I was ignorant at worst, wishful at best, to think we were somehow untouchable. When I saw the press release my first thought was, “Really? Is this for real?” Followed closely by the surprise at my sudden awareness of how foolish I was to actually believe it couldn’t happen to us. Logically, I know better. This is called denial. Because of denial, time and again, while processing what to do with this information, how to respond, to decide to send the kids or not, I had to close my eyes and shake my head so I could feel the gravity that the threat was real. I didn’t just watch it on TV. It is in fact real. The reality that we aren’t invincible. I’ll never know how real, or serious, the threat was. This time. There could be a next time. There will be a next time. This is our reality.
And I’m angry.
My friends are angry.
My family is angry.
I feel a permeating defensiveness. “Not my kid.” “Not their school.” “Not my town.” But while we have this defensiveness we act it out from behind the certainty of the illusion of safety of our homes. My defensiveness comes from this odd mix of fear and anger. How DARE I have to make a decision of whether its safe to send my child to school? That isn’t a decision that I should have to make! How dare the teachers have to show up anyways and wait…. for something… maybe nothing, to happen? How dare one person control and illicit this kind of reaction? And how dare that news chopper circling around above my children’s school be waiting for a story so it can continue to sensationalize one dumb ass kid making a stupid choice. This same news media will feign “care and concern” and will continue to spread the story so another dumb ass kid can recreate the same kind of panic and feel the rush of power for themselves? Maybe he’ll get a chopper sent for him too!
How can this be reality?
And yet, I’m so thankful that this is the reality. Because the reality of hundreds and thousands of other families has been far worse. The surreal phone call when the unimaginable happens. The surreal incomprehensible day when the surviving have to go back through those doors. I’m thankful for the administration, staff, law enforcement who have done the best they know how to defend and protect at the same time doing the jobs they were hired to do.
Anger is a secondary emotion. This time the primary emotion is fear. When the fear recedes and the anger burns away, I wonder. What is the story? What is the story the child is telling himself to believe this is the solution? If bullying is a factor, what stories are the bullies telling themselves to justify treating another person with enough hate to drive him to believe this is the solution? What kind of hate for themselves is driving them to spread it to another? And what kind of hate can live within one to think the only answer is violence.
Maybe I’m just privileged, ignorant or naive. I’ve admitted to that before. But in some kind of reality, I still believe that kindness can be spread as the anecdote to hate. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; Only light can do that.” (Martin Luther King, Jr, 1963)
I kept one kid home today and sent two to school. Whatever a parent decided to do with their children today, it was right. If they did it because they felt it was best for their family, it was right. If adults and leaders of families and schools and cities had to stop and ask, “What will we do? How will we ensure safety and dispel fear?” it was right.
Gratefully, tonight, a majority of our city’s children will go to sleep peacefully. But for those children hurting, desperate, lonely, afraid, may we not forget them. May they also be shown Love and Light. And also be communicated strongly the Truth that violence is NOT ok and never the answer to whatever they’re seeking.
*Photo from Times-Gazette Facebook page