Last night, I had the honor of attending the Glamour Women of the Year Awards. Among all the incredible women honored, from Lady Gaga to Malala Yousefzai to Barbra Streisand, one blood-chilling theme ran through: the impact of gun violence on innocent bystanders.
I'm sure this wasn't a conscious choice for the organizers of the Awards. And yet so many of the honorees have been touched by gun violence in some way.
We're all familiar with the story of Malala Yousefzai, the teenage advocate for girls' education who miraculously survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, and Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot in 2011 at an event she held for constituents in her home district in Arizona.
Honoree first-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig-Debellis' bravery and fast thinking saved her class of 15 students from Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, by rushing them into a bathroom and blockading them in a small space.
I'm grateful to Glamour for recognizing the heroism and continuing good work of each of these women. But I also wish we didn't live in a time and place where we need to honor women's courage and perseverance in the face of gun violence.
Just on Saturday, a group of four mothers meeting at a local restaurant to plan for their work on behalf of the gun control groups Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense was surrounded by over 40 armed men and women outside a Dallas-area restaurant. The men, who represented a group called Open Carry Texas, brandished about two dozen semi-automatic rifles. Open Carry Texas insists they were peacefully gathering -- just posing for a group photo -- yet it seems clear to me their intent was to threaten and bully the mom activists. They only decided to show up to the restaurant after finding out about the moms' meeting via Facebook.
One mother at the gathering was quoted as saying, "they're walking around with killing machines strapped to their backs in a suburban area." And yes, that is legal in Texas.
The image of 40 armed bullies circling around a group of mothers seems an appropriate symbol for the state of gun control in our country. Even after the mass murder of 20 children and six adults in Newtown by an armed gunman almost a year ago, a moment when many of vowed never again, and still too many other mass shootings than there is space here to recount, we have yet to see substantive gun control policy enacted at the federal level. Only a few states, all of them blue, have enacted gun control policies at the state level and there are fewer federal gun control laws nationally than there were one year ago. And in many red states, guns rights lobbyists have managed the repeal of regulations. All of this in the face of tragedy upon tragedy.
Malala and Gabby Giffords bear very visible scars from their shootings. I'm sure Ms. Roig-Debellis has scars that don't show physically but are nonetheless very real.
As she accepted her award, Lady Gaga, who is this month's Glamour magazine cover star, said, "if I could forfeit my Glamour cover, I would give it to Malala."
Malala is powerful because she speaks so eloquently, in the face of so much difficulty, on behalf of the world's 66 million girls who need an education. As a gesture of her immense influence, Gaga offered to tweet a call to raise funds for Malala to her 43 million Twitter followers.
Lady Gaga signaled that we cannot hide from evil and ugliness in the world, that the raw and painful issues that unfortunately bind us all cannot be buried by a beautiful photoshopped magazine cover.
At this most glamorous of settings, at an event celebrating the very best that women have achieved, the shadow of useless gun violence hung heavily, and the audience was often in tears. And indeed, women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered by guns than women in other high-income countries.
We can't hide from gun violence, even on the red carpet and at events where we honor our best and brightest. My question is: What will unite us in positive action to break the cycle of bullying and violence and create a safer world? Knowing all the tragedies that have yet to unite us, I shudder to think what the answer might hold.