There are some world events, some American events, that have changed the way we as a people view our country forever - Pearl Harbor, the Great Depression, and 9/11 to name a few. All of these events shaped not only American history, but world history as we know it. And sadly, most of these events paid to be in our history books with the currency of human lives.
But there are a few uniquely American events that reshaped our country so profoundly that, although the world shared them with us, we have the horrible honor as a people of paying the highest price. For example, the American Revolutionary War, the U.S. Civil War, and the assassinations of JFK, Lincoln and Dr. King each shook this country to its foundation both in principle and in character. With one war came the beginning of a country and its founding principles formed into the U.S. Constitution; with another war, the truth that "all men are created equal" became something more than words that Thomas Jefferson once wrote. For the martyrs of our country, a bullet ended their mortality, but not their ideals, and their deaths only served to forever seal their principles into the collective conscience of America.
In the past few decades, two other events have been added to the annals of American history that I believe will come to define us - Columbine and Newtown. Once again, the price we've paid is far too high. Once again, payment was rendered through the sting of a bullet.
Our nation chose sides in the debate we now face when the first shots were fired in Lexington and Concord more than 200 years ago. That's when our forefathers decided to fight the enemies' fire with fire, and this country hasn't let go of its guns since. In our search to blame someone or something for the deaths of innocent children and teachers, Americans are now staring down the barrel of all the weapons we've created to fight our enemies and we're turning them against each other. We all want so badly to legislate, confiscate and adjudicate our way out of anything evil ever happening again. Unfortunately, just like many other problems our country faces (the federal deficit, taxes, illegal immigration), we've ignored the problem for far too long and we're currently living with the collateral damage done to our society.
There are some who would argue that violence is never acceptable, and I wish they were right, but tell that to the guy shooting at you. As the saying goes, "you don't bring a knife to a gun fight." And for a lot of people, including me, that philosophy is reasonable.
While one far-leaning side is screaming for guns to be taken away and the other for law-abiding citizens to stockpile their weapons, the truth is that neither can protect our children entirely, and that's what scares us. If a mad man can't find a knife, then he'll make a bomb; if he can't find a bomb, he'll commit suicide by flying an airplane into a building.
So what can we, as citizens, do? What can be done to lessen evil's ability to so easily do us harm? Do we put armed officers in every school? Do we pass laws preventing the illegal distribution of certain guns? Do we force our children to receive their educations in veritable fortresses to keep them safe? Do we shut down legal gun industries all together ensuring that only non-law-abiding citizens have access to them?
In this heated debate over the causes and effects of history, something more simple keeps coming to my mind - that what we do with our lives matters. It matters that caring educators gave their lives defending the innocent - just ask the Sandy Hook parents how much. It matters that we try to teach our children right from wrong, even if they choose not to obey. It matters that parents care about what their children watch, read and play, even if they are mad at us for it. It matters that for every act of violence, there are a thousand kindnesses being given and received in this world. And it matters that although I see the necessity for man's weapons in the fight for freedom, I wish with all of my heart that none of them existed at all. If only it were that simple.
- Tiffany Miller is a Tahoe resident and mother. Visit her website at http://mycrayonbox.org.