Monday, January 21, 2013

Lessons in Activism

"But why would someone want to kill kids?"

The twenty million dollar question. When Bella asked me this soon after the Newtown tragedy, I had trouble answering. Wide access to semiautomatic weapons, cultural celebration of guns, poor treatment for severe mental illness; none of these multisyllabic words mean much to kids.

And yet, just as this particular tragedy resonated so widely with adults around the country and world, it resonated strongly with children. They were sad and angry that kids like them were killed. My daughters have had lockdown drills in their school. After Newtown, they understand why. And it scares the hell out of them.

A few days after the tragedy, Bella was home sick. We were talking, and she wanted to do something. We both agreed that kids' voices should be heard. So Bella wrote down her feelings and started a petition, A Kid's Petition Against Gun Violence. It has been a powerful experience for her to see signatures from people from all over the world--people she doesn't even know! She has been turned on to the nuances of the gun control issue, and was excited to hear that Obama is taking action--that he is listening to people like her.

There's no better way to learn than by doing. This is a very Jewish idea. We do first, and understand later. This is why it's ok to pray in Hebrew even if you don't understand all the words. Once the practice is established, time will lend answers.

Today, we attended a rally at City Hall with One Million Moms for Gun Control. Bella had so many questions. What is a rally? Who will be there? Will the President know? By taking her, she was able to discover her own answers.

What a perfect way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday.

Bella being interviewed about her petition by a Japanese media crew.

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