Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Speak Out

boys fishing at Wheaton Regional Park, MD; December 2012

Of course this post is inspired by the Blogger Day Of Silence that many blogs observed yesterday (and some are observing today) in memory of the tragedy in Connecticut last Friday; it would be disingenuous to pretend that my urgency here is anything other than a response to both the tragedy and to our community's corresponding reactions.  But it's an urgency that has been building for years and that should have reached a breaking point before the shooting - before the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, or at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, or at a movie theater in Aurora, or any of a dozen shootings before that. The time to talk about the steps we need to take to ensure that these massacres never happen again was yesterday.

And we should talk.  "Only with gun violence," Ezra Klein of The Washington Post wrote last week, "do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not."  We remember the victims of these horrific events with our silence, but we honor with them our words and actions - and today, despite everything, I ask you to speak out.

There are so many issues wrapped up in this devastating tragedy and all those that came before it.  We need to reexamine our gun control laws, certainly, but also how we deal with mental health in this country and how a culture of sensationalism has normalized violence.  If you do choose to memorialize what happened with a day of silence, please think not just about the senselessness of the killings but also about how we can prevent similar incidents in the future.  If you cannot yet enunciate how this tragedy affects you, please take the time and space you need to make sense of what you're feeling and why.  And if you are confused by the barrage of conflicting views on everything, including the right way to grieve and, yes, including this post, please educate yourself as much as possible so that you feel better informed and more in control.

But then we need to step forward and demand change.  As President Obama said on Sunday night at the interfaith vigil in Newtown, "We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true.  No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent ever senseless act of violence in our society, but that can't be an excuse for inaction.  Surely we can do better than this."

We can do better than this and we must, so please take a stand and speak in whatever medium you are most comfortable.  In the long term, silence will not effect change; only words will lead to action.


  1. Hooray for this post!! Thank you so much for putting the time and effort to articulate what many of us have been wanting to say for so long but could not find the words to do so. You are right: there are so many different issues wrapped up in this tragedy - and whilst I had emphasised gun control laws in my too brief of a post a few days ago, mental health and media sensationalism of violence do play a role too. Did you read Morgan Freeman's statement asking everyone to shut off their news, and to try to remember the victims' names rather than the gunman's? He definitely hit on a point there.

    I hope that the window for debate that was opened by this tragedy will continue to remain open - that people go on to discuss their ideas and better educate themselves about the issues so that the country can have a meaningful conversation on what changes need to be implemented - from gun control to mental health to the media.

    Your post is already a great contribution to this. You've inspired me to continue to read more, learn more, be more certain of what I believe in.




  2. Well said. It is time for words and action. Not silence. I understand people are silencing out of respect, but surely speaking out on the issue is respectful too.

  3. Love this post and couldn't agree more. More than just a day of silence or a moment of thought, fundamental ways in which our country operates need to be questioned and revised. Thanks for posting.


  4. Very well said Betsy, you know I agree!

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  6. 202-456-1111 That's the number of the White House comment line. Call it every day to say you support meaningful and strong action to address our culture of gun violence and of neglect of mentally ill people. Also contact your senators and representative. Join and contribute to groups that work for these goals. Don't give up. Don't let this go. Glad your wrote about this, Betsy.

  7. I'm really glad to know that someone shares my feelings about this awful tragedy. It all too often strikes a cord with me: we mourn these losses but do nothing to ensure they happen again. Thank you for speaking out!

  8. The tone and message of this post is perfect, Betsy. It certainly is time that something changes.

  9. LOVE this. I fully understand the respect behind the "Day of Silence", but I have to agree that, online at least, where no one hears your voice (or notices it gone) unless they go looking for it, speaking out is a more productive way to get a message across. Silence is too often a method of passive acceptance, and I, for one, am not willing to let that happen anymore.

  10. thank you, thank you! it is so nice to know that somebody else feels the same way. At the risk of sounding childish, I am so tired of being told that 'now is not the right time to talk about' the important issues. That seems far more disrespectful to those who lost their lives than opening a true and honest discussion about what can be done to help reduce or prevent similar events in the future.
    I could go on forever so I'll leave it at that :)

  11. After e-mailing this directly to Betsy for discussion, she encouraged me to post it here as well. :) I love that Betsy doesn't shy away from issues like this and that she is willing to engage in genuine conversation without hesitation. I wanted to shed some light on the "day of silence":

    Well, obviously, I'm one of the bloggers you're talking about. I think contributing to the conversation and paying respects with a day of silence can BOTH be done -- and by the same person. *raising hand* I didn't hold back one bit from sharing my opinions on Friday and over the weekend. It's so important to find solutions NOW. But as I said to Gesci in a comment on her post today, I was very quick to jump in. So quick, in fact, that I skipped over the emotional aspect and opportunity to donate help those families in a tangible way (though I completely support people's prayers and positive energy too). I've been running my mouth off about Sandy Hook since it happened (I posted this at 2:17 p.m. last Friday: https://www.facebook.com/TrialBySapphire/posts/506473862706149?notif_t=like), but for today, I'm doing those things I skipped over in the first place.

    Clearly, I haven't taken a DAY of silence, because I'm responding to this post. I hope you understand that those of us who observed a day/moment/hour/etc.of silence out of respect aren't skirting the issue or throwing our hands up and saying "Oh, it'll happen again." For the record, I'm sharing my thoughts on the blog tomorrow. Just because people don't contribute, share, or comment in the same way as you at the same time doesn't mean they aren't doing anything about it. I think taking a day/moment/hour of silence out of respect is very different from using "it's not about guns. Evil is everywhere." as a fix (which someone actually did with me last Friday). You and I absolutely agree on everything you said in your post, but knowing that I'm one of the bloggers you mentioned in the beginning made me feel like you think we're senseless and wasting our time.

  12. Thanks for posting this, Lindsay! We've been emailing about it, but I want to share some of my response to you here so that any others who did observe the day of silence don't feel they're being criticized:

    First of all, I do not at all think you're senseless or wasting your time and I'm sure that many of the bloggers who participated in the day of silence aren't either - I'm really and truly sorry that this was part of the message my post sent. I just think it's so important to remind people that, as you say, you can contribute to the conversation and be silent at the same time.

    I want to encourage everyone - including those but not especially those who decided to observe a day of blog silence - to be active in one way or another. I totally agree that silence is not always passive, and my goal with this post was to urge those who did take today to be silent to use their silence productively.

    If I know my readers like I think I do, you all have moved mountains with your silence!

  13. Everyone reflects on events like these differently, and it's important to express yourself and reflect in the way that's most constructive and meaningful to you and those around you. I love your points here, and they are exactly what we need to hear and talk about. If silence works for some, then that's the way they should choose to participate, but I'm with you - it's time to speak up on these issues (with our families, our friends, our government, etc.)

    Sending you my love and support,



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