Growing Up in America
The Domestic Terrorism against our Children
By Dee Jae Cox
I was FOUR the first time I remember hearing gunshots. Loud, reverberating, deafening… Pop, Pop, Pop, as my mother shoved me under the bed, begging me to stay there, stay silent and don’t come out no matter what I heard. She was trying to leave my father again, he had found her apartment, there was the sound of glass shattering and splintering into tiny fragments as he took aim at all of the windows and from my dark hiding place I could see tiny droplets of glass rain scatter on the floor, I closed my eyes and willed myself not to scream. Pop, Pop, Pop…
I was FIVE the first time I saw a gun up close, my father resting the stock of a rifle against his hip. The barrel pointed at my grandmother, as he told me to put my shoes on and that I was leaving with him. My grandmother had taken on the role of caretaker while my mother was at work. But she was no match for a gun and so she stood silent as I was ushered out of the apartment.
I was EIGHT the first time I attended a funeral. A 32-year-old mother of four small children who had gone to a friend’s house and had in some way angered the woman’s abusive husband who then just picked up his gun and shot her. It was that quick. She had cared for me. Fed me when I was left alone. Her daughters were my friends. And with the single pull of a trigger, she was dead. Her children's lives irrevocably changed and devastated by this madman.
Pop… Pop… Pop…
I had never experienced death before. Never experienced the end result of the terror that I lived with. And now there it was stretched out before me.
I was TEN the first time that I fired a gun. It was big and heavy and when it fired the kick knocked me in one direction and the gun in another. My father laughed. He had known it would do that. He had not even considered the danger to others or me. The sound was deafening. The noise and jolt terrifying.
Me on my ass shaking and scared, met with my father’s laughter.
I was FOURTEEN the first time I had a gun pointed at my face. I was battered, badly beaten and still running my mouth as my only form of defense. My father, with his hand steady, finger on the trigger, calmly said, “When you think you can out run a bullet, then you can talk back to me.”
I thought he was going to kill me.
I thought that I wanted him to.
One POP and I would finally escape the abuse.
I was EIGHTTEEN the first time I held a gun and learned that it was called a weapon and its sole purpose was to kill. It has no other function. People or animals, the shooter gets to decide. The Army gave me a medal when I hit just the right spot on the target. I wasn’t afraid of the noise anymore. But I learned a healthy respect for the carnage and destruction my weapon could inflict. I had grown up with guns and accepted their presence as a normality without questioning the need for such an ‘equalizer’ as my father had called them. The Army taught me that a weapon wasn’t a toy, a joke or a harmless bravado. It was designed to kill. And when I got out of the service I actually missed the security and the protection that I had felt with my weapon in a holster against my body. I felt vulnerable, but I had learned enough to know that the security it had given me was a fallacy. I’m not of the belief that the more people who are armed, the safer we are. I had grown up in a home with many guns and I never, ever, felt safe.
This is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. We value our constitution and we fight for the right to bear arms. And if this is an average day, 91 Americans will die today from gun violence. If this is an average month, 51 women will be shot and killed by a current or former husband or boyfriend, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the odds that the woman will be murdered by 5 times. If this is an average year, a gun will kill 12,000 people in this country, an estimated 3,000 of them will be children.
I woke up on my birthday, June 12, 2016, to the news that the most deadly mass shooting in the history of our country had just occurred. 49 innocent people were dead, 50 seriously or critically injured. The knowledge that this was a hate crime against the LGBT community made me choke. Every mass shooting had new targets, but motivated by the same hatred and rage against one group or another. I thought about the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 27 killed, 20 of them were six and seven year old children. And since that incident another 188 school shootings have occurred.
Mass murders and single shootings, continue to happen in churches and clinics, in homes and businesses all across the country, everywhere we go, there are crazy people with guns. Men who hate women, Men who hate Blacks, Men who hate children, Men who kill in the name of religion or politics or whatever other insane excuse they can come up with to justify their violence. Men who can buy a gun easier than some can buy a six-pack of beer. This is America and we cling to our antiquated notion that the Second Amendment’s reference to a ‘Well Armed Militia’ isn’t referring to the National Guard, it gives individual citizens the right to strap an AK 47 to their back and walk through Wal-Mart.
Pop… Pop… Pop….
How many of America’s children are growing up with Domestic Terrorism? Not inflicted by men who speak a different language and hate America. But by Men who vow their love of God and Country, but still would rather risk seeing children terrorized than prevent even the craziest of abusers or mentally unstable persons from buying a weapon or strapping that AK 47 to their back. American Children who grow up with the fear and risk of gun violence in their homes, in their schools, in their churches and in every aspect of their lives. Arming a ten year old isn’t the solution. Teaching children to fear immigrants and different religions while ignoring the threat at home is the true act of terrorism.
...I Can't Believe She Said That Out Loud...
Dee Jae Cox is a Writer, Director, Producer, Radio Host, Army Veteran, Feminist and a very opinionated woman.
(Disclaimer: Although we truly appreciate all of our advertisers, sponsors and community partners, The Los Angeles Women's Theatre Project does not endorse any business, unless specifically indicated by our organization.)