Anne Needel’s great piece on this page last week [“The Kids Are Watching Us”] was a sight for sore eyes. Yes, adults need to model moral courage, for children and for each other, always, and particularly in these times when bullies are often working to intimidate and silence us.
I’d like to think of Cape Cod as an idyllic retreat from our national intimidation problem, but no. A banner with the slogan “All Lives Matter” was hung in the midst of a Black History Month display at Nauset High School, and neither the principal nor even the adviser to the Black Student Union dared to speak to the issue. (Thank you, Ed Miller, for doing so.) A forum at Cape Cod Community College on the epidemic of firearm suicides, looking for ways to save lives, was flooded by people who wanted to testify to their love of guns.
This is reminiscent of the way the parents at Sandy Hook were tortured by the right after their six-year-old children were murdered in their classroom. Cruel, but also absurd.
The irrationality is part of the point, I think. Rather than acknowledge something that is very clear to most people — that Black lives have been historically disrespected in a way that has led to the deaths of innocent people — a meaningless bromide is brandished in an attempt to pull the discussion away from the real issue.
Yes, all lives matter, so let’s get back to working toward freedom and justice. Yes, you love your gun. But the I Love My Gun Club meets in a different room. We’re here to address a problem that is killing people, including our children, friends, and neighbors.
The increase in threats and hatefulness across the country, to the point of domestic terrorism, is frightening, and intentionally so. That’s why the “all lives matter” wrench is thrown into a discussion that seeks to bring unity. That’s why there’s an attempt to make gun owners’ rights the focus of a discussion intended to save lives. Authoritarianism allows a small group to subvert the true authorities — a high school principal, a local school board, a sheriff, even the United States Congress.
Anne Needel’s essay left me feeling less alone. It reminded me that no one should have to face intimidation alone. There are millions of us across the country living quiet lives, loving our families and neighbors, doing good where we see the chance. We — voters — exert our rightful authority when we choose our leaders. We need to keep our connection strong and our voices ready to back each other up against intimidation that means to interrupt our work.
Heidi Jon Schmidt, author of The House on Oyster Creek and other books, lives in Provincetown.