Our Nation is Better than This: A Preschool Speaks Out

Just before twenty first-graders were killed in their beloved elementary school, the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed the results of their “quality of life” index—a survey of nations  “where a baby might be luckiest to be born in 2013.” Crime, trust in public institutions, and the health of family life all go into the mix.  The U.S.—no surprise—doesn’t make it into the top 10.

As we move into the new year, and President Obama pledges to make gun control “a central issue” in his second term, let us all heed the words below, from the 10th Street Preschool, in Santa Monica, California.

December 19, 2012

I am a mother with a child at 10th Street Preschool who is writing on behalf of many of the parents, teachers, director and administrators of my son’s preschool. We, as parents, are shocked, mortified and heartbroken in the wake of the unthinkable atrocity that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This tragedy has profoundly touched every single one of us as parents of young children.

Speaking personally as a mother, I can tell you that when I look into my son’s beautiful blue eyes and see the wonder they behold, when I watch his little feet barely touch the ground as he races across the room, when I hear the delight and joy in his laughter as he plays amongst his friends, and when I pull him close and kiss him every night as he goes to sleep, I cannot begin to imagine the anguish of those parents who lost their little ones last Friday.

Collectively, as parents, as community members, as citizens of this nation’s democracy, we cannot allow innocence and promise to be extinguished so senselessly. We must all of us—mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, demand of ourselves and of the government and society that we represent, action.

Our children deserve more than this. Our nation is better than this.

While our experience tells us that no single piece of legislation will ever be able to rid the world of evil and senseless violence, we do know that idle talk and inaction will do nothing to improve our society or nurture the beautiful world that the reflections in our children’s eyes helps us see every day.

We don’t presume to know all of the answers or how to solve a problem as complicated as this. We do, however, know where to begin.  We ask you, our leaders, to listen to the changing political climate and to harness this moment to take bold, real action immediately to address the shortfalls in our justice system, gun control, mental health and other systems that are failing to protect the most innocent among us from these senseless acts. We ask you to support and re-enact the assault weapons ban immediately. We ask you to craft meaningful and effective legislation that bans semiautomatic weapons and high volume magazines for existing weapons with the utmost haste. As even some of the most conservative representatives have acknowledged, there is no need for an assault weapon for the recreational hunter let alone magazines that make unimaginable destruction possible in mere seconds.

The next steps require greater nuance but no less urgency. We must recognize this pattern of violent crimes in our country as a public health issue. For a gun license to be easier to obtain than a driver’s license in some states must be addressed. More thorough background checks and, at the least nationwide, databases are in order. We would ask that you and your colleagues work together to make sure that guns don’t fall into the hands of those with histories of mental illness and criminal behavior.

It is sobering to be reminded that over half of the deadliest shootings in our country have happened in the last five years. A majority of those who committed these unthinkable acts were mentally ill and displayed signs of it before setting out to kill. We must not only get better at recognizing these signs of distress we must become more compassionate at providing the support and care that might help avert these tragedies.  In the same way that we would treat a disease not simply in its symptoms but by trying to find its cause, we ask you to recognize that a fundamental change in how we understand and approach mental health is in order. We must provide other avenues besides the criminal justice system for families and their loved ones to get the support and care they need.

An atrocity like this cannot happen again.

We will do our part in helping to raise kind, compassionate children who are the promise of our future.

We need you to do yours. Choosing not to act is to be complicit in this violence.

As our hearts go out to the families of Newtown, Connecticut and to everyone who has been affected by this horrific tragedy, as we come together as families, as a community, and as a nation, and as each of us holds onto our little ones a little bit tighter, we ask that you seize this moment and take immediate action around these issues to protect our nation’s children.

We have no more time to waste.

Respectfully,

The Parents, Teachers, Administrators and Director of 10th Street Preschool Santa Monica, California

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