At the turn of the century, horse racing was the number one sport in America. By the time Babe Ruth overtook Seabiscuit amidst the Great Depression, baseball had become America’s pastime. There are various iterations of what symbols mean the most to America, but the one I am most familiar with is Mom, Baseball, and Apple Pie. Maybe there is a correlation between those three totems of Americana and how society has evolved. Baseball has been outdistanced as the country’s favorite sport by football because of its violent nature. Apple pie has too much gluten, and the all-mighty AR-15 style (long) gun has become the babysitter for the twisted feelings of white, angry, irrational young men.
Nothing has become more uniquely American than mass shootings…
Becoming numb to the horror has developed into a coping mechanism. The list of shootings of kids, moviegoers, club patrons, and the many more from Columbine, Aurora, Buffalo, and Uvalde to the most recent Highland Park, Illinois, is long and gruesome. If I sound a little flippant, it is because I am so angry that I would be utterly incoherent without tempering my thoughts with an occasional uncomfortable smile. The real sadness is that the slaughters in American schools, grocery stores, and churches are so commonplace that awaiting the next one is like waiting for the next installment of your favorite HBO series. We have thoughts, pray, and then return to our lives until the next episode.
Unfortunately, no director is yelling cut, nor is a makeup artist needed because the blood and gore are real. The only acting that goes on is the children and adults who have to smear the blood of other victims on themselves and play dead to avoid the horror going to its next step, their deaths. My kids are men well past school age, so I looked for the perspective of someone who had experienced the changes in school safety. I spoke to a young woman who recently graduated high school; she is like one of my children. I will call her HEAVEN. I asked Heaven—who turned eighteen a few months ago—when she participated in her first school shooter drills? I was horrified when she answered “pre-school.” What may have seemed like a game to a four or five-year-old quickly had its importance impressed upon her with the years of mass shootings to follow.
The right-wing has come up with every theory possible to explain away the common denominator in all the mass shootings—the availability of weapons of war. Conservatives and gun aficionados have stormed school board meetings and threatened educators because they feel that history or gender roles will damage little Johnnie’s psyche. Yet, the same people think arming the math teacher and 18 years of being told how to hide, be silent and jump out windows does not cause irreparable harm. I asked Heaven whether she was ever scared, and she said, “initially yes,” but now she and her friends see it as just something they have to do. The fear has been replaced by routine; that last check in the mirror before a date has been substituted with a self-assessment and safety plan. Our obsession with guns has left a legacy for our children that even Mom’s apple pie will not cure.
Continue to Vote for Change.