Or. But. AND.


A little over a year ago, I wrote a post for my daughter. It had to do with grammar and more. You can link to it here.  Unlike 17 teachers and children in Parkland, Florida, she will be participating in high school graduation ceremonies in a few short months.

Time for another grammar lesson.

In the last few days as I’ve scrolled through newsfeeds, I’ve found myself noticing the conjunctions.

Or. But. And.

The assumptions involving OR make me angry:

17 students and teachers were assassinated in a high school. Again. People want to find something to blame. It’s a mental health problem OR it’s a gun problem.

It can’t be both?

You can blame the guns for all this heartbreak OR you can blame the people that shoot them.

We can’t blame both?

OR is problematic for me.


The BUT sentences fill me with anxiety and confusion:

The murderer was not allowed to carry a backpack at school—too dangerous– then he was not allowed to even go to school, BUT he was allowed to legally purchase a gun.

People suggest arming teachers, putting more armed security guards in schools, using our tax money to pay gun manufacturers for those supplies, BUT we can’t seem to find the money to reimburse teachers for things like Kleenex, school supplies, teaching assistants.

No one would disagree that access to mental health care is a huge problem in our country, BUT we just slashed corporate taxes, gutting our federal budget, insuring that cost effective healthcare will remain out of reach for millions.


The ANDs, on the other hand, fill me with hope:

We know that mental illness is often passed on through adverse childhood experiences, ACEs, which change the brain and the DNA, affecting generation after generation. I speak about this locally for the Palmetto Peace Project. My daughter just wrote a big long paper about how ACEs and childhood exposure to toxic stress change a developing brain on the anatomic level, the cellular level,  and the DNA level, hence the generational effects.

As a pediatrician, I see families every day in my office for whom I know this science to be true, especially now that I have begun routinely screening for ACEs using the questionnaire developed by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and the Center for Youth Wellness.

We know that by investing in children AND families that we can reverse this trend AND promote resiliency through simple, inexpensive things like parent coaching by home visitors AND family dinners AND good sleep routines AND reading with children AND decreasing screen time  (especially violent games) AND making sure every single child has at least one, loving, buffering person in their lives.


We can invest in better mental health for families who are struggling in our country

AND invest in simple things that promote lifelong resiliency in children

AND ban assault weapons

AND use technology to do more careful background checks

AND close loopholes for gun sales

AND create guns with childproof locks (like our smartphones)

AND establish policies for ammunitions background checks

AND prevent those with domestic violence charges, stalking behavior, or significant mental health issues from having access to guns.

Polling suggests that our country is not divided on these things.



My daughter is turning 18 and graduating in a few months.

I hope I have taught her that we can do hard things, individually AND as a country, that life does not have to be filled with ORs and BUTs.

I hope she and her friends know that life can be filled with a series of infinite ANDs.

I hope that she and her friends will cast their 18 year old votes with the ANDs in mind.