My daughter Sarah Jane is a high school English teacher in Seoul, South Korea. Whenever I tell someone where she lives, the immediate response is a startled expression and: “Aren’t you worried about her?”
The answer is simple. No. I am not worried about her living and teaching in South Korea. I would be far more worried if she was a teacher in an American high school, because then her chances of dealing with a life-threatening situation would be much, much higher.
Yes, the North Korean leader seems to be a mad-man who has serious weapons trained on Seoul. But our nation seems to be filled with mad-men who have serious weapons trained on all of us. They are targeting innocent people going about their daily lives; attending concerts, dancing at nightclubs, going to school. First graders. High schoolers. All of us and all of our children are at risk.
And we are doing nothing to stop them.
This week’s Torah portion has a message that I believe is important at this moment in our nation’s history. In it, God tells the Children of Israel to build a mishkan, a portable sanctuary. And it begins with this message: “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.” (Exodus 25:2)
Every person. That is how the Tabernacle was built – with free-will offerings from everyone who was moved to participate. And that, I believe, is how the American people can build a new America, in which neither assault rifles nor their ammunition are sold.
Every one of us who wants to change the narrative, who wants kids to go to school without fear, must step forward. As in the Torah, which outlines a wide array of useful gifts to bring, there are many ways for us to be involved. We can give our skills, talents, and wisdom to help others who are working towards this goal. We can write letters. We can donate money.
A colleague told me that her kids have already written to Florida’s governor Rick Scott asking for his support. They had friends who were killed this week, and my friend wrote, “We are trying to brainstorm a letter-writing campaign from teens across the state and hopefully the country. Enough is enough!”
This morning’s Washington Post reported on other teens who are speaking out, including David Hogg, who survived the shooting and said this: “Please, take action. Ideas are great. Ideas are wonderful and they help you get reelected and everything. But what’s more important is actual action that results in saving thousands of children’s lives. Please, take action.”
Yes, some of the numbers we’ve seen are inflated, especially the one stating that there have been 18 school shootings this year alone. It’s an exaggeration. But we cannot allow that to be a distraction from the real problem. A Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
The Post explains that this number is probably low: “That figure… is a conservative calculation and does not include dozens of suicides, accidents and after-school assaults that have also exposed youths to gunfire.” On average, two dozen children are shot every day in the United States.
But enough with the statistics. Here’s a fact for you: Children are being buried today because a man used an assault weapon to murder them. It is a sentence that I should never have to write again, and yet I know that I will. Let’s change that.