An Open Letter to the World

I am writing to you today as a young woman that has been told repeatedly that my words can make a difference. I have always been realistic about the impact I have on the world, and by realistic, I mean, I thought that it does not exist. 

I live in Missouri, in America. My parents are Romanian immigrants. I was born in New York, and I’ve always wanted a dog. I am 14 years old. 

These are all things I would tell a shooter if I ever came face to face with a gunman. Because gun violence is so prevalent in our society, I had to learn from a TV show that you are less likely to be murdered by a gunman if you tell them personal details about yourself.

I was asked in a truth or dare game what my biggest fear was and I didn’t say loneliness, or loss of control, or heights, because even though those are true, none of those fears loom quite as large as my fear of mass shootings. 

As a young teen growing up in America, I may not have seen a gun on a television screen much more than an adult would’ve at my age, but I do not see 19th century pistols firing warning shots in a cowboy duel, I see automatic weapons gunning down innocent life after innocent life. The only thing more disturbing than the portrayal of gun violence in the media, is it’s utterly realistic depiction. 

I didn’t know how afraid I was of guns until I was sitting on a wooden bench in the second row of seats, watching a middle-aged man speak about life as a Union soldier in the Civil War on a reenactment site on a school field trip. In the middle of talking about troops marching through a city, the man started to recount the non-fiction story of a fatal shooting of an 8 month old little girl. I thought, how horrible, that must have been terrible back then, it’s a good thing that doesn’t happen nowadays. 
And then the man brought out a civil-war era pistol, and right in front of our eyes, lifted the gun sideways and shot a blank into an empty field. 

That crack brought me back to reality. 

I screamed and my peers laughed, they thought it was the reaction to a sudden loud sound, and so did I. I only later realized that this was untrue.  

Later that day, as another volunteer reenactor shot a musket into a forest during a demonstration, I hid behind rows and rows of my seemingly fearless fellow students, plugging my ears and repeating over and over,

“I don’t do guns” 

Almost as an excuse for what I now see as perfectly normal behavior.

Why shouldn’t the firing of a gun scare me? 

There was no malice or hatred or terrorism in the men who shot those guns, yet it scared me almost as much. 

I realized, if you have a terrorist and you take away his gun, he can yell and scream the most hateful things, but he is much less likely to kill you. If you take the terrorism out of a man with a gun, he still has the capability to kill you, right here in his hands, terrorism-free. 

Fear runs us now. 

Fear is no longer defined by its physical characteristics, no longer contained in the adrenaline in our veins, in our hearts. It has infected everything. It is in the air we breathe, in our food, in our politics, in my mother’s eyes as she tells me no, I cannot walk to the store alone, no I cannot go to the park without my phone, no I cannot tell my friends where I am going on vacation, no. 

Fear is all I feel. 

Man can create much fear in this world, but so much of that fear would not be spread if not for the weapons they have in their hands.

Sticks and stones can break our bones, but guns, they break our spirits. They make us afraid to step out and say what we want, and do what we want, and be where we want to be.

As we spiral deeper and deeper in our world of fear, we are beginning to lose sight of the importance of spirit. 

We are beginning to forget what it is like to take a shot at a better life, at a new job, at a better running time, at a painting class, and all because we are taking shots at each other. 

End this now. 

Stop the violence. 

Today’s challenge:

Live without fear.