I can’t stop reading the headlines of articles about today’s shooting here in Oregon. Sometimes I read the whole article, and then worst of all, I read the comments. It’s quickly becoming an obsession. I read, I get angry, I calm down, I fuel the fire with more garbage and the cycle begins again.
This is my home. I don’t know how to keep it safe.
I think what bothers me so much is that so little has changed since the last time. 17 years ago, another Oregonian walked into a school and opened fire. Until then, we thought of ourselves as The Peaceful State. We’re calm, we only have one sizable city, we don’t get a lot of the “crazy” stuff. Except that was all crap then, and it is even more so now. This shit happens everywhere. Thinking we’re immune only makes us less prepared for when it happens.
There’s more than enough blame to go around, yet no one seems to be stepping up to the head of the lunch line. Guns are certainly too easy to access. Mental health care is not easy enough. People are fighting to the death for free speech, and nobody is listening to anything being said.
We can’t even accept the smallest of truths. President Obama said that we’ve become numb, which caused many an outraged wave of finger pointing. But we are. How many Oregonians got this upset about the kids in Flint, Michigan that were shot on campus in May? Or the principal who was shot in Harrisburg, South Dakota just yesterday? I never actually heard about them. If I did, I honestly don’t remember, because I simply went back to my daily life. Even today, how many people did I see on Facebook go back to posting quiz results and pictures of their pumpkin flavored beverages an hour or so after the initial flood of breaking news? All but one. I’m not saying we’re terrible people. I’m saying we’ve learned to just roll with it. Maybe because we’re numb. But I’d bet more than that, we are truly terrified.
If we stop to really think about these things, they’re more than a little unnerving. No one is willing to budge from their stance on either side, so progress is impossible. The more society becomes used to this happening, the easier it is to joke about it, or worse, glorify the shooters for doing something drastic. Because of this standstill, people will keep wandering into schools, malls, restaurants, and wherever else they please, and gunning people down. Our friends and family members will keep dying. Lives will continue being irreversibly changed. We will keep letting it happen. Letting. Because we’re too scared and too stubborn to stand up and change. It has to be change. What we’re doing now, whatever the fuck that is, ISN’T WORKING.
When the Thurston shooting happened, we were paralyzed. The entire county collectively held it’s breath as we read the daily updates on the survivors in the paper. Weeks went by before any semblance of normal life seemed to return to even the least directly affected. My high school, about 20 minutes away, was going on a band and choir tour a week or so after it happened. Everywhere we went, we told their story, and we wore blue ribbons that bore the words “Let it End Here”. We shared our commitment to working together to ensure that this was the last school shooting in our country.
That was 17 years ago. This is the 173rd school shooting since then. I don’t know how to solve this. But I do know that my thoughts and prayers are not enough.