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[What Will I Do]

[Ashley E. Underell]
 
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"Headache" by Karen Musick

I often ask peers and myself, "What is happening to the kids today?" It seems like such a "typical" question from elders; as we grow the world seems more reckless around the youth.

As a young adult myself, late twenties, I am floored, outraged, disgusted, confused, and angry with the recurring shootings and mishaps around the country. I am an average citizen, with an education. I went to school for a bachelor's degree. I work hard, and have fun too. I do not have children. I ask the same questions as the man with a Ph.D., a certificate in moon walking, a woman with ten children, a teacher, or a foreigner. I ask a farmer, a secretary, and even a man whom I recognize from the street. "What is happening to the kids today?" No one has the answers. We all watch in horror, and confide in one another around living rooms, kitchens, email, or telephone conversations. We are at a loss. There is no one explanation for the violence erupting. There are many, right?

I would like to confront the issue of violence in our schools and ways to cope and face these tragedies as "responsible adults." I went to work the day of the school shooting in Santee, California, having just moved to Denver from San Diego a month prior. I was, like many, actually sick all day from the news. The way I have chosen to deal with these issues (children killing children, guns, legislation, policy, politics, reform) is to write letters, talk about it with others, and learn from the mistakes and successes of others. I found myself in dire need to discuss the recent events in Santee, and I was participating on a message board. People from all walks have the ability to post messages, letters, comments, and thoughts about recent incidents that are dominating headlines. I couldn't believe the garbage I was reading.

The message board was filled with outrageous attacks on parents for "not doing their job," "kill the little --cker!" "That kid should die"--more and more comments filled the board. People venting, disagreeing, arguing about gun legislation, responsibilities of peers, the role of teachers, second amendment rights, and many other issues related to the violence. When I read the board, I felt guilty for being there. I felt sick that I was even part of the ridiculous discussion that was happening. It's no wonder our children are confused. So are we. We think, as we watch the news or talk about violence, that we have all the answers.

I am the last person to pretend that I have the answers. If I had the answers, this kind of tragedy would not be repeating itself in our cities, schools, states, countries, or homes. As determined as I am to find alternatives for children dealing with anger, hate, pain and suffering, I realize that we are in the dark, me especially.

For the first time, I realized the deep rooting of the issues surrounding the violence. As a Million Mom March organizer, a Handgun Control, Inc., member, and an official letter writer for San Diego Handgun Control, Inc., I am lost and admittedly scared as hell. It isn't the second amendment rights or the broken homes or the bullying or the lack of respect for one another or the easy accessibility to firearms or the abuse some grow up with or the lack of education or the sensationalism surrounding violence and "stardom," or the lack of understanding consequences or the media effect or movie and video game illustrations that prove to be realistic. What I know now is, it's our clear need to know why in a time of not knowing who one another is. How people feel, see, think, internalize things (especially our own children). What our kids are doing in their rooms, in their classes, in their friends' rooms, in their tents in the backyard, in their sleep, When our kids are sad, happy, regretful, angry, needy, incorrigible, distant, sensitive, ignorant, arrogant, irresponsible, disdainful, or even happy, remarkable, tolerable, bright, and thoughtful. We spend too much time staring into the screens of our computers and televisions, palm pilots, windshields, cell phones, to ever really know how a person might be feeling especially a child, the most precious. WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHY, HOW...

How can we claim to know the answers of a deeply threatening problem, when we don't even know our own kids?

Why do we claim to know that our children are angry after he or she has killed someone, but not before?

What signs are we missing, so sadly, that our children get away with a gun in their back packs?

When will we stop arguing the issues, and start educating one another about the root of the issues, and answers rather than Band-Aid solutions to recurring problems?

Where will this end? Where will the violence and ridicule end? The adults and educators, the advocates, legislators, media reps, writers, parents, and friends are all just as caught up in the argument, and sensationalism as the kids. Where will the example be set?
I will start with me.

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Ashley E. Underell was born in Denver, lived in San Diego for 16 years, graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, and writes fiction, Nonfiction, poetry, and short stories. An activist for stricter gun legislation, Ashley is a marketing coordinator for New Light Media, an organization in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation that focuses on combating hate in society. Currently, Ashley Underell lives in Denver. She loves to travel, spend time with her dog Luna, and write.

E-mail Ashley E. Underell at
ashley@newlightmedia.org

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