I'm afraid today.
You are, too.
When I read the news Sunday morning, I thought, "Not again." When I saw the horribly high death toll, I thought, "Oh God. It's getting worse, not better."
You probably thought the same.
I thought of my sweet kids, my husband. My mom, my siblings, my friends, my students. I thought of every single person I love, and before I could stop my brain - my horribly imaginative brain - I imagined every single one of them dead, lying in a pool of blood, a look of horror on their faces.
I know you did, too.
I sent my kids to camp today. I tried to drown out the voice screaming at me to keep them home, to lock the doors, to never go anywhere ever again. I am terrified of our world and what it has become.
You are, too.
I want Washington to pass some damned laws already. To ban assault weapons and large magazine clips. I want universal background checks and penalties for irresponsible gun owners and more gun-free zones.
You want Washington to curb ISIS. You want more good guys with guns out and about to stop the bad guys. You don't want to lose your right to bear arms and protect your family.
I've grown terrified of entitled men who've gone off the deep end and can easily access a firearm and kill a bunch of people.
You're terrified of non-Americans who would do us harm.
I imagine myself in a public space, the sound of gunshots firing. I imagine covering my children, imploring them to play dead.
You imagine yourself in a public space, the sound of gunshots firing, whipping your gun from your holster and stopping the lunatic in his tracks - saving the lives of everyone around you.
My social media is filled with cartoons and rants and articles ridiculing you - calling you stupid, ill-informed, bought and sold by the NRA, bumpkins who value guns over human life. We liberals take our anger from this situation on you. We want to blame you. Sometimes, we want you to pay.
Your social media is filled with cartoons and rants and articles ridiculing me - calling me blind, moronic, willing to give up the right to bear arms the way the Nazi regime required of its people, willing to elect politicians who manipulate and control us and strip us of all our liberties. You conservatives take your anger from this situation out on us. You want to blame us. Sometimes, you want us to pay.
I assume you want everyone in the world to carry a gun, to walk around with an AR-15 and a few semi-automatic handguns. I assume you want teachers to be armed, waiters in restaurants to be armed, to live in a world where a few accidental deaths from dropped guns in public spaces are worth the overall safety and liberty.
You assume I want someone to come into your home and strip you off your guns. To forcibly take them and leave you vulnerable, defenseless. You assume I want hunting outlawed, gun ranges shut down. You assume I want to live in a world where the government and law enforcement alone has access to weapons, where losing a great deal of liberty is worth the safety.
But what if we're wrong?
What if we're more alike than different?
We are, after all, both afraid today. Both terrified for our loved ones, both scared to death of where this country is heading.
What if we could ignore the rhetoric? I'll ignore my side, you ignore yours. What if we just sit down and talk? Talk about our fears, talk about a compromise.
Because, honestly, I don't want to take your guns. I like deer meat, I like the sense of pride I see when my students hunt, I like knowing how safe my best friend feels with her handgun in her house. I remember growing up and going to friends' houses where rifles were locked in gun cabinets. I remember firing a shotgun and feeling a surge of power. I don't feel comfortable living in a country where only those in charge have access to weaponry. I may never want to own a gun myself, but I don't want others to lose their rights.
And maybe I'm wrong, but you probably don't want to live in a world where guns are literally everywhere. Where a toddler could accidentally grab a gun off a table at McDonald's and shoot himself. Where teachers can whip out a handgun when a student has a sassy mouth. Where your angry neighbor can easily kill you and your entire family when you forget to mow your yard for the third week in a row.
No, what we both want is to stop feeling afraid.
This may be silly and idealistic. This is almost certainly never going to work. But I'm tired of being angry at you. I'm tired of blaming you and ridiculing you. I can't control how you view me, but I want to love you. I want to empathize with you. I want to make this country the best place on earth - both for me and for you.
I really hope you'll join me. I really hope we can stop being afraid.