While the outrage and horror being expressed about the most recent mass school shooting that took place on Valentine’s Day in Florida is certainly warranted, the anger is incredibly displaced. Anger, disappointment, fear and sadness are all acceptable and understandable emotions to experience after an event such as this takes place in the United States or elsewhere. But it is the elsewhere that I want to focus on right now.
We get upset, rightfully so, when a mass school shooting occurs. We get upset when a black man is murdered by police. We get upset at the opioid crisis and the consequences of a pharmaceutical industry operating for profit seemingly unchecked. We get upset about food boxes and walls and bans. But we get upset at each of these things individually when, in fact, each of these things are actually connected. Each of these things are symptoms of a problem.
Thus far in 2018, there have been 18 school shootings. We are only halfway through the second month of the year and numerous children have lost their lives due to gun violence while in school, where their parents send them with the expectation that they will learn, grow, and be safe.
In 2018, there have been 30 known mass shootings. A mass shooting is defined as a shooting in which four or more people were shot during a single event, not including the shooter.
Why is this a phenomenon that we see and have become sickeningly used to in the United States? Our mental health statistics are comparable to many other nations. And we are certainly not the only nation on the planet in which everyday citizens have access to firearms. So why are we the only country mourning the loss of young lives who were murdered in cold blood while at school 18 times so far this year?
Our efforts to grasp at ideas and policies to curb control won't solve the problem of school shootings. Universal healthcare won't solve it. Nor will open borders or a living wage or abolishing the NRA. So what will?
The answers to these questions are simple but multifaceted. The answer is obvious if you’re able to step back and look at the big picture of this nation and the culture it has cultivated. But most of us don’t. Most of us react to each individual issue or event as if there is no correlation between them and anything else. We look at the issues on the surface and we grasp for a bandage for temporary relief.
School shootings are a symptom of a very large, very dangerous problem. They are not simply a symptom of a need for gun control, or a symptom of a lack of accessible mental health services, or a symptom of an over-medicated, desensitized youth population.
Our problem, a problem that has bled into every level of our society, is simple. We are a nation that does not value life.
This country was built on the genocide of its native inhabitants and not long after we bought and sold humans as if they were commodities. We have occupied nations and murdered their inhabitants for years. We have been at war with the idea of terror for SIXTEEN YEARS. And we wholeheartedly support a nation actively engaged in apartheid.
Each one of these things is woven into the fabric of our very beings. Each one of these things is connected to our identity as citizens of the United States. And each one of these things influences the actions of our nation today. On our own soil there continues to be a race and class struggle that results in the ruining of lives and actual loss of life. Halfway around the world our nation is responsible for the murder of innocent lives. Every single day children die at the hands of the United States or because of something our nation had its hands in. There is no ignoring this and there is no way to gloss it over.
The United States is DIRECTLY responsible for the deaths of over 4 million Muslims. Four million. Pause for a moment and let that number sit in your mind. Picture it and then try to picture 4 million people. Do you even know what 4 million people looks like? That’s the population of Los Angeles.
And who bats an eye? Hardly anyone. Collateral damage. Consequences. We make excuses daily. But every time we allow more death and destruction in our names, we allow that death and destruction to seep into the fabric of who we are.
The children who are dying at the hands of their classmates have lived in a world in which their nation has been at war for their entire lives. They see it on the news, they see television shows and movies that glorify the war on terror, and they play video games set in actual war zones. Most of us cannot even begin to imagine how this might influence development or perception of the world, reality, and understanding of the role we play the greater collective of humanity. They have grown up with a constant enemy, a constant vibration of unrest and violence in their universe.
So we find ourselves angry and saddened when these lives are lost. And we are understandably eager to solve the problem so we bark out our idea of solutions on social media, we cry, and we find ourselves glued to the news for the latest culprit of what went wrong that allowed this young person to purchase a weapon and to have such hate in their heart.
But the problem is us. The problem is our culture. As long as we praise a former president who carried out hundreds of drone strikes, as long as we idly sit by while we provide the means for deadly famine in Yemen, as long as we refuse to aid victims of natural disasters, continue to spend $8.3 million per hour on war and perpetuate a culture of sexual exploitation of minors, school shootings, mass shootings, and other untold violence will continue on our soil.
It’s high time we remove the bandages and repair the underlying disease and decay that is embedded in the flesh of our nation. We must fully grasp our place in the universal collective of the human race and act with love, compassion and caring toward our physical neighbors as well as our brothers and sisters across the globe. We are one. And until we act like it our nation will continue to crumble, and reports of school shootings and violence will continue to flash across television screens across the country and on smart phones in the hands of Americans.
See my follow up post, Is Gun Control Really the Answer? The Big Picture Might Surprise You, here.