Use Your Words, Not Your Guns

We tell children to use their words when they’re angry, frustrated, or upset, not to scream or throw a tantrum or hit someone.

Or shoot someone.

I’m grieving the victims of this most recent shooting — this one in Texas, Sutherland Springs, Texas, on a Sunday morning at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Spring. As I’m writing, an emergency medical technician is reporting 27 dead and 24 injured. Including children.

I’m beyond shock. How can we still be shocked when mass shootings are becoming so common?

I’m not beyond horror. Horrified. How have we become this? How has this become our community? How is this us?

I’m not beyond anger and rage. Those people in church did nothing to deserve this. No one does anything to deserve this. We should not have to live like this, with the thought that any public gathering might be the scene of the next mass murder. Someone needs to do something.

Legislators, where are you?

Leaders, where are you?

What are you doing to make this stop?

No, we don’t know all the reasons. Yes, it’s complicated. But our leaders, our legislators, our experts, our people need to do something.

Do something! Stop this! Someone just stop this!

I am not beyond sorrow and grief. Tears for those people, families, that community. Tears for all of us, once again mourning the loss of so many of us.

What I don’t want is to mourn the loss of “us.” Individuals are acting out, using their guns not their words. But they’re acting within our society — ours, the United States — because we make it possible.

So I use my words — grief, horror, anger, rage, sorrow, mourning — to try to hang on to an “us,” to feel like there is still an “us” who shares these feelings and these words.

Do words still matter? Can we do anything with words to make things change? Two weeks ago I urged us to act in response to the Las Vegas shooting and go beyond the scripted generic responses to such shootings. And now here we are again.

We can sign petitions, organize demonstrations, write letters to legislators. We can use our words as actions.

But at this moment my words feel completely inadequate. So do my tears. Like others, my heart is breaking for the victims, for us.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. But those of us who can still speak need to raise our voices, to use our words loudly and insistently and with the full force of horror, sorrow, grief, and anger behind them.

Maybe that way our words can still matter.

But in my worst moment today, this moment, I’m not so sure they will.

Writer, teacher, researcher, PhD, optimist. I explore language & everyday genres to help people see & choose the language & genres they use.

Writer, teacher, researcher, PhD, optimist. I explore language & everyday genres to help people see & choose the language & genres they use.