I believe in the need for moderate activism to create a safer America.
I am a mom, a veteran, a nurse, a hunter’s wife, a Second Amendment supporter and a safety reformer. These roles conflict at times and lead to internal struggles. I’ve had to become comfortable with seeing firearms as tools for putting food on our table, and not as tools of war. I’ve struggled to tell my children why they can’t play with toy weapons at school even if it’s only pretend. I’ve felt grateful for my right to own a gun when I received threats from a dangerous person.
When submitting an essay for This I Believe, WPSU recommends avoiding editorials and soapbox-style sermons. While this is understandable, I still chose to write about a politically charged topic because I believe in the power of sharing our truth with each other in a non-preachy and nonjudgmental way. Rather than avoiding confrontation and controversy, let’s reckon with our emotions and seek to understand multiple vantage points.
I believe in the need for moderate, open-minded activism. For me, this has meant working toward violence prevention despite a temperate stance on the polarizing issue of gun reform. Often what we see in the media focuses on extremes. Folks who identify with the gray area on any issue may feel they “don’t belong” on either side, and their voices stand to be lost amid the sensationalism of the far ends of the spectrum.
No one event has made me interested in violence prevention, but a few things have undoubtedly contributed: the fact that my son is starting kindergarten in the fall, that I have seen war wounds firsthand, and the helpless feeling that overwhelms me each time human heartache flashes across my computer screen.
The sign I recently brandished during the State College March for Our Lives was an attempt to unify both sides of the gun debate. It read “Attention NRA: we don’t want your guns, we want your help.” My message sought to promote solidarity against violence and encourage a multifaceted approach for prevention. Many Americans agree violent crime is a complex issue, but in my experience, discussions quickly degrade to pro-gun and anti-gun rhetoric. We should be able to work toward common-sense legislation on guns without being portrayed as slippery slope contenders trying to deprive others of their Second Amendment rights.
In addition, there are ways to get active beyond gun reform. I ask people to examine the biggest threats to our citizens, children, and culture and work to offset those negative influences. That could mean volunteering with at-risk kids. Or working to get money out of politics, so lobbyists have less power.
I believe it’s important to understand the “other side” in order to keep our country strong. If we are too busy arguing among ourselves, we are less effective in enacting change. The upper echelons of our government seem much less willing to compromise when we as voters and citizens cannot.
I believe progress can be achieved incrementally as well as revolutionarily. We can feel strongly about controversial topics while simultaneously tolerant of others’ perspectives. We can exist in the gray area and still find ways to drive change. I believe in moderate activism, violence prevention and common-sense weapons reform, and I would like your help.
Heidi Ritter Kremser is a nurse practitioner with Penn State Student Health.