Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Justice for Lilly

This is Lilly Garcia.

Maybe you already know who she is, if you don’t, you should. Lilly was a bright, beautiful four-year-old girl who was taken from this world far too soon. While Lilly’s parents were driving her home from her second day of preschool they were cut off by an erratic driver on the interstate, the situation escalated quickly and culminated with the driver firing four rounds into the Garcia family’s vehicle. One bullet went through the back window and struck Lilly in the head. She was later pronounced dead at local hospital.

It was a senseless act of rage – a single moment of blind egocentrism in which a criminal decided that it was more important for him to affirm his aggression than for a child to have a chance at a future, a life.

Politician and presidential hopeful Ben Carson wrote "I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away," a sentiment that has received an unsettling amount of support. I’ve been thinking that Dr. Carson and many other Americans really don’t understand the meaning of devastation.

How would Lilly’s parents define the extremes of devastation? When they look at pictures of their daughter and see a vibrancy in her soulful brown eyes that has ceased to exist, how are they supposed to cope with that? How are they to live the rest of their lives watching Lilly’s peers grow up, with every milestone they reach a perpetual reminder of the grief that comes from being robbed of the ability see the same thing in their own child?

How does her big brother feel? What will it be like for him to live every day of his life in the shadow of this grim moment, watching his baby sister die on the side of the road? How will he be marked by being forced to live the rest of his life with the gaping hole that once occupied by the radiance of her beautiful soul?

How does her daddy feel? An Iraq war veteran who likely saw the extreme brutality of war, thinking that he’d seen the worst of humanity? How could he have even fathomed the possibility that it would be worse at home? How is he supposed to go on living with this unimaginable shock?

How does her momma feel? What about the grief she feels every time she remembers the first moments of Lilly’s brilliant life? Will she always remember the way the back of her baby’s head smelled? What will she feel when she comes across some forgotten cherished object that was once held so tightly by her baby girl? Where did all her hopes and dreams for her child go, how can something like that simply disappear? In 15 years, when senior high-schoolers are released into the world amid a flurry of Pomp and Circumstance, excitement and potential, will it feel like a funeral song?

How does the off-duty police officer who pulled over to assist the family in the initial moments of the fatal chaos feel? What did it feel like for him to brace himself for worst, thinking the child had fallen out of a vehicle, only to find that she’d actually been executed in an act of senseless fury? How will he ever get those images out of his mind?

What about the other police officers? The ones who had to scour an eerily vacant highway, in the freezing cold rain, looking for bullet casings, because at that point the only thing they could do was find evidence? How were they able to complete this somber mission while knowing Lilly had already left this world?

How did the hundreds of mourners who attended Lilly’s funeral feel? Had any of them ever seen a child’s casket before? Had they realized they were going to see a direct visual representation of how young this child truly was? Were they struck by an absolute sense of unfairness? Were they inspired to seek justice?

Devastated, in the truest form, that’s how they felt.That's how our entire community feels. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can be more devastating than this. This is devastation in its most absolute form.  

Lilly’s story is just one of hundreds of similar losses to gun violence that we have witnessed just this year.

Perhaps the most devastating thing about all of this is that our politicians, law-makers, and general public seem so ready to throw their hands in the air and say “there’s nothing we can do.”

How can we as population just accept that answer? How are we so focused on arguing the semantics of the constitution that nobody is even willing to have a reasonable conversation about gun control?

I refuse to accept the notion that there is simply no way to fix this problem.

I refuse to live in a world where picking my children up from preschool puts them at risk of execution.

I understand that there are many, many factors which have lead to our nation’s extremely volatile climate, but we have to start somewhere if we want any hope of it getting better.

Let’s start by regulating guns with a reasonable degree of sanity. Let’s be absolutely, positively, clear here before this turns into something else: I’m not advocating taking ALL the guns away, not even close, I’m saying, let’s actively try to keep these guns out of the hands of criminals. Clearly, this is not a black and white argument, but right now we aren’t even discussing it.

Why is it such a big deal to close these gun show loopholes? Why don’t responsible gun owners want to do everything they can to prevent criminals from getting their hands on these guns and protect the integrity of their trade? Why do we even do background checks if they can be so easily averted?

Why is it that if I buy a bottle of wine I’m explicitly reminded that if it gets into the hands of a minor, I will be held responsible and charged with a fourth-degree felony, but If I did the same thing with a gun, well, who could’ve prevented that? Why is it if an 18-year-old with a fake ID tricks a bartender into serving a beer, the bartender subject to those same felony charges, but ID verification when purchasing guns is regarded as an infringement upon our constitutional rights? When did we decide that we as a society are only responsible for protecting our children, from certain, specific dangers, but not others?

Are fat pockets worth more than full lives?

Please. Please. Please.

We have to do something other than waiting to see whose baby goes next.

We cannot allow Lilly’s death to have been in vain. Speak up. Write your senators. Think, with your brain first and then with your heart.

We have to start somewhere.