Stop me if you’ve heard this one: North Carolina now allows guns in bars and at funerals! I have friends all over the map when it comes to gun control, which is interesting to me because I live in a bubble in so many other ways. Gun control is a debate I generally avoid because I am aware that my opinions about guns are based on feelings rather than experience or information. I have family members who own guns. I grew up in an environment where guns were treated respectfully but also as a normal part of life. I have eaten meat that was recently hunted. Despite all of that, I am uncomfortable with the idea of guns. I don’t like them. I don’t know what we are going to teach Atticus about them. It feels complicated in ways I am unprepared to handle.
One of my gut-level reactions to the recent law is that I don’t like the idea that concealed weapons are allowed in parks and in locked cars on school campuses. I understand parts of why gun owners want these laws in place, but they also make me sad. I did not realize until we were talking about this new law how much I value the signs that say that weapons are not allowed on school grounds, in our parks. I think of them as a signal that indicates something important, that this is a space where something different happens. I would like for it to be true that we as a culture see these as our sacred values, set apart in certain ways. When our students go to learn or when our families go to play, we are doing something else here.
One of my favorite picture books is The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, and this week is the anniversary of that impossible story.
“He looked not at the towers but at the space between them
and thought, what a wonderful place to stretch a rope;
a wire on which to walk. Once the idea came to him
he knew he had to do it! If he saw three balls, he had to juggle.
If he saw two towers he had to walk! That’s how he was.”
When I read that to Atticus, the words catch in my throat. He looked not at the towers but at the space between them. I am a practical person rather than a visionary, so I marvel at this gift. How does one see what might be possible rather than what is? How do we see how things might be different? I am learning from Atticus, who imagines his bed as a fire truck and shares his pretend popcorn and ice cream with me. His creativity lights a spark in me, a reminder of possibilities unseen. I carry them with me, secrets in my pocket.
Students will be returning to school later this month, and I know their outside lives won’t vanish when they walk through the school doors. I carry my concerns with me as well. But I will continue to hope that we are signalling to them that things are different in this space. And I will continue to ask whether that is what we, as a culture, are telling them.