I'm not that old. Not really. Not compared to my parents or my grandparents. But I know insecurity. I've watched at least three genocides unfold on tv. I've seen three buildings blow up or tumble down. My country has been at war three times or for a third of my life. I can recall one, two, three, four, five, six school massacres during my time here and several more told to me by the history books. I know what it means to fear. I know that I am vulnerable.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend told me that she took her niece to see a movie and was put off by the presence of armed guards and ushers seating people in the theater. A man (a copy cat killer as he was called) had tried to sneak guns and ammo into a movie theater in Kansas City. Therefore, they were beefing up security in North County St. Louis. Her eleven-year-old niece wanted explanation for the new security measures. My friend said she didn't know what to tell the girl. She said she told her, "All you really need to know is that the nearest exit is right there. Most likely nothing bad ever happens. But if it ever does, it's just good to know where the exits are."
I don't know if my friend's comments to her niece were wise or not. I've never had to talk about random violence with a child. I guess I am lucky in a way that I don't have to figure out what is right action in such circumstances.
This last school shooting played out for me mostly via Facebook. I watched a lot of people I know grieve in a multitude of ways. The posts that disturbed me the most were young fathers explaining that this was why they carried a gun, to keep their children safe. I felt so bad for them.
I have never carried a gun. I never felt I needed to. I did however carry a small can of pepper spray on my keychain. And I did not simply have it in my pocket. I had it in my hand and ready pretty much every time I left the house. I was very scared of one particular person for a period of time in my life.
The pepper spray didn't make me feel safer. I clung to the weapon because I was scared. So when I see these fathers who are my age writing about how this gun will keep their family safe, I already know that they are clinging to that gun because they feel completely vulnerable. That is why I feel bad for them. That and because they have to explain to their kids why it's important to know where the exits are.