The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

It was a Wednesday. Two Wednesdays ago. I think. My dad was driving me to school to work on a mural with some friends. I was sitting in the passenger seat of his blue Honda Pilot. We were driving up Sport Hill Road and my dad had the news playing in the car. I wasn’t paying much attention to what the reporters were saying – something about weightloss and weather forecasts – until I heard a female voice say in a steady, but at the same time, shaky, saddened tone, “New updates report 19 children and 2 teachers dead in Uvalde…” I went from falling asleep to wide awake in a matter of seconds. I was anxious to hear more. Are they talking about the grocery store shooting? No, wait, that was in Buffalo, or somewhere near there, I was thinking. I found myself willing my father to drive slower as we were approaching the long, winding driveway of my school. I don’t recall everything that the reporter stated after that. I was so intently focused yet in a completely different world. I do remember hearing the words “gunman,” “elementary school,” and “devastation.” It took me some time, but I was able to piece it together.

A school shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas left 19 kids and 2 teachers dead, dozens wounded, and hundreds scarred.

My dad was coming to a halt in front of the school when I heard a different voice. This one belonged to a male, and was emotional. Furiously emotional. 

“What are we doing? What are we doing? Nowhere else in the world do kids have to go to school and fear for their lives.” 

Or something like that.

As I got out of the car and slung my backpack over my shoulder, the words were playing over and over again in my head, yet they were falling out at the same time. Nowhere else in the world do kids have to go to school and fear for their lives. 

Nowhere else in the world. 

Nowhere but America.

In this land of hope and dreams – the American dream.

In this land of the free and home of the brave.

Only here, do kids get killed at a place where they should be guaranteed the right to getting an education safely.

I was now walking in the lobby of my school. I’m not the kind of person who gets mad at people – I actually feel bad about getting mad at people. But, right then, in that moment walking up the blue stairs, I was mad. No. I was furious. I was furious at the people. I was furious at the senators. I was furious at the country. How was this nation letting this happen? It seemed that all there was to report these days was school shootings. I heard later on that there have been more mass shootings than days of the year in 2022. That struck new emotions.

Guilt. And shame.

I felt – no, I feel – responsible. Not as a random 14 year old girl. As an American. I feel ashamed of the people I’m furious at. Is that even possible? To feel guilty about the people you’re mad at? It must be, since that’s what I am. 

America is incredible. It’s a symbol of opportunity and ingenuity. I feel so lucky to live here. I love my home. When I was little, after my mom had scolded me for something I did, she told me, “I love you. You know, Nani used to say we only get mad at the people we love. I’m not going to go and get mad at some random person walking up the street. I get mad at you because I want you to grow up to be better than me.” I’m mad at my country because I love my country. 

I’m mad at the country because I want it to be become a better place than it is now. I’m mad at the senators because I want them to make the laws to make the country better. I’m mad at the people because I want them to see how disgustingly wrong this is. 

I’m ashamed and guilty and furious. 

I’m hurt and scared and disappointed. 

And I’m not the only one.

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