who will bravely fight for our children’s lives.
Don’t tell me not to politicize this. Jaime would want me to. This is political and now this is personal. If not now, when? If not us, who? If we don’t finally ACT, the sickness of gun violence will kill us all.
Sincerely yours, 
Abbie Youkilis MD

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