When I was little, I was terrible at cleaning my room. And I mean beyond normal little kid, “I hate cleaning, and I don’t want to do it.” I would look at my messy room and panic. There was too much mess. It would never be clean. There was no point at all in trying.
Whenever I was told to clean my room, I would inevitably end up running to my mom crying and overwhelmed. Why had she assigned me such an impossible task?
My mother would very calmly tell me to start with the socks. Just pick up all the socks.
I would run to my room, pick up all the socks, and then once again be stumped the impossibility of having a clean room. But my mother would name one more thing to pick up.
Just get the dolls.
I would run back to her over and over again. It would take time and a lot of work, but low and behold, finally the room would be clean.
Now follow me for just a minute.
Me and my phobia of picking up socks is a perfect metaphor for what is happening with the terrible amount of gun violence in this country.
It feels overwhelming. It feels like we’re meant to live in this mess because it’s just the way it is and there is no way out.
Whatever your personal political beliefs may be, I’m sure that we can all agree that mass shootings are a terrible tragedy that need to stop. But it feels impossible. The personal ownership of guns is more deeply entrenched in this country than the Barbies were under my bed. But we don’t need to worry about the Barbies. Let’s worry about the socks first.
Let’s start with background checks. Making sure that if you’re on the No Fly list, you can’t buy a gun. That’s a reasonable and easily defined goal. If you’re too dangerous to let fly, no gun for you.
Then once that’s done we can pick another project. Move on to the books on the floor. Find a way to screen for mental illness in potential gun buyers. I know it’s harder than the no fly list, but it could be done.
From there it would get harder still. Making sure that those who own guns are properly trained in how to use them. We all have to take a basic test to drive a car, why not to use a gun? There are horror stories of small children getting their hands on guns every year. We keep children safe with car seats, why not gun safeties?
For the big guns, and yes, I mean that quite literally, we could look at more stringent licensing. Truck drivers and bus drivers have bigger, more powerful vehicles that have the potential to do a whole lot more damage if something goes wrong. Why not have stricter protocols for the background checks and licensing on guns above and beyond handguns for household safety and hunting rifles for sustenance?
And none of that would be removing the right to bare arms.
My mother never made me throw my toys away. I had to organize them. To keep them safe, me safe, and my room a safe and habitable place.
Right now it feels like we’re all standing at the bottom of a pit staring up at a mess that is impossible to clean. But if we take it one thing at a time, then with a lot of work and a bit of compromise, we can get through this.
We just have to start with the socks.