By Francesca Adjapon-Yamoah
I am taking time out of my work to write this because I would like to share my thoughts with other women before I lose my inspiration.
As an immigrant from a country whose citizens do not possess guns, I was amazed, even appalled, that private citizens could own guns. I grew up believing that only the police and military had a right to carry guns because of the nature of their work. I lived through four military takeovers of an elected government. Each time, many of us lived in fear, powerless to do anything about military excesses. I personally witnessed people bludgeoned with the ends of bayonets. I read reports of innocent people killed because some policeman's pride had been injured. On one occasion, I was forced to flee the capital and live with friends because stray bullets shattered the windows of our home. We had no right to defend ourselves. We never questioned that. He who has never known freedom does not miss it.
Twelve years ago, I came to America and became a high school teacher in a Christian school. Christian schools are not immune from violence. One evening, a student whose girlfriend had left him came to the school with a gun. His intention was to intimidate the person he believed was responsible for the break-up with his girlfriend. When a day-care teacher confronted him, he pulled out the gun and threatened her. Fortunately, the situation was resolved without bloodshed, but the teacher was unarmed. She had preschoolers in her care and no way to protect them. We thank God that no one was hurt, but the point is that she was powerless to do anything to deter the gunman.
When I separated from my husband, he began stalking me. Again, I felt powerless. The more powerless and scared I became, the more daring he got, until I became convinced that he might kill me one day. At a hearing, I broke down on the witness stand and told the judge that if I died an accidental death, my death should be investigated. I did not understand the value of my life as God saw it. I spent my time waiting, wondering when IT was going to happen. Then one day, it hit me: I was letting my life be controlled by another human being who had no right to take my life. Until that moment, I couldn't make up my mind about guns. Reading the GOA website was the turning point for me. For the first time, I understood how precious my life is. My ex-husband stopped stalking me after I threatened him some years ago; but I cannot assume that he or anyone else will never make a threat on my life.
The fact is that, unlike in the movies, real-life violence does not come with a warning, that eerie music that tells you something terrible is about to happen. Nor can one legislate morality. As a Christian school teacher, I should know. All the rules and laws in the world does not change the heart. What changes the actions of a person intent on violence is lack of opportunity and dreaded, instant punishment.
America is a land of freedom, and we should fight to keep our freedom. The loss of freedom is gradual. Any colonized people know that. It starts with giving an inch here and there, and before one knows it, one has lost it all. We need to fight to make sure that America does not become like countries whose citizens have been so whipped that they do not know there is such a thing as the right to protect oneself. We women in particular need to be able to defend ourselves in a decisive manner against violence. We need to do it for our country, and for our children.