I had a fun post all planned about my favorite things of 2012 (a la Oprah), but that just seems silly and trivial in light of the events of yesterday. I'll save it for later when I'm less infuriated by the world.
Everyone has something to say about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. I'm no different. Normally, I like to keep quiet about my political leanings, but I feel like this is an issue I am passionate enough about to risk losing a few Facebook friends or Twitter followers. So here goes.
Something has to change.
I was a freshman in college when a couple of jerks thought it would be fun to shoot up their high school. Columbine was enough to make me waver in my decision to become a high school teacher. What, exactly, was I getting into? I wanted to share my love of reading and writing with students, not deal with things like Code Lockdown and worry about which kids were exhibiting warning signs.
But still I pursued a future of teaching because I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
Fast forward to the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 when a mentally ill individual shot and killed 32 people. He took the time to write a manifesto to release to news stations, along with photos of him posing with firearms. He carefully planned the whole thing, knowing that he'd become a celebrity (albeit a much-hated one) for what he'd done.
I, along with everyone else, lamented the loss of life. I changed my Facebook picture to a black ribbon emblazoned with "VT." I worried about the direction of our society and whether I could remain a teacher with the constant nagging thought that someone could burst into my classroom at any time with a gun and start taking out my students. But I didn't do anything.
Five more years went by. I sold a few books, and technically I could probably quit teaching if I really wanted to. But I don't want to. I love discussing literature with my students and encouraging them to write things that really matter to them. Teaching is important to me. So I keep on teaching, even though it means juggling meeting my writing deadlines with critiquing my students' work.
I'm shocked. I'm disgusted. I'm outraged.
Like everyone, I'm wondering what could possess an individual to systematically shoot 20 defenseless kindergartners. But, really, it's pretty easy to figure out. Take a depressed kid who sees no future for himself, maybe someone who's gone through a lot of trauma in his own life. He's grown up on the internet and has probably visited forums where boys like himself--outcast, angry boys--glorify the aforementioned killers who translated their misery into action and left their mark, however ugly, on the world. The only problem was how did he top Virginia Tech? How could he shock a nation that's experienced countless shootings in the past months? Americans have become so desensitized to these events, we just shake our heads and say, "That's terrible." And go on with our business.
Hmmmmm. How about shoot some little kids?
I can't even articulate my revulsion for the person who made this decision, but I have no doubt he planned this down to the Facebook photo he posted last week, knowing it would be plastered all over the Internet soon.
You might notice that I haven't used the killer's name. Nor did I use the names of the Columbine or Virginia Tech shooters. Because that's what they want. Glory, fame. But instead of working hard and doing something positive in the world, they seek to destroy it and be forever remembered. They want us to dissect their pitiful lives and wonder where we went wrong, where we failed them.
But I'm not just changing my Facebook picture or posting some "RIP Sandy Hook Victims" sign and moving on. Not this time. Something has to change in our country, whether it's the gun laws or our treatment of mental health issues or the way we portray these events in the media.
Something has to be done. No, that's passive language.
I must do something.
You must do something.
We have to work together to figure out how to fix this, not let arguments about the right to bear arms obscure the fact that 20 children were brutally murdered yesterday. According to everything I've read, the guns were legally purchased by the killer's mother. I can't help but wonder, if the scumbag hadn't had easy access to firearms, would those kids be opening presents under the tree come Christmas Day?
This is a wakeup call. Are we going to hit the snooze button and wait for the next massacre?
Or are we going to admit that we have a problem and seek to find the solution?