"Together We Stand, Divided We Fall" - The Danger of Politicizing School & Public Shootings

Photo by Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

It’s not about your conservative or liberal politics; it’s about keeping young people safe in public school and everyone everywhere in public places. It’s about examining our gun legislation, social culture, mental health, school safety plans, diligent parenting and developing new ideas for approaching and managing a hellish problem.

Choosing sides and turning this into a political fight doesn’t work, folks. Can we see this yet?

Politicizing these issues might seem like a good idea initially since we need government support to accomplish what needs to be done in terms of legislation and perhaps for other reforms.

But so far, the adults who’ve been “in charge” haven’t gotten anything to change, and so the young people are moving forward in their own direction with demonstrations, walkouts and invitations to governing leaders to work with them. I hope they don’t stray from the path of their objectives by making it about politics and not the issues at hand. I hope those young people participating have their minds in the game and aren’t simply looking to call attention themselves (I’m not really talking about the youth leadership here – I’m talking about those following along with leadership – I hope they’re staying on task. At our high school, a decent number of students jokes about going outside to miss class that day).

I hope – and pray – this all starts working. It’s the THEIR movement – the young ones – adults will need to support it – but the young people are certainly trying to get past irreconcilable differences in our government and culture.

I was discussing these concerns with a college student in the office where we work, and the student agreed whole-heartedly, commenting that it’s unfortunate “adult political egos get in the way” whenever a discussion of school and public safety arises regarding shootings and planned attacks at schools (bombs, knives, etc.).

Politically, everyone in our country is never going to be on the same page. But don’t we ALL AGREE that we don’t need to see any more deaths, terrified students and teachers and lasting emotional damage in mass shootings of any kind? Isn’t our collective goal to eliminate (or stop as best we can) these horrors?

So, let’s put politics aside and discuss the top issues. Here’s my best take on what we need to take action on:

Gun Control: I respect the right for people to own and use guns for hunting, target and clay pigeon shooting, etc. I respect law enforcement and the military. For those who oppose any gun control measures, may I put this image in your mind? Imagine yourself holding your child, grandchild or another person close to you as they are bleeding to death from gunshot wounds inflicted on your loved one while at school or another public venue. Would that make you change your mind on the issue?

Truth be told, we’ve certainly seen a lot of news stories with people easily gaining access to guns legally and using them to kill others in mass shootings. Let’s take the most dangerous weapons – automatic weapons and bump stocks – out of civilian hands, and create guidelines that make the process more stringent to obtain guns. Why don’t we at least TRY these limiting measures to SEE if there is some measurable impact. YES, this may not be the complete solution, but we can start here and in the other areas I outline below.

I know people want their guns as a means of self-defense. Are there a lot of stories out there of people using their guns to save their lives? I’m not seeing those at all. I’m only seeing how guns falling too quickly into the wrong hands is contributing to the deaths of a lot of innocents.

Social Culture: We live in a country that is so angry, so defensive, so full of self-righteousness that defending our own egos while cutting others to the quick has now become part of the norm. Comments – which quickly become personal insults – on Facebook and online articles are made without anyone actually even reading the original post or threads that follow.

It’s much too important to express our “opinions” and cut others to shreds.

On a daily basis, do we NEED to be so angry all of the time?

As an emotion, anger is a useful tool to express feelings and bring about change. Those of us who’ve been mistreated (or continue to be mistreated) have used anger to organize like-minded individuals and create movements that mobilize others to push for change. There are numerous groups that have formed to elicit positive change and have been successful in their efforts – bravo.

But too much anger – or misdirected anger – is destructive. We can see it in looting and violent attacks – and we see it in the minds of those who seek to harm others in mass violent acts.

Mental Health: It’s clear that people who go into any public venue and begin shooting up others are clearly not mentally healthy. Why is this such a problem in our culture right now? What is possibly precipitating this behavior?

It’s no secret that people have always been violent – history shows humans as bloodthirsty in all manner of ways.

