When I was growing up, I remember that occasionally, there would be a shooting at a business. Some disgruntled worker who had been fired, coming back to get their revenge or some jilted lover showing up at their love interest’s place of work and professing their complete adoration at the end of a gun. The term “going postal” was one that was casually thrown around the hallways at school to describe someone that was freaking out, but although we had to practice taking cover under our desks for bomb drills (I lived near the Grand Forks Air Force Base in the midwest), an action which would never have actually saved us in event of a nuclear bomb, we felt safe within the halls of our schools. Of course that was back in the days when it was perfectly acceptable to let your kids ride their bikes in the street, come home when the street lights come on or walk a couple miles to school without anyone calling you a bad parent.
School shootings seem to have become a normal part of our news feeds. So much so, that I worry that we are becoming numb to them. White noise. Noise, much like my kids’ whining, that I’d rather not hear. Perhaps it’s the frequency. Perhaps it’s the hurt. Perhaps it’s the fear. It’s certainly the lack of real discussion and inaction.
We’ve had two school shootings in the past week that have hit close to home. One, at Seattle Pacific University, took the life of a young man that had graduated just down the road from where we live. The other, at Reynold’s High School, is in a suburb of Portland, like we are, but on the other side of town from us. In both cases, it is extremely fortunate that more people were not killed or injured. Extremely tragic that anyone had to die at all.
Nearly immediately, the feeds of social media were filling up with people saying, “Enough is enough! We need to get rid of guns!” and then people on the other side saying, “It’s our constitutional right to bear arms, besides, guns don’t kill people. People kill people!” It is such a productive conversation that I can hardly stand it. If we can not find a way to have a real, meaningful discussion, we will never figure out how to quell the violence that is taking place in our schools, but more importantly is raging inside of our children. But, the truth is, and I really believe this, our kids are learning how to act and react, feel and stuff their emotions, feed their pain or learn to quench it, from their biggest mentors. From us. We can preach anti-bullying messages all. day. long. But if we are yelling out our windows at someone, cursing them, because they took ‘our’ parking spot, it is not a message that they are going to hear. If we tell our children to have good manners, but cut in line, don’t help someone who is struggling or talk on our cell phones in public places without regard for others, it’s not a message that they are going to hear. If we tell our kids that they should love themselves and talk about their struggles and then bury our pain behind a pile of fries, mindless TV, too much alcohol or endless surfing on the internet, it is not a message they are going to hear. We cannot be effectively parenting our kids while our noses are buried in our social media, TV’s or computers and if all of our communication comes in the form of text messages, snap chats and status updates.
Am I saying that we are to blame? Yes, I guess I am. It’s not going to be a popular idea, what with the rampant lack of personal responsibility that we have going on in this country, but we can’t keep blaming everyone and everything else. We have created, or at least embraced, a way of life that on the surface seems to put relationships at our fingertips, and then decided that we can forgo real relationships, real feelings, real friendships, real conversations, in lieu of the ones that take place electronically. We have a nation full of lonely, depressed, stressed, exhausted and emotionally bankrupt people that would rather see what the Kardashians are up to than live their own life or check in with their kids. We have parents that expect teachers to create miracles in the 6 hours a day that the teachers spend with the kids and teachers that would love it if the parents backed them up, instead of always assuming that the teacher got it wrong. We are so busy pointing blame that we don’t take the time to look in the mirror and see what part of the blame belongs to us.
Of course, I’m not talking about you, dear reader. I’m sure you are a perfect parent, like me. But I have a friend’s neighbor’s sister that I know could use a little help having honest, face-to-face conversation with her kids. She could spend a little less time with her self-interests and help her kids create interests outside of electronics. She could certainly spend more time doing fun and meaningful things with her kids and less time threatening duct tape and beatings. Our kids are crying out for relationships. Real relationships, with people that they trust. Our kids are hurting, they are getting mixed messages and they are not being modeled personal responsibility.
Should we have gun control? Well, I do like the idea of background checks weeding out the obvious crazies, but there are plenty of closet crazies that will slip through those cracks. Speaking of crazy, should we focus on mental health mandates? Absolutely. Mental health issues are certainly in crisis in our country.
We do, however, need to go deeper than mental health and gun control and start teach self control, self love, selflessness.