I’m not one to use this blog much for political grandstanding. With the occasional exception of complaining that my vote was not counted and a record of joining up (and breaking up) with Occupy Wall Street last year, the Activism part of Reverse Retrograde has almost always been on a personal level. Cut down my own spending and consumption. Buy only ethically-sourced makeup. Consignment-only fashion.
Days were necessary for me to decide what to say (if anything) about the school shooting at Sandy Hook. In all honesty, I hoped to temper my immediate visceral reaction with a few days of digesting and preparing to react. I felt my reaction wouldn’t be complete until I had taught my own students, and realized how much older than the tiny victims they all are. I hoped for some objectivity.
I may have failed. Today I stumbled upon this video on Youtube, and I was struck by it.
Three presidents, three school shootings, three speeches. Yet in the thirteen years since Columbine, those years which saw me grow up and formed the foundation for my adult life…almost nothing about how we deal with these tragedies has changed. Not even the words from the presidents. Most of us who grew up in the US during this period could probably rattle off a speech for reacting to a shooting verbatim, because we’ve heard them so many times.
We’ve seen at least 179 school shootings in the United States since April 1999. One hundred. Seventy. Nine. Not all of those shootings involved deaths, and thus many have been forgotten or ignored. Only a handful have made it onto the national stage.
The words of these three presidents mean absolutely nothing if they are not reinforced by concrete actions, and frankly we’ve all failed each other in the last thirteen years. How could we allow 179 examples of attempted or successful cold-blooded murder in our schools to change nothing about how we react to and move on from shootings? We can’t even truly have a national conversation about this, because it’s never the right time to have a dialogue about guns.
I suppose that’s a somewhat unfair assessment. The reaction has changed. People like Mike Huckabee have decided that it’s their place to tell us exactly why children died in a primary school, deciding that he alone is the mouthpiece for the divine.
People like Huckabee are doing the same as all the rest of us, grasping at any possible explanation for the slaughter so that we might not have to face the random and unpredictable nature of school and other mass shootings. If we could only blame “God’s exit from society” or contraceptives, or abortion, or gay marriage, or violence in movies, or values, or rock and roll, or feminism, or gun control, or WalMart, or any one thing…we wouldn’t have to place the blame where it truly belongs.
We have no one to blame for these shootings but ourselves.
If we are willing to sacrifice children as young as six to the Liberty we cling to in our guns, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If we stand by Newtown as we stood by Littleton and Blacksburg, but make no real effort to change gun and mental health access in the United States, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If we allow the hollow words of a president to convince us that enough is being done, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Make no mistake: This can and will happen again if real change is not enacted.
I can’t stand another thirteen years of this. I can’t stand a single death more. I can’t stand the thought that I can’t walk into a movie theater or a school in the United States without that tiny voice in the back of my mind whispering, “Know your exits. If the shooter comes in the back, where will you go?” I can’t stand the thought of sending a child of mine into the ever-present possibility of violence.
This has to stop. The only chance we have is to start placing blame where it belongs, and transforming that realization into real and lasting change. I don’t pretend to have any answers, but I know that the first steps have to be taken now, before the memory fades away and we forget until the next time. Start the conversation. Start taking action.
This time, we must change.