Once again, the news of the recent school shooting in Ohio leaves me wanting to run outside screaming at the top of my lungs. Since that behavior would probably scare my neighbors and get me arrested for disturbing the peace, I’m screaming here. And just so you know, I’m not screaming at YOU, I’m yelling in general, out of frustration and anger and sadness at lives cut short, and the disturbing fact that gun violence could happen to any one of us at any time and that scares me.
When on earth is this going to change? When will gun laws and gun control and other reasonable preventative measures that can be done to protect EVERYONE, including children in school, actually come to pass? Has there not been enough senseless tragedy? I’m exasperated.
Perhaps you’re already aware of the Brady Campaign. If not, today is a good day to check out what they do. The statistics might shock you. If you’re able, please consider making a donation, even a few dollars to the cause to help prevent gun violence, to help change the laws, to educate the public on the dangers of guns. From the Brady Campaign website:
Feb. 27, 2012, Washington, D.C.—Brady Campaign Acting President Dennis Henigan today released a statement in response to the news that four students had been shot and one killed allegedly by a fellow classmate this morning at Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio.
“Our nation has been shocked once again by the reality of gunfire at yet another American school. Our hearts go out to the families of the young people killed and injured in the Ohio shooting. When parents cannot send their teenagers to school with any assurance they will return home safely at the end of the day, we have a serious gun violence problem that our political leaders must address. It is simply too easy for young people to get their hands on deadly weaponry. It is long past time for us to address this issue as an urgent national concern.”
Why does America lead the world in school shootings? By Dr. Frank Ochberg, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University and former Associate Director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
How did a 17 year old student get a .22 caliber handgun they say was used in this shooting? Was his father a violent man, arrested and charged with, among other things, attempted murder, approximately 10 years ago? Reports say so. T.J. Lane would have been around 7 back then. Impressionable no doubt. What did he witness growing up? All these little details, and yet, no one could see this coming apparently. Maybe we just haven’t heard from the people who might have seen warning signs. Maybe there are those who tried to prevent this, but couldn’t.
Anyway, so as not to speculate too much on what is not confirmed or known fact, I will leave all that to reporters and journalists. This is just my opinion. If any of this true, is it really a shock that a young man, a teen, who maybe was bullied, who maybe was an outcast, who maybe didn’t have friends, who maybe was a loner, whose father had a violent history including abuse of women, is it really so shocking that if he was in any way disturbed, or mentally ill, or who knows, grew up exposed to violence on a regular basis–and who had access to a gun, is it really that surprising that he would one day use a gun to kill?
Yes, there are plenty of children who survive broken homes, violence, abuse, horrifying existences, and they grow up and don’t kill anyone. But there will always be some, who for many reasons, complicated life events, circumstances, mental illness, whatever the unique set of emotional, psychological, and environmental factors that make up a person’s life, they will not be for a variety of reasons, ever caught or saved in time. They may not receive the correct mental health treatment, or even a diagnosis, or a proper evaluation. They will fall through the many cracks in the many systems in our country that are broken, in tragic disrepair. And those lost souls who are hurting, for whatever reason, for many reasons, will eventually snap. If they have access to a gun, they will use it on others, or on themselves, or both. And people will die and people will be injured. The targets: People who may have bullied him, people who did nothing but walked past, or looked at him, or stood three inches to the left or right,or it may be random, anyone who stands before him as he walks by with a loaded gun. People will be hurt. Some will die. This shooting now has three confirmed student deaths.
This will never end until enough Americans are outraged and speak up and do something to make it change. But we are all busy fighting endless asinine battles now, aren’t we? As if just living and getting through each day with work, family, and so on isn’t enough. There are battles to fight on every front it seems. The Republican war on women and reproductive rights and right to choose and be sovereign over our own bodies. It is diverting our energies and focus from these wars on our children who cannot go to school in safety and peace. The ongoing war on pretty much everyone who is not wealthy, white or male. I must sign 5 petitions or more every day. Trying to do my part to save endangered animals, the environment, Planned Parenthood, etc. The list is endless. But all these battles have to be won. So, I will do one thing today. One thing, every day that I’m able to.
I see common threads with all this. There is an overall BULLY mode coming from the republican Party. From the right-wing religious fanatics. From people in positions of power, from the very wealthy who fund frightening politicians. From people who don’t care about one another. Yes, people have risen up. The movement to fight back and reclaim and take back and Occupy is at work; countless organizations and individuals working hard every day to make life better for ALL AMERICANS. This is just one more cause, one that ties into how we treat each other, how we can maybe work to change things for the better.
So, what can we do today? Check out the Brady Campaign. While we don’t know if bullying had anything to do with this shooting, it continues to be an epidemic in this country, so let’s also continue to do something about that. Today you can sign a petition to get a PG-13 rating for a new film, BULLY coming out at the end of March. And please read this. Why? Because the MPAA has given it an R rating, meaning it cannot be screened in the place it should be seen the most, in our schools. It’s ridiculous. Please sign this if you can.
Lastly, for the parents of young children, it is never too early to teach our children alternatives to physical, aggressive actions as a means to resolve conflict. The message of non violence is one that a child needs to hear every single day. Kids need to see it practiced at home and everywhere you go that your child sees you. Does this mean one should never show anger in front of your kids? Absolutely not. It means everyone needs to learn to identify their feelings; to learn to say, “I’m angry!” And be guided as to how to manage the anger in a constructive way. I’m reposting the piece I wrote about Bullying Behavior for Sesame Workshop for some additional tips and ways to manage bullying behavior in the preschool crowd.
I wish that there could be an overwhelming majority in the United States of America that wakes up tomorrow morning with a giant light bulb over head and declares, NO MORE. Followed by swift immediate and non partisan government action that changes things and ends this outrage once and for all. I wish the majority would finally understand that guns and ammunition have no business being so easy to get or purchase, as if they were eggs or milk. And I’m sick and tired of schools (and families, communities, you name it) somehow being under the false impression that this can never happen in their school or their town or their neighborhood. This can and does happen all over the US. In schools, on streets, in stores, at the workplace, in homes. It happens and it will continue to happen, tragically, again and again.
If anyone reading this today, can do one thing to stand up against gun violence, just one thing, it will make a difference. It may feel hopeless. But if we do one thing, there is hope and possibility for change in the simple act of taking action. One click to sign. One click to donate. One click to share with someone else. Maybe eventually we will change the laws, and minds of others who feel we should all be walking around armed and dangerous. For the families who are now grieving over their lost children Daniel Parmetor, Russel King Jr., and Demetrius Hewlin, and those hoping the injured survive, I think it’s the least we can do.
I leave you with another parenting perspective from KJ D’ell Antonia at the Motherlode. If nothing else, there is certainly an opportunity to think about all this, to talk to and even more importantly, LISTEN to what kids have to say about their lives, what hurts them, and what they care about. I think they need our help, even as they push us away.