Scary and Sad Times!
Being that I spent two decades of my life as high school teacher, the news of school shootings hits a cord deep within me and triggers many of my own memories of living in fear of it happening while I was teaching. I reached a point in my career where I made a habit of closing my classroom door and placing a door jam at the bottom at the beginning of each class period as to buy us all a bit more time in case an angry gunman on a mission to kill showed up. The most recent shooting at a Florida high school evoked such strong emotion in me that I felt compelled to write this article as a way to get negative feelings out of my body and onto paper and share them with others who might care to listen and have similar concerns.
Now, I am not up to speed on all the exact statistics surrounding school shootings. It is a topic that I choose not to follow too closely because it is so depressing and triggering to me. But, I recently read an article posted by USA Today that stated:
“Since Columbine in 1999, there have been 25 fatal, active school shootings at elementary and high schools in America."
These are saddening, staggering, and disturbing statistics.
Is this a totally accurate stat? I don't know. It could be lower but it also might be higher than this. Regardless, we all know one thing for sure and that is that mass shootings in the U.S. (especially in schools) have become the norm more than the exception. And, the point of this post is not about exact stats.
I am the first to admit that the laws surrounding the purchase of weapons need to be way more strict than they currently are. Obtaining a weapon should NOT be as easy it is. And, rapid fire, assault weapons need to be ban from public purchase all together. This is a no brainer.
Gun Laws (or lack thereof) are NOT the Core Issue Here!
That said, however, blaming the fact that mass shootings (especially within schools) have become the rule rather than the exception on the ease of obtaining a weapon is utterly ridiculous, naive, and irresponsible. Yet, remaining naive seems to have become the norm when it comes to addressing the unspeakable acts of violence that are happening around us on a continual basis.
Furthermore, many mass shootings have been done with weapons that were obtained illegally. If a person reaches a mental and emotional space to where they decide upon committing unspeakable crimes, they will find a way to do it regardless of being able to easily purchase a weapon or not.
What Has Changed!?
I think back on my own childhood during the 70's and 80's and my father, who liked to hunt from time to time, had 6 unlocked rifles in his closet. Many of my friends’ fathers also had them. Additionally, bullying (while not to the extent of today) happened. It happened within my large "Catholic" family and it happened at school. Yet, mass shootings as they are happening so readily today were far from the norm. In fact, I had never heard of one until Columbine happened in 1999.
The BIGGER question that needs to be asked (outside of gun reform) is what are DEEPER level factors at play bringing out the absolute worst, inhumane, and evil side of people?
I am certainly no sociologist or human behavior expert but it does not take one to do a simple comparison and contrast between current times and times of much less violence.
Since I grew up in 70's and 80's this will be my point of reference for the comparison. Here is what stands out to me as a list of factors that were NOT true (or perhaps as true) in my time but are true NOW. These are the factors that I feel our nation needs to make a focal point when considering how to address acts of violence.
1. The state-of-affairs of our current health paradigm (especially mental health) where instead of digging deep into root causes and truly helping people heal their bodies, minds, and spirits, the practice of medicine is much more along the lines of "a pill for every ill."
2. A culture of blame and victimhood! Most people (and I have done this myself at times in my life) do not take 100% full responsibility for their lives but rather seek to blame others and factors outside of themselves for their current life situation. This in itself breeds low self esteem and puts us in a mental and emotional state to want others to feel our pain.
3. A toxic food supply riddled with growth hormones, toxic chemicals, and RX drug residue along with horrific dietary/lifestyle habits. What we eat has a TON to do with mental and emotional health. When I was a teacher I was sickened by what I saw the kids eating and drinking on their own accord and what was being served in the cafeteria; yet nobody else seemed to care; including many parents. The minute I engaged in discussion around the relationship between nutrition and behavior I was either laughed off or taken aside and spoken to about that not being an appropriate topic to discuss within the school setting. How the hell is nutrition NOT an appropriate topic!?
4. Insanely violent video games where the goal is to rape women, kill as many people as possible, and blow things up. And, these video games are being played online with strangers from all over the world. Kids are staying up until wee hours of the morning doing so. I vividly recall one year, hundreds of parents purposely calling their kids in late to school so they could stand in line to buy one of these video games when it was first released. REALLY!!!!!!?????? Where are the priorities here?
5. Keeping up the Joneses mentality; which is leading to an overly fast paced society with not enough down time. Both adults and children are being spread WAY TOO THIN for the sake of pressure to participate in every sport/activity/club, live in homes that people can't afford, drive lavish cars beyond personal budgets, etc. This climate is predisposing everyone to be in a continual state of contraction with a "punch now ask for forgiveness later" mentality. In other words, most people live a predominate state of fight of flight where they do not have access to the part of their brain that allows them to be the best versions of themselves.
6. The fact that many kids do not have at least one parent home most of the time because their parents are spread too thin and must work their asses off to keep up with the Joneses.
