The New School Shooters
I was looking on the web for an entry point into the subject of American gun violence in schools. I typed into The Google “school shootings”, and trusty Wikipedia curates a list of them going all the way back to the 1840s, sorted by decade. I thought the breadth of the information was curious enough. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how much longer the entries became as I scrolled the decades. Once you get to the 1980s, the frequency jumps. And it spikes upward yet again at the turn of the century. This decade’s list is almost as long as the one preceding it and we still have nearly a year to go.
Anybody looking at the progression will no doubt ask: what the hell is going on here?
I have a sociology degree, but I have not studied this topic. I did study it peripherally in a class about murder-I can’t say I took much from it, I think it was one of those eight week summer quickies-but we were all treated to alarming numbers about how much murder and what type was going down in America. I think I remember that in 2015, there were approximately 14,000 gun deaths. I remember this particularly because we spent a day at the college putting approximately 14,000 chalk tally marks on the sidewalk running from our classroom to the main campus building to show other students and ourselves what that number of people gunned down looked like represented physically. It’s a lot more trenchant when you have to take it all in at once.
Bottom line, it’s plain to anybody that there’s a problem in America regarding lethal weapons going back further than some of us have been alive. But the death epidemic has become supercharged in recent decades. Why?
I could take a stab or two. Obviously, being armed at one point was something of a commandment, enshrined in our Constitution. But we are worlds away from the exigency of needing to own a rifle, having completed our manifest destiny by killing or driving out the competition. Our direst existential threats are far across the ocean now, where we have a standing army to fight over there so we don’t have to fight here, as they always say. Our dicksmack “president” even wants to wall off our southern flank, and the Canucks are cool because they are white. So really, the list of the reasons for needing firearms is rather short and getting shorter. You will not be called up to the militia because of Indians or redcoats, or mounties. Oh, sure, someday there might be a need for you to go to war because of Selective Service, but even that is unlikely due to the large aforementioned standing force-and I assure you will be given a quick tutorial on how to shoot straight and be well regulated before they make cannon fodder out of you. And how likely is another Hitler? What world are we living in where we have to be on guard for that shit again? We won World War Two for the right to end the next Hitler with a button on a joystick, there won’t be any storming of the beach type shit. To put a fine point on it, today’s battlefields could not have been imagined by the founders no matter what the case. Marching in formation with arms is ceremony, not doctrine. Everything is asymmetric these days, the battle manuals are being either thrown out or rewritten as we learn how to do successful counterterrorism with irregular enemies.
To wit: you don’t need a gun. Chances are, you just want one because you like them, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But the Second Amendment’s practical use is quaint, much like the one proceeding it regarding the quartering of soldiers with citizens. And the one about twenty dollar common law suits. And don’t get me started on the parts of it that we don’t observe any more because of the creeping evolution of a police state here like the loss of habeas corpus, right to assemble, cruel and unusual punishment, the permanence of constant surveillance, and excessive bail. I didn’t see any of you Stratalounger-bound ‘Muricans with a safe full of carbines going all Daniel Shays while that stuff was happening. A lot of the Constitution, like it or not, is optional.
If you think for a minute that you need that gun to stop the government from taking your rights, you are late to the party. If you think you need it to shoot “antifa” or protect the babies from the abortion providers, you ought to be on a list of people who can’t have a gun because you are not civil. You can typically summon police in minutes if you are the victim of a bandit, one who likely got his or her weapon due to lax gun control, so that argument is mostly out the window. The fact is, “freedom” and being armed are of course not the same thing, but we somehow conflate these concepts, even when we have no evidence that we are freer because we have stopping power handy. I think people feel independent by owning a firearm (and boy howdy, do we love our Independence!), but that doesn’t mean they are. It’s the illusion of security-after all, any given situation has a higher chance of becoming ipso facto more lethal if someone brings a lethal weapon to a situation, So technically, you are less safe if you pack.
None of this logic ever finds its way into the minds of our lawmakers, especially those of a right-wing bent. That’s largely because of the way we fund our lawmakers’ campaigns. Now that just about anything can donate anything to anybody thanks to the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision on the limits of campaign finance law, candidates are desperately vying for the necessary donations to fund what are almost always multimillion dollar campaigns. And in today’s America, where so much wealth is concentrated upwards, it’s much easier to take a fat check from a corporation or a PAC or a lobby group like the NRA or what have you than to hope for thousands of small donations from serfs like you and I. This is the primary reason that our representatives don’t often represent us anymore; we can’t afford pay to play. I don’t know how or when that is going to get any better because we are in something of a peculiarly fascistic downspiral in the United States, both economically and socially and I don’t know exactly how the next bars of this song go even though someone somewhere has written the tune several times. All I know is that I am glad that it’s a classless, clueless dolt like Donald Trump setting fire to everything than a clandestine, calculated thug like a Vladimir Putin.
So what I’m really on about is what the hell is happening in fucking Indiana where teachers are getting “executed” with pellets during school shooting “drills” , something I imagine their M.A. did not cover.
Listen up, folks. I went into the Army not once, but twice. Basic training is interesting, but survivable hell. It’s quite the psychological (and physical) gauntlet. Yes, I did have live rounds going over my head while I low-crawled under barbed wire. I got choked out in a CS gas chamber. Hell, I had to do that a lot of times in my nine year stint. I threw a live grenade. But at no time was I ever “shot” with anything except laser beams in training, and if I was to “die”, it was at the hands of someone who got the jump on me by saying something like “powpowpowpow you’re dead”, just like kids horsing around. Sometimes you would discharge a blank but never, ever at close range. No pellets or BBs. Know why? It’s fucking dangerous and your math teacher shouldn’t have to be scared shitless or come home marked up.
Think about it. Somewhere, educators are probably getting more bruises, both physically and psychologically than I did in basic military training. And my benefits were and remain top shelf. In today’s climate of worker contempt, I doubt the same is true of whoever is teaching my/your kids right now. Unions are being decimated and at the same time teachers are being taught to take a bullet or kill someone, likely without the requisite pay bump for the extra work. There is something deeply amiss within the soul of this country where our killers warrant more respect than our teachers. Doubtless each respective job deserves a doff of the cap by the rest of the smart patrol. But the disciplines should remain separate. Defending is a full time job, and so is education. It’s irresponsible to mix the two at the very least, and seriously unlikely that scads of future teachers are going to carry both skill sets. And let’s not forget about the accidental discharges from bumbling armed educators.
Someone my wife knows thought it was abusive to put a teacher through this type of drill. I didn’t stop there. I think it’s terrorism.
We’ll forget soon how swiftly New Zealand acted once deadly weapons and a murderous soul found each other in Christchurch recently. We’ll keep hurting teachers until good people just don’t want the job anymore. And we won’t do bupkiss about gun control here while that list I linked above gets longer and longer except offer stale thoughts and prayers without attacking the real problem; the easy availability of a handheld weapon of mass destruction to a public whose character, long in question, has become decidedly unstable.