By Kathi Bliss
A friend of mine made an interesting observation on the heels of the school shooting in Oregon this week. She said, “it’s a tragic state of affairs when I can’t even get my feathers ruffled about the latest school shooting…” She then challenged herself – and presumably, everyone she knows – to find a way to make a difference.
Her thought about the situation is pretty well similar to mine. Yes, I’m horrified and disgusted that there has been yet another incident of gun violence at a school. I’m horrified and disgusted by any incident of violence at a school, especially one in which people lose their lives.
But the one thing I can’t seem to do is muster any shock. I almost wish that I could find it within myself to be surprised, but, quite simply, I can’t.
There has to be an answer to this growing national crisis. But to find the answer, I think we have to find the cause, and that’s a place where we seem to be coming up short.
From the parking lot shooting in Tucson, Ariz., to Sandy Hook Elementary, from Columbine High School to Chardon, Ohio, from the University of California – Santa Barbara to Virginia Tech, the only thing these shootings seem to have in common is that the perpetrators have been described, after the fact, as generally maladjusted. Whether hateful or envious, lonesome or angry, it’s not a long jump to say that the common threads between all of these shootings is a sense of entitlement, with a side-order of crazy, followed by a big dose of evil.
Clearly, mass shootings are a societal issue of epic proportions. The fact that so many happen on school campuses just makes the need to address the problem all the more vivid.
Still, I don’t know that tighter gun control restrictions are the answer. Guns are inanimate objects. They only become evil in the hands of those who would use them to do bad things. I think maybe we need to look deeper, at the social issues that have created this epidemic of mass shootings, and the common thread that ties them together.
With very few exceptions, it seems, these shootings take place because the shooters just don’t appear to “belong.” Because they don’t belong, they get angry, and they take that anger out on the people they think have forced them to not belong.
In part, probably, it’s an issue of bullying – another social issue that’s reached an epidemic state… but that’s a conversation for another day. I wonder if part of the cause of this is that we have built a society where we teach our children that “equal opportunities guarantee equal outcomes, despite unequal work.” I feel like we’ve fallen into a mainstream habit of teaching our children that they are all equal, that they do all “belong,” and that each of them should “have it all.”
That belief, quite simply, is false. Everyone CAN “have it all.” But, I don’t think we’re in a healthy place, teaching our children that showing up is good enough; we teach them that all they have to do to get a trophy is show up. When they find that simply showing up isn’t good enough, they learn to resent those that are more successful – better grades, more friends, bigger trophies – because the successful children do more than show up. They show up and get to work.
Another article I read last week, which is even more relevant now as I go through this thought process, was written by a mother who has chosen not to teach her child to share.
She said, while she has taught her son about taking turns, she also imposes a rule that she won’t teach him that he must give up the toy that he’s playing with because someone else wants it. She won’t make him turn off his movie, just because his sister wants to watch something else.
The concept, she said, is a relatively simple one. While she wants her son to learn about kindness and giving to others, she doesn’t want him to learn that someone can take something from him, just because they want to. She also doesn’t want him to learn that he should have something, just because he wants it.
It may sound somewhat trite to draw a correlation between giving up your sandbox shovel to opening fire in a school cafeteria, but I think there is a certain truth in it. For instance, the shooter at UCSB admitted through his “manifesto” that he was planning his crime because he wanted what other people had, and because he felt like they had kept what he wanted away from him.
That begs the question, of course, what had he done to EARN what he wanted? I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know for sure was that he was mad that he didn’t have it, and he decided he was going to take it away – and punish the people that had withheld it.
Columbine. Chardon. Virginia Tech. Same story.
To my mind, this becomes almost a more serious issue than gun control. It’s a matter of impulse control.
I don’t know if returning to a society where we teach children impulse control, where we teach them that it takes more than showing up to succeed… I don’t know if that’s the right answer.
But we have to start somewhere.