7. Lack of mindfulness, moral, and character education to teach kids coping skills, how to be kind and compassionate towards one another, and emotional intelligence to go along with exponentially increasing stress levels.
8. Not enough support for troubled, emotionally unhealthy kids; or adults for that matter. America's classrooms are riddled with them to the point of exhausting the classroom teachers who attempt to provide support to them amidst also trying to teach the other 27-32 kids in the classroom the "mandated curriculum." Furthermore, school counselors are also greatly overburdened by the magnitude of this issue with often having more than 500 students in their case load. Troubled kids (and adults) on the verge of committing heinous crimes are slipping through the cracks of the current system.
9. The fact that kids of today are being rescued repeatedly for unacceptable behavior instead of being left to experience the natural consequences of their actions or provided with proper intervention. I have many memories of this happening during my 19 years in the classroom but one memory stands out more than others. I asked a boy (age 17) to take his ear buds out of his ears so that he could hear the daily lesson. His response was to throw his desk at me and scream, "I will not remove my headphones and you have no power to make me do so. Suck my dick you fucking bitch". The only consequence and intervention on the school's behalf for this boy was a two-day suspension (aka: vacation at home). Yet, I was questioned up and down about what I may have done to trigger such behavior in him. Mind you, this boy was dealing with the immense stress of living with an alcoholic father and his parents were going through a brutal divorce. He was placed back into my classroom after this, where I proceeded to teach in fear of him for the rest of the year. One day he walked up to me, glared at me with seemingly black eyes and said "I am watching every fucking move you make!". I brought this to the attention of school officials and guidance counselors and NOBODY SEEMED TO HAVE THE ENERGY TO CARE! NOTHING MORE WAS DONE. I was told "Jen, it sounds like you may be reading into things too much. The student has to actually engage in violent behavior for us to do anything more. Besides, do you have proof that he said those words to you?" Years later, long after I had left the education arena, I had learned that this same boy beat a young, female convenient clerk near to death somewhere in Florida because she would not give him a case of beer for free.
10. The fact that teachers are given little to no respect and have very little (if any) power within their own classrooms when kids do act out. Many teachers live in fear of their jobs and being sued if they even speak strongly to a student for unruly or disrespectful behavior. Teachers tip toe around trouble makers and don't speak out simply because if they do, they will be held responsible in some way for the kid's poor behavior.
11. Lawsuit happy parents that threaten to sue school districts for holding their kids accountable for unspeakable behavior. This ties into the victim mindset and culture of blame mentioned earlier. It seems to be popular practice to blame others and want them to pay in some when things go awry with a kid rather than work cooperatively to figure out the best course of action.
12. Overuse of technology and the fact that instead of kids (and adults) interacting with one another (which is a BIG part of learning how to properly engage in society), kids have their faces buried in cell phones and/or tablets all day long. For God’s sake! This is beginning with babies.
13. The fact that people's brains and central nervous systems are being bombarded by dangerous amounts of EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) 24/7. This will only get worse once 5G network and mandatory smart meters for all are rolled out and in full play.
14. Babies being shot up with 4-5x the amount of vaccines containing dangerous chemicals than they were 40-50 years ago. These vaccines contain all sorts of neuro-toxic compounds that begin to alter the immune system at a very deep level; outside of most people's awareness.
15. Cyber bullying and kids posting horrific things on FB without being penalized or held accountable in anyway. There should be tasks forces with the sole job of monitoring what people (especially troubled kids) are posting on FB. Many times, their posts contain warning signs of what is to come.
16. Moldy, water-damaged school buildings that are contributing to the toxins that kids and adults working in the schools are exposed to. Mold is a neuro-toxin that causes all sorts of health problems; but particularly neurological issues. The high school that I worked in most of my career had visible water stains on the ceiling and during the spring rains, janitors would place trash cans around the building to catch the water that was leaking through the ceilings. One year, the carpet in the teachers' offices got totally flooded yet it was never replaced. There was always an underlying mildewy smell until the day I left.
Once again, stricter gun purchasing laws are ONLY one tiny part of this immense crisis we are facing!!!
In closing, I am not sure how to best address the issues that I have listed nor do I feel this is a complete list. I'm sure there are many other factors playing into creating a culture that fosters violence, disrespect, and lack of regard for life - and drives some to commit unspeakable acts. To unravel this web of violence we would all have to come together as a nation and commit to taking steps toward shifting our current landscape.
Until that happens, I feel our best bet is to begin with our personal journeys and make it a priority to be keep ourselves healthy (in body, mind, and spirit), cultivate a climate of love and acceptance within our own homes and families, and strive to always treat others with the same level of compassion, respect, and inclusion that we would like to be treated. And, remind ourselves on a regular basis that the people in our lives and the ones we encounter along the way that are hardest to love are often the ones that need it the most!
God Bless Humanity!