Yesterday the unthinkable happened.
Back at home in the USA, at a school where many of my children's friends attend, where many of my friend's children attend, where some old classmates work, and where I (very briefly) worked, there was yet another school shooting.
It's sad and sick that in this world, we're so desensitized to the term school shooting, that we barely bat an eye. We simply cluck, mutter a weak "my thoughts and prayers are with you" to the victims, then move on to figuring out what to make for dinner. But this time--this time--it happened close to home. A little too close.
I'm from a rural area. A clump of small towns that dot the rolling fields of eastern Washington state, each with different tiny schools and tightly bound social circles. It seems even if you move away when you're just about 18, you can never quite escape it, and you always come back. I hated it growing up there, but now that I am in my forties, with children of my own, I often lament about what it would be like to move back to the country to raise my kids in a tiny town, with a tiny school, where it is rednecked, yes, but also safe.
Yesterday that dream was shattered, because even my tiny corner of the country that I know and love like I love one of my children has been tainted with all that is wrong with our country. Hate, anger, bullying, disregard for life, access to firearms but no access to proper and effective mental health resources...
I won't post pictures of the shooter. He is a boy who was so tormented and under-intervened that he murdered someone in cold blood, and attempted to murder many more. Three young women (one of whom is a child of an old childhood friend of mine, and another who is my son's second grade teacher's child--just to put the small town connection into perspective for you) are in the hospital. One family is without a son forever just months after losing their husband/father. One family is shattered because their son is a killer. And a whole student population witnessed it all. The blood, the panic, the fear, the aftermath. They all saw it, and it will forever be a thread in the fabric that makes them who they are. It cannot be undone.
I will post a picture of the place I still call home, even 20+ years after moving away. Because despite being tainted with hate and sadness and shock, it is still without a doubt, my home. And it should be remembered as a happy, old fashioned area with old fashioned morals and down home sensibilities. It shouldn't be remembered as a place where a boy snapped and sought to kill his friends.
I won't turn this post political, because there are so many others doing that. Within minutes of hearing about the most recent shootings, and amongst their clucks and muttered "thoughts and prayers" (man, I hate that prepackaged sentiment!) they quickly Tweet and FB posted about the need for gun control, or how it could somehow be equated to Trumps presidency, or the Obama presidency, or welfare, or to racism, or homophobia, or whatever the trending hashtag of the week is....
When all in all it comes down to this: this child needed more, we did not give it to him. This child was not taught the quality of human life. Our children are not being raised with compassion and love and discipline, and they are growing up sorely lacking any moral gage as they text and tweet hateful statements to each other as if their words don't carry weight when they clearly do. We've seen it time and time again.
We failed this young man, and he committed a horrible, horrible act, and must be punished for it. The children who were shot did not deserve this fate, just because he felt he was being treated poorly at school. But when are we as a society going to take responsibility for raising a generation so lacking in compassion and personal accountability that they're actually capable of opening fire in a school hallway?
I don't know about you, but I never considered killing anyone at my school, and I was downright tortured for most of junior high and high school. I'm just saying...
Sure, we need to make guns more difficult for children to get their hands on--there's no denying that--but without guns, does the rage dissipate? Does the feeling of hatred and hopelessness disappear? Does the bullying stop? No. Only the grown ups in these children's lives can do that. Metal detectors can work wonders at keeping guns and knives out of school, but until we heal these children's hearts, we're fighting a losing battle.
I am extremely grateful this horrible act of violence was stopped when it was (ironically, by yet another former classmate--these small town roots are so deep.) My heart goes out to the families of all the victims, including the parents of the boy who snapped. They all deserved to have a better day yesterday.