In 2019, I had a good life in the U.S., and absolutely no intention of ever leaving it. But then M got an offer we couldn’t refuse, and now here we are — three years later, in Spain.
When we got to Madrid, things were complicated and hard (and hot), and that’s an understatement. But that very first week, I was floored to discover that a fear I’d been carrying around with me for decades, ever since my children were born, had completely vanished.
I hadn’t even realized this fear kept pace with me all the time — until it didn’t. Its disappearance was real, visceral. Cliche though it is, it literally felt like a weight was taken off my shoulders.
This fear was that my children might be shot at school.
Spain isn’t without guns, of course. But it also isn’t without regulation of them either. Only the police and military forces can possess automatic weapons. You have to be of age and pass a theory exam and a psychological exam to get a gun license. There hasn’t ever been a school shooting in Spain.
Never. Which is staggering to think about, from the point of view of an American citizen.
Yesterday, I woke up, saw the news, and cried.
And then I got mad. Because I’ve voted, I’ve marched, I’ve prayed, and I’ve written and called my Congressmen (and they were all men and mostly older than I am, and I’m no spring chicken). Most of them never bothered to respond to my letters, which were, if I do say so myself, quite persuasive and heartfelt and well-written.
Friday, I’m supposed to fly to the States to visit Elder Daughter. Reading the terrible, heart-wrenching news, I thought: maybe I should try to reroute my flight through Houston. (Google Houston if you don’t already know why I might think that). I needed to do something. Texas is my native state, the place where all my forbears bore arms. I care more than I should for my mental health about what happens there.
But Elder Daughter said don’t go there. And it was going to cost 2000 dollars to change my ticket.
But the main thing, the real thing, was: I got scared. When Elder Daughter and I went to one particular peaceful vigil in Atlanta after some school shooting — I can’t even remember which one now — there were only a few dozens of us, but there was also a jeepful of armed guys circling the block until we left. And they were not there for us. That may have been back in 2015. We live in a different, more rageful world now.
Y’all, pray for Houston.
Now’s the point where I’m supposed to sum up things. When I should either make a call to action or give my intended audience a feel-good moment to carry off with them.
I can’t. Because I don’t even know what either of those two things would look like at this point.
The only thing I do know is that I want all parents, all people, to feel that lightening of their fears, that lightening of spirit, that I felt, and I don’t want them to have to move to get it.
Brava, Katherine.I moved away from Texas knowing exactly why I was doing it: I could no longer live there with the institutionalized cruelty and indifference to human life as it occurs in so many different forms. The racism, the lies about Texas history, the pride in a nasty version of masculinity—I’d grown too used to it all and thought that I could escape feeling part of it by crossing the border to New Mexico. Uvalde broke my heart. It should break everyone’s heart who looks at the photos of the beautiful children, each of whom could have done so much if they hadn’t died in violence and terrible fear. The callousness of Texas’s top officials as they proclaimed that things are worse elsewhere—how dare they in Uvalde on that day? But that’s the point—they dare because it costs them nothing. Thank you, Katherine. Be well.
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