On School Safety, Guns, and Us…

I’m writing this to sort things out in my own head. Today, the son of my cousin went to school with his normal head-load of issues. I’m not totally sure of it all, but — in addition to school subjects and being a teenager, I think he has trouble with change and he doesn’t particularly like people. So, in addition to four things making his life more complex, some idiot added a fifth today by shooting up his school, and dying at the hands of a gun-using school resource officer. I want to change the debate to terms that make sense to me: sin, freedom, community, and our responsibility to one another. Politics, it seems to me, asks the wrong questions and therefore, yields the wrong answers.

I don’t know how my cousin, or the community she and her son live in, feel about guns, so I will not claim to speak for her. Personally, I hate guns when they are used to huntpeople. It doesn’t much matter if it’s a handgun, a rifle, or a sub-machine gun. My grandfather hunted most of his life, and fired 1 million rounds in his 30 years as a gun tester at Remington Arms. He had a giant bullet trophy in his living room when I was young, so I know. His idea of fun on a Saturday afternoon was to go to the Rod and Gun Club in town and shoot skeet, so I understand there are safe gun owners, or there used to be. My grandfather stopped hunting in the woods near his house in about 1972, because there were two many idiots out there who would shoot at anything that moved. Shoot first, ask questions later. It was a stupid idea with deadly consequences then. It hasn’t gotten any better since. It seems to me that his was a different day, when people respected forces more powerful than them — oceans, storms, and bullets come to mind first among them. When people started thinking they were more powerful or more important than nature is the day that death came to America. When ego overcame reality, reality, not surprisingly, fought back and continues to not give in. This is the sin of pride and we make mistakes as soon as we indulge in it.

Jimi Hendrix once said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, we’ll have peace”. He’s right. What do we chase? Power. Not internal self-esteem, but power over others. My grandfather was a man. He peed standing up. He put in his pants one leg at a time. He knew he was a man, so he didn’t need to prove it. When men use a gun to impress you with how powerful they are (we don’t have a lot of women mass-shooters), they tend to pretend that gun is their penis. It makes them feel manly. My grandfather kept his penis in his pants. Using a gun to prove your manliness is idolatry: you are substituting a representative object for the real thing. Idolatry is a sin. If someone thinks a gun makes them manly, or proves how manly they are, they are already mixed up. Mixed up people shouldn’t have guns.

Killing, (actually murder, or intentional killing), is wrong. It’s in the 10 commandments. All those Bible thumpers who enshrine the 10 Commandments need to remember that when they think the NRA’s thoughts on AR-15s is the right way to go. Killing is a sin. Here’s the problem: in America, we don’t take sin seriously. We’re number 1! There is no sin! We’re above sin! We’re number 1… except that we’re not anymore. Not in much of anything. We don’t live in reality. We live in image — the image of propaganda and sales. If we were above sin, if we lived in reality, kids wouldn’t be getting shot at school.

So, let’s acknowledge sin — that there’s a part of us that gets it wrong, that makes nasty, petty, or violent choices. And when we acknowledge that, the simple reality of that, let us make laws and regulations that say that we don’t want to make anger permanent, or psychosis real, or vengeance a value of ours. There are those who say, “You can’t legislate morality”. In fact, morality is the only thing worth regulating , especially when we’re this far from where we should be, when it becomes a life-and death issue. That’s where we’re at.

That said, school safety is about more than guns, as I’m coming to understand. For instance, there are ways you can build a school, and certain materials will make the place safer — bullet proof glass, for instance. Certain designs of buildings make school safer regardless of how crazy the person is. That would be possible to implement — if we supported our schools with real funding. We don’t. If it’s a bomb, it gets money. If it’s a student or a school, it doesn’t. When we’re willing to actually prioritize education enough to fund it, our schools will become safer. Any time we want to decide to do that, I’ll be happy. Until then, no.

A couple more points, from friends. My Facebook post about the shooting brought out many sad faces. At first, only one friend — one who works for peace — used an “angry” emoticon . As the days go by, more and more angry faces show up. We should be angry that this continues to go on, even as people organize against it this week, as Congress hasn’t refuses to deal with the issue. I’m writing this because I’m angry about kids dying. Let my cousin be sad. She has every reason to be. Let the people of St. Mary’s County be sad. They have faced tragedy. I may get to that later, but right now I’m angry. I’m sick of seeing traumatized children grow up to be traumatized or traumatizing adults. As a therapist, I have more clients than I can handle now. I don’t need more.

Oh, speaking of that, we need more therapists, and more therapists need to be paid, so if somebody could make that happen, that would be great. If we’re going to create monsters, we should have some way to fix them as well… preferably before they shoot up a school. One more thing on mental health: Chuck Grassley and Donald Trump and anyone who supported giving guns back to mentally ill people ought to be ashamed of themselves. Have they fixed that mistake yet by re-instituting that law? I don’t think so. Vote them out!

Next, my friend Joe Roberts said it’s about kids getting revenge for being bullied. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that bullying destroys lives. People who have been hollowed out by years of abuse begin to feel they have nothing to live for, and they’re angry enough about the abuse, they don’t care if they die and they’re sure as hell going to take someone with them into that “great beyond”. Whether there’s a direct correlation between bullying and mass shooting or not, bullying is wrong, it hurts, and it must be stopped. Hollowed out children are no fun. We should stop making them that way.

Lastly, as I said already, we need to fund mental health services, so that the wounded in all of this can get un- wounded. Until we do that, our schools will never be safe. Also, something that covers physical trauma, like universal health care would be nice. Do kids who get shot and have no insurance get what they need, even if it’s not their fault. I don’t know, but I suspect not.

All of this is about priorities and will. So let’s get our priorities straight and use our will to make laws that care about people more than guns.

There. I think I got it all out now. I feel clearer, and thus, better. How about you?

Resisting with Peace,

John

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