And yet, no one can deny that it was a rare and completely shocking occurrence for public shootings to occur. What has changed?

Yes, the generous concept of welcoming others in the WalkUpNotOut movement seemed like a good idea – of course extending ourselves and including others who may be marginalized is the right thing to do. Social isolation is the number one cause of depression – and our culture has underscored teen isolation by young people misusing social media.

OF COURSE, it’s not the other student’s “fault” that school shooters have committed their crimes – YES, that is the wrong idea, and yes, that movement has political intent behind it, and anything that puts politics above the needs of people won’t solve issues for our country.

There IS a need for changing how we approach mental health, though, clearly. Can we further remove stigmas from mental health? Can we work on empowering young people – even very young children – to feel that’s OK to ask for help when dealing with feelings of low self-esteem, self-hatred or loathing towards others?

It’s difficult to wrap our heads around the “warning signs” exhibited by Nikolas Cruz. His adoptive mother was at her wit’s end with his behavior. I don’t know what he was afflicted with that made him so violent, nasty and so full of self-hatred – but the self-hatred made him lash out at others with hatred – and that is why this is a mental health concern. It’s about keeping our young people from harming themselves and ALSO from harming others.

And the facts are, Austin Wyatt Rollins used a handgun legally obtained by his father to shoot students at his Maryland high school, and Jaelynn Willey – the former girlfriend of the shooter – was taken off life support Thursday evening – I do not know if she has passed away as of yet, but it’s likely she will not survive.

And Nichole Cevario, also of Maryland, planned to use guns and a bomb to wreak destruction on her high school on April 5.

Legislation for gun safety alone would not have been enough to stop Rollins from shooting Willey – nor Cevario from carrying out her plan of attack.

Clearly, mental health IS an issue that needs an action plan.

School Safety: I can’t think of one person who thinks that having to administer school safety drills is desirable. But it may remain necessary.

While I do think gun limitations are in order, they won’t be enough to stop the dangerous behavior from entering our schools.

So I think the drills must continue for the time being.

Student resource officer Blaine Gaskill did his job remarkably well. I’m not sure that every crisis situation could be handled in this matter since there are so many things going on in the panic of moments such as these.

It’s clear the officer was emotionally and physically prepared to handle the circumstance at hand. It’s his job.

It’s NOT the job of a teacher.

I would rather have officers on hand like Gaskill and not teachers or civilians of any kind with conceal and carry weapons. I just don’t believe those circumstances will go well – teachers didn’t sign up for the job of carrying a pistol and shooting students. And I fear “vigilante justice” and shootouts among civilians. Not envisioning a good scene with any of that.

Parental Diligence: Whenever a young person commits a terrible act, it isn’t long before people start looking at (blaming) parents or guardians.

To some extent, this isn’t fair and the behavior isn’t necessarily caused by parental neglect.

But we as parents and guardians DO have the weight placed on us to fully investigate and be aware of how our young people are behaving.

We have the right to snoop if we feel we need to on texts, in rooms, backpacks, etc.

If the Maryland Dad hadn’t read his daughter’s diary, who knows what may have happened April 5?

Respect is key, but managing the activities of a minor or young person on our home is also important.

Let’s hope our relationships on young people can be based on mutual trust, honesty and providing guidance.

And part of that guidance is sometimes looking into our children’s “private” lives if we have any inkling something is amiss – and even if we don’t.

My headline quote is from the last line of Pink Floyd’s song, “Hey You.” It’s a song that describes loneliness, mental health, a desire for help – the song is full of beseeching with a sarcastic edge to it – but clearly, the singer wants to noticed, wants someone to connect with him.

It’s a haunting song, and I cannot get it out of my head now as it relates to these tragedies. But despite it’s unnerving tune, the song ends in hope:

“Hey you, don’t tell me there’s no hope at all. Together we stand, divided we fall”

Hey You” – Lyrics by Roger Waters, Pink Floyd “The Wall” album


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