Approximately 8 A.M. PST, Troutdale, Oregon fell victim to the most recent chapter in the history of American school shootings. Here’s a news report which provides further detail.My condolences to all those connected and affected by this event; I cannot begin to fathom what this must be like. I’m left with just one question:
Is anyone surprised?
Shocked, horrified, and saddened, sure, but take a step back and ask yourself, are you really surprised? Not likely. We may not know when, where, or why, but school shootings have become disturbingly commonplace in America. It’s a tragic tale that’s been on re-run too many times, leaving countless numbers of families, friends, and communities devastated.
However, this loss is only the beginning of this American Horror Story. The second act hasn’t even begun, but will be in full swing within a week or two. Part two of this repeat debacle is the politicizing to come. We’re all familiar with it; we all know what debate is soon to follow.
For a while now I have wanted to write on this topic. I even spent a few days doing research a couple of months ago in preparation of such a blog that was never written. I have, up until this point, avoided writing at length about such events for many reasons, maybe mostly due to its divisive nature. Other than maybe Obamacare, is there a more politically charged issue in America than the topic of gun rights, gun controls, etc.? I think it’s time I finally wade into this poison water.
This blog was prompted by a lengthy conversation over Twitter with a good friend of mine. Over the past few years, he’s quickly become my favorite political sparring partner. We stand on opposite sides of the “Moderate” line, with him leaning more stereo-typically “Right” and myself, more stereo-typically “Left.” He, born and raised in Texas, while myself born in Michigan, flirted with the South for four years before, like every cheesy romantic movie, realizing I had left my true love behind and quickly returned north.
He and I had discussed this topic on multiple occasions, with generally similar results. However, I’ve slowly come to a perspective on this issue of gun rights/gun control/school shootings/etc. which this particular conversation cemented: Outside of radical suggestions (on both the “Right and “Left” side), neither viewpoint is entirely wrong.
The solution to preventing school shootings is not just addressing the pathetic mental health system in America and the pervasive stigma we, as a nation, have attached to mental illnesses. The solution isn’t consistent and comprehensive nationwide background checks for purchasing guns. The solution isn’t just adding more security guards or school police.
Rather, all of these, and more, combined form the actual solution.
The “solution” to these tragic events involves all of these implemented in concert. We need to overhaul our mental health system and destroy our stigma of mental illness. We need to be more consistent and careful with who can access firearms. We need to provide better security for our youth at school. We need to better fund and prioritize our police to enable them to combat the vast number of illegal firearms. We need to double down on efforts to reduce bullying and abuse within our school.
We need all of these things and more, together, in one package. Just one of these cannot solve the problem. On their own, each only addresses one aspect, while neglecting the complexity. We need a comprehensive effort, featuring all of these pieces, in order to improve our society.
Now, nothing I’ve just said is wildly profound or new. This is nothing more than a rationale perspective on the true complexity of the issue we face in gun violence and school shootings. However, when something is so obvious, it begs the question why hasn’t it happened yet? And this is where Part 2 of the American Horror Story begins.
Gun violence/gun rights/gun control is a heavily politicized issue, with both Democrats and Republicans and in-betweens shamelessly using the deaths of this nations youth to promote their own agendas, or pieces of the puzzle. This, inserted into an increasingly divided political landscape is forming an impossible situation for anything to be accomplished. You would think that the death of American youth would be strong enough to bridge the divide, but it’s not. That simple fact, better than maybe any other, reveals the disturbing reality of our great nation.
So, is that it? Are we stuck, doomed to watch this gut-wrenching re-run over and over again? In our current political and social environment, yeah probably.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I wrote about this a while back when I was addressing another issue. I find it inexcusably infuriating the general attitude many American’s hold toward our nation’s issues. Generally, the response involves this “there’s nothing you can do about it” myth. If we lived in a more authoritarian society, I would have less argument with that, but in a country where we celebrate a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people” it’s nothing more than bitter irony the amount of apathy found here. In a system built to be controlled by the people, change is always possible, but it’s up to the people to make that happen.
We, as a nation, have a serious need to change the narrative to prevent further tragedies from being written within the walls of our schools. With a perennial broken Congress, the change has to start from the bottom, from the people.
Otherwise, it’s just another school shooting.