How does anyone ever get past the things these young people have seen? Young people fight wars and see killing but these children were not in a war. Their day began as a regular school day and became a nightmare. These images and emotions will stay with them all their lives. This terror will affect each person differently as they leave school to pursue their adult lives. Will all their outcomes be positive? Probably not. But the anger and the activism will help. I think acting from strength, the fight instinct rather than the flight instinct, will ensure healthier futures for these kids. They even may end up doing our democracy some good. And our democracy could really use some good right about now.
I cannot think about these kids and their losses without tears threatening. They are my heroes. They even went to speak with our strange and untrustworthy President, which I don’t know if could have done. They spoke with clarity and sorrow, appealing to our leader to end the stonewalling, the bullying, the political extortion of the NRA.
The NRA leaders at CPAC, on the day after the children spoke with the leader, had the audacity to strut around on the stage and say what the NRA always says, an homage to guns; their lies about the meaning of the second amendment, their exaggerated whining about imaged threats to take away their guns. Republicans cheered and agreed – chanted “lock her up” to please the man who listened to those traumatized children the day before and still needs to be petted. Would they raise such a fuss if people threatened to take away their children, which is basically what happened at Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland.?
“Let’s arm teachers,” they say. That’s their solution. I was a teacher, an assistant professor. One day a man walked in off the street and raped me. I still didn’t wish I had a gun. What would have happened if I shot him? Would a gun have stopped him from doing what he did? Would I have been able to get to the gun since he was choking me? He was a man on the sexual predator list. My school hired a security guard after that (no gun) but he was such a pleasant man I’m not sure he would have stopped this man, who looked like one of our students. If I shot him would I have gone to jail for murder? Would I have gotten off for self-defense? I already had to go through so much – looking through the books at the police station to ID him, going to court to testify against him, going back into my classroom. If my students had been there I might have felt differently about having a gun. Teachers would do almost anything to protect their students. But with no training I would never have thought of such a thing in the 1980’s.
Suppose a teacher-with-a-gun shot an innocent student by accident. Would they be charged with a crime? Experts say that even professionals with lots of target training do not always shoot accurately. How would a teacher live with that? Would their community turn against them. Teachers are sort of like doctors who believe “first do no harm”. It is too much to make human beings take the blame for something that would not happen if a certain inanimate object did not ever find its way into a school.
For a while I taught tweens and teens (7th,8th, 9th graders) who had been suspended for taking weapons to school. What I learned is that these children took weapons to school to protect themselves from students who threatened them almost every day. A weapon could be something like a can of food in a sock. But these children left school each day to go to a neighborhood where guns were common and people were shot for standing on the wrong street corner. These children certainly didn’t need a teacher with a gun in their school.
I would not care if every gun disappeared off the face of the earth but that’s not going to happen. I understand why our forefathers made owning a gun a right. They came from settled European nations to a wild, forested and unknown land. Many had been persecuted in their native lands and they had just fought a war in this new land because they saw that the British King intended to treat them like subjects, in spite of the distance and the ocean that now lay between them. Settlers needed guns for many reasons.
Since our forefathers made sure that Americans would have the right to own guns (although those were very different times with more compelling reasons to own guns) no one, and I mean no one, wants to take that right away. But when people get defiant, when defiance overturns adult reason, and to prove a right that no one questions, people insist that they will own as many guns as they want, even guns that are weapons, and they will carry them with them everywhere – then things have gone too far, have been taken to extremes. And when you need a deranged man with no discernible humanity ( a human slot machine, a money bot) to guard the gun gate, those of us who have retained our sanity against all odds don’t know what to do – we are stunned. He manages to turn us away from a rational grownup discussion of how we can keep our guns without killing our children.
Of course this man everyone seems to fear has many allies. Maybe Conservatives have signed another pledge, like the we-will-not-raise-taxes pledge. Maybe no pledge is necessary because money is a powerful force and can be used to extort a kind of loyalty. Do we really want to pit idealistic and innocent children against this cynical verbal fascist. The NRA should get rid of Wayne La Pierre and find a leader who doesn’t foam at the mouth at a hint that there might be a discussion involving guns. I am about to thank Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, a thing I did not believe would ever be necessary. Rick Scott is talking about raising the age for gun ownership to 21 and improving background checks and more. Will he carry through? It sounds like he will. What will Wayne La Pierre do? Will he have a big fat scary conniption fit? Probably. Will Rick Scott lose his A+ rating (I can’t believe that the NRA gives grades to our politicians)? Will he lose the next election? What will that then say about the residents of Florida?
To the young people of Parkland I say that you are touching hearts all over America. It is lucky that you are old enough to speak for yourselves because no one pays attention to the grieving parents. If the 5 years olds at Newtown had been able to use their words as effectively as you have perhaps that would have done the trick. I doubt it. Bots who worship money and power have hearts of stone. Maybe next time we will get a President who will govern for the people, rather than himself and his cronies.