As Dorothy was on her way to the Emerald City to seek help from the great and magnificent Oz, she came upon a fork in the yellow brick road. She pondered aloud, “Which way should I go?” A scarecrow was perched on a pole behind her. His arms crossed in front of him as he pointed in opposite directions, and he uttered these words, “You can go this way, or you can go that way.”
In the 1939 movie, the scarecrow laments his lack of a brain in a song. One verse goes like this:
I would not be just a Nuthin’,
My head all full of stuffin’,
My heart all full of pain,
And perhaps I’d deserve you and be
Even worthy of you
If I only had a brain.
I’m an “Oz” girl, and I either read the books or my brother read them to me as a child. What I never knew until recently, and as a child would not have understood, was L. Frank Baum (the author of The Wizard of Oz) was a political activist in the 1890s, and it is thought by many that the story is allegorical for the political, social, and economic happenings of that period.
Let’s skip forward to the present and the happenings of the last few weeks. As of June 6, the 157th day of the year, there have been 246 mass shootings (defined as 4 or more killed or injured). Today’s political, social, and economic happenings are fraught with prejudice, hatred, and anger.
In Uvalde, 19 children and two adults were not just killed — they were slaughtered. Some bodies were unidentifiable due to the damage done by an AR-15 and could only be identified using DNA. One child covered herself with the blood of a fallen classmate and played dead to save her life. Now, imagine your child in that situation.
Countless families are grieving the loss of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads. As a people, we ask, “Why?” As a nation, we ask, “How many people have to die?” When will Congress get a collective brain and DO SOMETHING!
As I traveled the yellow brick road, I would come across not a scarecrow but an octopus in my serendipitous world. Because, in answer to my question, “why is this happening?” the octopus tells me while pointing, “It’s white nationalism; no, it’s the internet and social media; no, it’s military-grade automatic weapons; no, it’s mental illness; no, it’s gun show loopholes; no, it’s the lack of universal background checks; no, it’s violent internet games.” The octopus is pointing in so many different directions; he gets tangled in his arms and can’t go with me to get a brain. Talk about allegorical. Are we being played?
According to polls, the tide is turning, and Americans believe universal background checks are necessary when purchasing guns. Why not start there?
I live in Florida. According to everytownresearch.org, Florida is rated 19th in the nation (1 being the best) based on the strength of its gun laws and the rate of violence. As a state, we are still missing key laws — like background checks, assault weapons are not prohibited, ghost guns are not regulated, high capacity magazines are not prohibited – and the list goes on. The other day, Rick Scott indicated he believed this was a “state” issue, not federal. Well, since we instituted some stronger gun laws after Parkland, progress has stalled, and Florida legislators appear to be actively working to weaken gun laws. Who represents you in Tallahassee?
The events of the last couple of weeks have been, for me, exhausting. As I hear about the thoughts and prayers for those lost, I think, “that’s nice, but what about those who will be under fire tomorrow, next week, or next month. WHAT NOW?
Everytown.org is a community of activists: Mom’s Demand Action, Students Demand Action, and a Survivor’s Network. While the student community and the survivor network are limited to people of a certain age or who have survived gun violence, Mom’s Demand Action includes husbands, families, and women who may not have children. If you go to the website, you can see what they are doing, what events are coming up in your state, and how you can help.
In politics, there are constituents and representatives. As constituents, we elect representatives to office. Let’s make something clear here. They work for us. Think back to the scarecrow. Are they worthy of our votes? Do they deserve their jobs?
Google your senators and representatives in both the legislature and Congress. Go to their websites. You will find local, Tallahassee, and Washington phone numbers and addresses. They want your vote. Make it clear they understand what you expect if they are to get it. This is your “WHAT NOW” moment. Use it wisely.