It is perhaps an understatement to say that I'm not a very confident person when it comes to political debate. I avoid getting into these discussions because I invariably feel wildly uneducated, inarticulate, and fearful of confrontation -- and when it comes to the topic of guns, I mostly want to bury my head in the sand, because my family is hugely divided (and hugely passionate) on the issue and every discussion leads straight to Crazytown, Population: Everyone.
I think that's why these children's letters to President Obama resonate with me so much. Not only because they represent the innocent, pure thoughts of those too young to engage in fiery commentary, but because they're such simple pleas that are familiar to all of us: We're scared. We're sad. Please make the violence stop.
In the days after the December 14 shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School, children from around the U.S. have been sending letters to the White House. Here's a sampling of what they've written:
From a 10-year-old in Georgia:
I am writing to ask you to STOP gun violence. I am very sad about the children who lost their lives. So, I thought I would write to you to STOP gun violence.
An 8-year-old from Maryland:
It’s a free country but I recommend there needs (to) be a limit with guns. Please don’t let people own machine guns or other powerful guns like that.
An 11-year-old from the District of Columbia:
I know I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of (my four brothers and sisters). (...) I know that laws have to be passed by Congress but I beg you to try very hard to make guns not allowed. Not just for me, but for the whole United States.
Today some of these children joined President Obama on stage as he read from their letters, before he announced a package of proposals to reduce gun violence. He said that he was listening to what the children were writing to him, and said,
So what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up, and do everything that they're capable of doing. Not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.
Now, I know that these letters don't represent every child's opinion on how to stop school shootings. I know that in some cases, the thoughts expressed by a young child are more likely to reflect the thoughts of their parents, who may have helped them write the letter in the first place.
Still, these words speak to me, even if I don't agree with idea of repealing the second amendment. I don't yet know, exactly, how I feel about stricter gun laws or restrictions -- there's that gray political area I'm reluctant to wade into -- but I do know that I too want the violence to stop. I too am very sad about the children who lost their lives.
As adults, it's our responsibility to think about these tough subjects and come to a decision on where we stand, regardless of how uncomfortable the process is or how challenging it can be to disagree with loved ones. Children just know they want the bad stuff to go away -- and that, at least, is one thing we can all agree on.
What do you think of these children's letters to Obama?
Image via Wellspring School/Flickr