• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Please Make it Stop!

Too many acts of violence.

June 16, 2016

In Math and Economics, we often attempt to find “extreme” points, points that are either a maximum or a minimum value of a given function. Unfortunately, I found myself thinking of this recently as I learned of the shootings in Orlando, Florida. This shooting spree, which occurred last weekend, was particularly horrible because it is clear that many of those killed were targeted just for spending an evening celebrating, being their authentic selves. It was quickly identified at the worst mass shooting in the history of this country.  Alas, while some extremes are good, this is an extreme that is a tragedy for America.

I currently live about twenty minutes from Chardon, Ohio, and grew up about the same distance from Newtown, Connecticut, which contains a portion known as “Sandy Hook.” And, just weeks ago, my family visited Disney World, flying into Orlando, Florida. All three of these cities, previously recalled with fond memories of lazy, hazy days with friends and family, of joy-filled days on land made holy from the act of kicking off shoes in celebration, have now, in my daughter’s short life, been struck by gun violence and death of the most innocent civilians.

The horror of what happened this past weekend brought back memories for some who survived the slaughter of Newtown, Connecticut in 2012,  and makes many wonder why we have returned to the same place, why we find ourselves crying the same tears. I am left with an extreme sense of loss, and a bewilderment that our country cannot find a way to make this stop.

Such incidents are made all the more stark by the fact that, in not all that long of a time, my daughter will be leaving home to live on her own. How can I trust sending her out into a world where such things happen? I recall a pub near my college called “The Library,” and I realize that she will not always be as safe at college as I imagine she would be in a true library. No, there will be parties and bars and days when she will be close to (but hopefully not in) danger of all kinds. How can I possibly bring myself to let her leave the relative safety of our home? It is something I struggle with as I imagine her growing into adulthood in the coming years.

In a few weeks, a friend from graduate school will celebrate her 50th anniversary as a Sister of Notre Dame. She lives close to me, and, for several frightening years, my parents, who lived hundreds of miles away, relied on her to be their eyes and ears in Ohio. The night I was prescribed anti-seizure medicine because of a newly diagnosed brain tumor, she let me stay in her convent, so I would not have to spend the night alone in my apartment being medicated with a new prescription, which I soon learned I was allergic to. And when my health would take sudden, surprising turns for the worse, she was the person who was called right after those around me dialed “911.” I look forward to celebrating this milestone with her.

I know that I will not have such a person to rely on to care about my own daughter, when she finally moves from our home out into the bigger, more exciting, but also more frightening, world. This fear is most likely shared by all parents as they encourage their children to take their gifts out into the larger world.      

And so here we are, academics, who study history, government, sociology and economics, as well as those who instruct students to teach, heal and minister. As I see our president, for at least the FOURTEENTH time in his presidency (and possibly more), speaking about another mass shooting, I have to ask. Can’t we do better? We, all of us, in our various fields of study, are basically smart people. Can’t we find a way to please make it all stop?

…Wishing all of my readers who are dads a very Happy Fathers’ Day as they celebrate doing one of the world’s most difficult jobs…


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