Yesterday, another horrific act of violence occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Another school shooting. The three words in the previous sentence should never be strung together yet they are becoming so frequent we’ve begun to be numb to them. An “unspeakable tragedy”, the headlines read. I think it’s time we all start speaking about it. I’m adding my voice. I don’t know what else to do.
I still remember where I was when I heard the news from Columbine in 1999. It was April and I was in Eugene for my sister’s wedding. My mom had passed the previous month. I was standing in Bath and Body Works in Valley River Center and I remember feeling, in that moment, relief that she was not still on the earth to hear the news. Up to that point in my life, it was the most horrific act I had ever heard of in present society outside of acts of war. Since then we’ve heard of countless acts of gun violence in schools and I can’t say I remember where I was when any of them occurred. Then came the tragedy in Newtown in December of 2012 when all of our hearts broke. I remember, all too clearly, watching the news that day. I remember the excruciating wait to pick up my girls from kindergarten at the Montessori school a mere three blocks from my house and the forced smiles and cheerfulness of all the parents that day who had all heard the news but desperately wanted to shield the kids from knowing anything about it. I was relieved they were not at an elementary school yet because their chances of hearing about it were far less than if they were surrounded by older kids. I remember not speaking of it with any of my friends, ever, because it was unbearable. I also remember writing the following rant (for lack of a better word). I wanted to post it on my blog at the time but didn’t. It isn’t all that eloquent, it is a rant after all, but I still feel the same.
Got a little fired up today. I am having a really hard time understanding why we have become so accepting of violence in our society. I’m talking specifically about what we choose to entertain ourselves with (and by “we”, I don’t mean me because I don’t find it entertaining). There’s a whole lot of talk and politicking going on about gun control and I agree it needs to be addressed. No one but our police and military needs assault rifles. Period. But I really feel like we are missing the bigger issue. I can’t write about the horrific event in Newtown. I can’t possibly know what the victims’ families are going through and I won’t insult them with my speculation. I can, however, write about the shameful and complacent acceptance of violence as entertainment in our society. I think the violence in video games, tv, and movies has risen to a ridiculous and very dangerous level. I find it very disturbing that my children are protected from seeing naked bodies and hearing foul language on network television, however, it’s perfectly ok for them to be exposed to extreme violence in a commercial during a Sunday afternoon football game. Obviously, I don’t want my children exposed to either but, given the choice, I would much rather explain a sexual act or swear word on tv than having to explain why that scary man is going after someone with a chainsaw. I mean, I realize there are many dark issues that can come up with sex but at least, in it’s purest form, it is based on a loving act and provides pleasure. Violence is based on hate, fear, rage, revenge, and it results in injury and death. Yet, it’s a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment and apparently we are just fine exposing our children to it and then we wonder why a teenage kid, compromised by psychosis and complete lack of empathy, thinks it might be cool to see what it’s like to play out the video game in real life, with real people. You can’t tell me there’s not a connection there.
Like I said, maybe not eloquent but I still feel the same. It’s been a little over five years since I wrote that and things have only gotten worse. Add the disconnection that occurs when kids are addicted to their phones and the cyber-bullying so prevalent on social media and we have an epidemic on our hands. There are countless articles stating the rise in depression among teens and even younger kids today.
I can usually see both sides of an issue but I have a very hard time understanding the minds of people who oppose tougher gun laws in the face of such heartwrenching tragedy. These are our children. I’ll even go (far) out on a limb and say maybe it won’t help. But shouldn’t we go ahead and find out? Who exactly are we protecting?
Add your voice, it matters. I know I’ve waited a long time to add mine. Call or write your political representatives. Support your kid’s teachers, they need it now more than ever.
Talk to your kids. Cry with your kids. Pray with your kids, whether it’s through religion or simply sending good thoughts out into the world. Go out in nature with your kids. Stay in and watch a really funny movie with your kids. Preach kindness to your kids. Above all, stay connected. They may act indifferent but I promise it’s what they crave. We all do.
The families and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida will be in our nightly prayers. We haven’t actually had nightly prayers in a really long time, we’re not a religious family, but it’s time to start. It’s time to put as much positive light and love out there as we can. I don’t know what else to do.