It was the Fourth of July in our little Mayberry town and for the first time in our ten years living here, I marched in the annual parade. I was with the group Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America.
These are not exactly radical ideas we’re talking about—just common sense gun reforms—but I felt self-conscious putting my views out there on display, in public.
Now, why should I feel that way? I don’t have a shy bone in my body. As a professional musician, I’m used to performing in front of big crowds. I have no fear of public speaking, let alone public marching. But still…I dragged my feet about participating on the morning of the parade. I didn’t know anyone in the group and none of my children would march with me (if you want to know how much your children love you, make them choose between you and candy. I totally lost. “I want to get the candy from the parade, I don’t want to hand it out!”).
I called my 85-year old Dad to wish him a Happy 4th of July and told him what I was thinking: how I wanted to march but I didn’t know anyone in the group, I’d have to go there by myself…I don’t know, it’d just be easier to stay with my husband and kids, right? Maybe I’d do it another year?
“Get out there and do it! You think it’s important, don’t you? You believe in it? Then go! Maybe you’ll meet some new people which is always good.” So I jumped up and went. Thanks, Dad! It was the nudge I needed.
I am a 44-year old, independent, strong, adult woman and I still second-guessed myself and felt like an idiot as I was walked around the lake and park, searching through the crowds that were gathered to line up for the parade, trying to find the Moms Demand Action group. I had to ask for help three times to find the right spot. I hate asking for help.
It was hot, I forgot water, I only had my phone with me. I didn’t even have money to buy a bottle of water from the marching band boosters club because I had left my house so quickly. I wanted to turn around, find my husband, drink a beer on the sidelines with him, steal candy from my children and call it a day.
But I finally found them: a small but mighty group of people in matching “MOMS DEMAND ACTION” shirts. I walked up and introduced myself. I had been a member of the online group for a couple of years, that’d been the extent of my involvement. I saw them marching in last year’s parade and was stunned to find there were activists in my little town in a notoriously more conservative county– although times, they are a-changin’. I told myself that I’d march with them next year, and here I was.
There were five other Moms, one Grandmother, two Dads and a bunch of kids (who obviously love their parents more than candy). Maybe 15 of us in all. Everyone was friendly, and we got into position. I carried the banner that said #RisingForCharleston with an awesome, interesting, funny woman that I was happy to meet (Dad, you were so right!). We started marching.
The crowd lining the parade route was amazing: they clapped, cheered, stood up for us when they read our signs and saw us coming. They called out, “Go Moms!” “We’re with you!” “Thank you!” “Yay, Moms!” One older gentleman, wearing a veteran’s hat and shirt shouted, “I’m in the NRA and I agree with you!” That made us all laugh.
It’s been a really tough couple of weeks leading up to the 4th of July for people of a certain mindset, from the lowering and banning of the Confederate Flag to the SCOTUS and their history making decision. I imagine that for this certain group, this must be similar to how the dinosaurs felt when they looked up into the skies and saw the meteors heading right at them: “Uh oh. This can’t be good for business.” So much change happening so fast. Creatures used to dominating everything around them, now facing their own mortality.
You could see those people along the parade route. They were sitting with long faces, lips pressed together and arms folded across their chest. We smiled and waved anyway. It was only a few feet of awkwardness until someone else stood up and started whooping and hollering.
There was only one negative comment during the parade. Apparently, it was in front of the same house as the only negative comment that was heard in last year’s parade, too. One young, backwards-baseball-hat-wearing, tank top-sporting, sunburnt dudebro cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted “BOOOOOOOOO!” at us, as loud as he could.
I was shocked, I admit, but I managed to look upon this manchild with kindness, as an angel would gaze down upon a sleeping baby, offering nothing but love and compassion, straight from my heart.
Nah. I totally blurted something really stupid back at him. Apparently, I have no self-control when being booed–who knew?
As soon as the words (not swear words, at least, there is that) were out of my mouth, I was ashamed of myself. I was shocked that I would do such a thing– I thought I was above that kind of behavior. I confessed to my husband after the parade and he was shocked, too, but for a different reason: “Wow. Usually, you’re so quick-witted and fast with awesome comebacks, but that was just…bad, like not even funny or clever.” I KNOW.
What on earth was that man booing? The fact that we were Rising For Charleston in a show of support and love? Who the heck would boo that? Why would someone boo that? And then, today, I came across this article and it addressed that question of why. And it really made me think.
I notice that I am becoming intolerant of other people’s intolerance—which in some cases is okay. For instance, it gets me angry enough to get off my butt and into a parade to march for Gun Sense. It definitely makes me angry and pissed off when I perceive other people’s bigotry, racism or hatred. But do I want to be an angry and pissed off person? Hell no! (Wait, that sounded angry and pissed off. I mean, no thank you.)
So I will write this quote from the article down on an index card and put it someplace where I can see it everyday, and I will keep repeating it until it sinks in:
Even if the other person says something wrong or provocative, you still continue to listen with compassion.
Now, let’s talk about why don’t we have more Moms marching and why I was so hesitant and even a little uncomfortable getting out there and joining in the march.
The only thing I can think of is, we Moms are being too polite. “Never discuss politics and religion” is what we’ve always heard. At some point, however, we really need to discuss delicate subject matters openly in our polite society.
Like, for example, when someone open fires on a classroom full of children.
Or, say, when someone walks into a church and shoots the entire Bible Study Group dead.
So, ladies…Moms…we need to talk. We need to talk about the impolite topics of gun legislation and gun violence; about politics and policies; about racism and bigotry. The most interesting people I know are those I can have a real conversation with. The ones who are up on their current events. Who have an opinion and aren’t embarrassed or afraid to share it. People who have a voice. We need to find our voice.
We need to find the courage to walk up to people, introduce ourselves and put our faces and our names to whatever cause we believe in. You get to choose your cause, but you have to choose something.
Why do we let those who are against change intimidate us? Silence us? I never get the feeling that those who are against gun sense are concerned about appearing impolite or pushing their views on others. We’ve let them be louder and more demanding. That needs to change.
Towards the end of the parade, another person stepped in front of our #RisingForCharleston banner with a very different message: she asked if we would stand still so she could take our picture. When she was done, she told us that she was from Charleston. Her sister was friends with one of the victims in the church shooting. She thanked our group for our support and told us she was going to send the picture out to everyone back home.
The days of sitting quietly and politely smiling in the face of unpleasantness are over. We are smarter than that, more interesting than that and braver than that.
Over the 4th of July weekend in Chicago alone, 9 people were killed and 46 injured by gunfire. This impacts everyone in our country. This problem can be solved with sensible legislation. There need to be more Moms marching and demanding; we all have a horse in this race.