Meghan Hanson-Peters: School shootings can happen anywhere
February 20, 2018
At first I wrote "To my Civics students." Then, "Dear Colleagues." Or, "Members of my community…" Everyone connects. So it is a "Dear All of Us."
What we witnessed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School can happen anywhere. Anywhere. Yes, here with me. Yes, there with you.
It can happen on days when we squeeze our kids goodbye with a hug, excited that we planted surprise Valentine treats in their lunches so that when they open it in a few hours, unsuspecting, they will smile. It can happen in urban Las Vegas and rural Sutherland Springs. It can happen in suburbs like Littleton and Newtown. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, America. You know.
To my dear civics students,
Isn't it ironic that during the moments we were examining the classic "How a bill becomes a law" topic via the current "Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act," our counterparts 2,000 miles away were fleeing for, or in 17 tragic moments, losing their lives?
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As usual, you react with confusion and sorrow. Then, a few of you invoke the Second Amendment. One or two of you mention arming teachers. Someone says something about mental illness. Another mentions background checks. Someone counters that background checks would not have stopped Las Vegas. You debate about whether our school should have metal detectors. Some of you oppose them for fear that they will "make school like prison." Some of you want them for security.
On cue, I remind you that this debate between freedom and security is the essence of civics class and a fundamental aim of American government is to simultaneously protect individual rights and the good of society. Then one of you utters, "Well we don't really need to worry about that here."
Do you wonder if news like this traumatizes our students? Maybe the ones that have ugly home lives or the ones who don't want to be at school? Maybe those who get freaked out when we do a lockdown drill because they can't calm their fear with their peers goofing off, not taking it seriously, because they think "Well that won't happen here?"
Dear members of my community,
I don't know so many of you as well. Even though I have lived here for 20 years, my orbit is insular: the school system, grocery store, post office, holiday events around town. Are you thinking about what happened in Florida? Or San Bernardino? Or Charleston? At schools, workplaces, churches?
I may not know you so well but I'd bet that our existence is not that far from what the people in Roseburg, Blacksburg and Killeen lived prior to mass shootings in their communities whether last year, a decade ago or three decades ago. I bet most people heard about things like that and thought, "Well that won't happen here."
So again, Dear all of us,
This is a uniquely American phenomenon, and we know it. It is not just one thing. Not just the availability of certain weapons. Not just the lack of mental health support for all. Not just the disconnectedness that is the norm despite the veil of connectedness that we hide behind on our devices. Not just bullying. Not just geographic isolation.
It is all of those things, exacerbated by some politicians who bow to the whims of the gun lobby and care more about their next election than they do the lives of their constituents. Unfortunately, the convergence of these realities assures that it will happen again and could happen here. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know America, you know.