Friday, December 14, 2012

Connecticut school shootings: not again, not again



First there was that groan, the sound that has become almost involuntary of late:  oh, no. Not again. That sense of headshaking disbelief and dismay, and horror. Another mass shooting, this time in an elementary school, and right before Christmas! And then the words echoing in my ears, something my 7-year-old granddaughter had said to me earlier in the week: “My school was in lockdown yesterday.”

It turns out that “lockdown” in elementary schools has become as routine as fire drill. This is a word I never heard in my childhood, or in my children’s. In fact, I never even heard it 20 years ago. So what in hell is going on here?

I could go on and on – I have a tendency to go on and on when I am confused, frightened and angry, whipping up my adrenaline against the awful sinking depression and despair that is surely to follow. I could go on and on about gun culture, about how Americans seem to think that the solution to guns is “more guns”. It has been a contentious point between Canadians and Americans for as long as I can remember, and has now become inflamed as never before.


Here is my point. If you have a deadly weapon in your hands, you don’t have to think. All you have to do is make your way to a promising venue, a mall, a movie theatre or an elementary school, and squeeze the trigger. Pop, pop, pop, the sound registering as “firecrackers” to people who are used to hearing the phony “BLAAMMM” of TV shows and movies so that they don’t even know enough to respond.

As a matter of fact, almost everyone involved in these horrors says something like, “I thought I was in a movie”. Oh, how distanced we have all become from what is real.

My feelings are like a dark kaleidoscope, all broken up and shifting and moving. Pieces jump out at me, jagged as glass, and I don’t want to look at them.

I like to watch a very lightweight entertainment/news program called Inside Edition, the kind of show that usually has a funny animal video at the end (though, come to think of it, almost every TV station in the world showed the Ikea Monkey the other day). A cop or some other security guy – who pays attention to these things? – was demonstrating to the host what to do “when the guy opens fire” (not if!). This was in a mall, and the security person said, “The last thing you should do is run.” This reminded me of nothing so much as the instructions for dealing with an enraged bear or a cougar or some other predatory animal.


No, if you run you’re a moving target – prey. You’re supposed to crouch down, take cover - preferably behind one of those big metal garbage cans with the bars on it. Bulletproof, unless (he said) a bullet accidentally ricochets off the wall and gets you in the back of the head.

I almost can’t write about the kids right now, but I will, a little bit at least, because writing is the only way I can even begin to get my mind around it. One thing I notice about mass shootings that affect children:  right away the grief counsellors pounce on them and insist they talk it all out, tell them everything that happened to them, every horrific detail, preferably over and over again. Lately some of these counsellors have come under fire (sorry) for squeezing memories out of kids who might be “processing” them a different way, who might not be ready to say anything, or (amazingly!) might prefer to talk to their Mum or Dad or their grandparents.

There is a grief industry now. I don’t remember anything like that when I grew up because there was no need.  I also don’t remember one single shooting in a school, not even of one child. Nor do I remember any of this happening with my own children.


The game has changed, obviously, dramatically, irrevocably. How are we to raise a generation of kids who are anxiety-free? All right, no one is anxiety-free, but how are we supposed to take them to the mall – or the movies – or even drop them off at school without a horrible fear of chaos and screams and blood on the floor?

I could say it’s the boom in technology, and I think it’s a factor. I realize that this is a highly unpopular, even taboo and stigmatized thing to think or say, but I will say it.  No one has a conversation any more: they text, phone, “tweet” or go on Facebook, an ironic name for something with no face.  Sociologically, we just haven’t had time to catch up with this explosion, this game-changer that everyone assumes is an unalloyed good.

 Who questions technology, for God’s sake? You’ll sound like an old fuddy-duddy, a party pooper, a Luddite. You’ll sound like me.


We can’t see each other’s facial expressions any more (and Skype doesn’t count because, in my opinion, it’s theatre). It’s all “lol” and “wtf” and poorly spelled messages that don’t really mean much of anything.

I recently asked my husband in exasperation, “What do these people talk about on their Smart Phones all day?”

He looked at me. “Nothing,” he said.

Tacking away with your thumbs like some self-obsessed crustacean does not make you more human, does not help you communicate anything of importance. It only feeds your vanity and narcissism and  helps you shut off your feelings so that nothing is quite real. So when the awful time comes, you’ll think you’re in a movie, playing the role of the hunter, or – even more tragically – the hunted.

(This is a sidebar. In catching up with the latest news developments, I came across an article that said it has become increasingly popular for women to text while - prepare yourself - giving birth. Next they'll be reporting on the quality and intensity of their orgasms, or perhaps the success or failure of their bowel movements. Or how about blowing your nose? As with photographing the Grand Canyon but never actually looking at it, texting ensures you will never really experience anything in your life.)


We can’t take it all back, turn back the clock, and I’m not saying we should, but someone HAS to respond to this escalating nightmare with something that actually makes a difference. Alienation and unaddressed rage have become a huge problem in contemporary culture, leading to widespread bullying and other forms of sadism. How easy is it to bully and threaten and mock and shame vulnerable children when you’re not even in the same room with them?

But unfortunately, to kill them, you have to be there.

Doesn’t anyone make any connections any more, or are they afraid they will express an opinion that’s unpopular?  Do these problems have no roots in personal alienation and the dizzying rate of social change, or is each shooter “just some nut with a gun”?


I think we need to go back to the very beginning and learn how to be human again. How to put down the devices and stop the madly clawing thumbs and look at each other, really look. And talk.

And figure out what’s wrong with everything now, and what’s right with it, and how to deal with things as they go faster and faster without our conscious awareness because we have all become so terrifyingly numb.


1 comment:

  1. If you run, remember to zigzag. Much harder for the garden variety homicidal/suicidal nutcase to hit you when you're darting back and forth and moving away. It's recommended, too, to shout back at the nutcase, "Haha you pathetic homicidal/suicidal sack of shit, you can't shoot me." This will upset the banana split so much he (always a he) will begin trembling with rage and make it harder for him to aim. What? You say he's already enraged? Well, perhaps, but he's in a zombie level trance, which gives him enhanced control. One must jar him out of this hypnotic state and render him more naturally angry.

    So, to review the lesson: run, zigzag, taunt. Repeat after me: RUN, ZIGZAG, TAUNT! Good, OK back to our spelling lesson...