I was driving through Springfield. I saw the sign for Thurston High School. It reminded me of the shooting there. I struggled to remember the boy’s name. Kit? Kid? Kip. Kip Kinkel. I was driving. I asked my 18 year old to look up the date Kip Kinkel shot up Thurston High School. It was May 20, 1998, nearly twenty years ago. He only killed two, and wounded 25. Then came Columbine with its bloodbath of deaths and it is used as the yardstick against which we measure, and Springfield and Thurston High are largely forgotten, as are so many where only a handful are killed. Shortly after the shooting in Florida, an article was going around on social media challenging the allegation that there have been 18 shootings since the first of the year because in some cases no one died, or in others, the shooting was a suicide. I guess if lots of people don’t die or there isn’t outward hate then it doesn’t matter. What a fucking joke.
After Sandy Hook I wrote Safety is a Straw Man. In it I argued that the reason gun control legislation has nothing to do with safety or infringing on rights really, but the profits of the gun industry. Since I wrote that, a few others have said the same thing, but this topic never really comes to the fore. Those who don’t want control put out their memes on social media claiming guns don’t kill people, people do. Those who want gun control put out their memes about how fucking useless are the platitudes on thoughts and prayers. Meanwhile, the politicians and power mongers do nothing because ultimately they know there isn’t a damn thing the population can do about it. If we could, we would have. They keep their place of power, the gun manufacturers keep making their fortunes, and they all laugh at us fighting with one another on their way to the bank.
Yeah, I’m cynical.
I was in my twenties when a mentally ill 15 year old, white, male killed two children and wounded 25 other people in Springfield. I did not have children yet. Now my oldest daughter is 18 and in college and my youngest in school. I have acquired my teaching degree and license, and I have spent hours learning how to react if a school shooting occurs, all the procedures and codes and charts that are essentially about how not to get murdered and to know how and when to hide. A lot of damn time has passed and still nothing has been done. Calls for action. Horrible, heart-wrenching speeches. Hand wringing. Thoughts and prayers (which, if this shit worked, would have by now, one would think). Nothing changes.
To me all of these mass shootings are just another symptom of the brutal dysfunction of the United States. Everything this country stands for is a lie. Our military bases populate the world because the US is the world’s biggest warmonger (Are there German military bases in the US? Are there Japanese military bases in the US? Then why are our military bases there?). It is the bastard child of the almighty imperialist abusers, and it took the lessons of its forebears to heart. Still to this day if those in power want something they take it. The average citizen might not agree with stealing native American burial grounds for oil, but so what? If those in power want it, they take it, and they have the police and enough citizens to agree with them to get it done. The average citizen might know they are suffering under enormous medical debt, but those in power refuse to give up their profits so we can medically take care of ourselves. Average citizens might not want to blow off the tops of mountains or reroute rivers or kill wolves and polar bears, but those in power want what is under the mountain or the water in the river or the land where the wolves and polar bears live, and they take it. Rugged individualism is the lie that one by one, sitting in our bunkers with our guns, we can thrive. On an individual basis, most people in this country are decent and good, but also damaged and traumatized, and victims of damage and trauma have to spend their time taking care of themselves as best they can. They don’t have the ability or confidence that they can stop the almighty US of A and its narcissistic bullying. They know, have been taught since birth, have been brought up and propagandized to believe there is nothing they can do.
So here we sit, twenty years after a damaged boy damaged countless other lives, and it will happen again and again because hand wringing, thinking, and praying doesn’t stop those in power who take what they want when they want it. Guns make a profit. Controlling those guns will slow that profit and those in power will make sure this never happens. This way of being is a cancer on the soul of an ugly nation and an even uglier civilization with a long, ugly history of taking what it wants when it wants it. That we have a “leader” who symbolizes this isn’t an accident. The individual traumas that go unhealed, the wounds we carry and pass on, have created a collective that has metastasized into a place where children are shot up in schools every week, where children are stolen from their parents because they are brown and then shipped to countries they have never been to, where going to have a broken arm fixed costs a month’s wages, where a month’s wages won’t buy shelter and food, where mountaintops are blown off, where oil is sucked and spilled on the ground, where rivers are rerouted, where men can beat and rape their wives and children, but if those women or children kill them in defense, they will spend their lives in prison, where police murder black people just because they are black and suffer no consequences, where…
I could go on and on. The list is so long, the dysfunction of this culture and this country is so pervasive and complete that it is the norm. It shuts people down. It creates more of the same: rampant, hideous narcissism and the consequential dysfunction and trauma. We can only address it if we bring it down to a much smaller level.
Yesterday I saw an article that told the story of one teacher who is stopping gun violence in schools. She isn’t packing a pistol or learning how to better hide. She isn’t doing anything that is a band aid to the problem created by this sort of violence. Daily, she pays attention to her students. She asks the students who they want to sit with and has them write it down. She also asks the students to write little excerpts about how they are feeling. She then analyzes the information on a regular basis to determine which children are being left out, which children are likely the lonely ones, and she addresses these issues individually. One by one, she is trying to find the children who are hurting or lonely, and then goes to them individually to try and assuage their pain. She is bringing down these problems to an individual level to help and heal pain. It isn’t easy, but why should this kind of work be easy?
All of us can do this. In each moment, we can react to that moment, and work not to react to previous moments of pain. Anyone who isn’t so stuck in their own pain and trauma can help those who are. Those who are stuck in pain and trauma can try to heal themselves so that they don’t create pain and trauma for others. We can resist the tyranny of this culture in every way possible. I’m not trying to offer platitudes and comfort for the downtrodden in a single blog post, but I do believe that if enough people stopped hand wringing and blaming and participating in a culture that creates isolation, rage, and damage, we can make some small difference, and this has to be better than what we have now.