In a world mostly filled with good and decent folks, there are exceptions. I’ve had great experiences and met amazing people in my travels near and far, but history tells us that there will always be individuals who want to inflict evil and harm upon others. I think one of the defense mechanisms for a community is to hear about a shooting, or a hate crime, or any sort of awful thing and say…”that would never happen here! Not in my town!“
I’m sorry, but yes. It can happen in your town, and the question is…how do we respond? This is something that Molly and I have both been faced with recently. In January of this year, there was a school shooting in Marshall County, Kentucky. The place where Molly’s paternal family is from, where her grandparents still live. In a sleepy town of 4,000 people, a 15 year old opened fire in a classroom and killed two other 15 year old students.
And then, yesterday. In Wayne County, Indiana, my home for all 26 years of my life, a teenager took a gun and shot his way into a Richmond middle school. Thankfully, the police received a warning call and put the school on lockdown before he arrived, and thankfully, the police were able to respond immediately. It could have been so much worse, though that’s probably hard to imagine for the family of the shooter who turned the gun on himself. They are left trying to process pain, betrayal, and loss during this holiday season.
I’ve sat through far too many arguments about gun control. I have friends on both ends of the spectrum; I know dedicated anti-gun activists, and I know loyal NRA members. I hang out with people who wouldn’t dare to touch a gun, and I hang out with people who carry one with them every day. All of them are great people. I’ve heard ALL of the arguments, and I’m simply not going to get into them in this post. If you have a strong opinion on guns, you might be getting angry just reading this paragraph. I respectfully ask that you bear with me.
We are so quick to argue. We rush to defend our positions, to prove our points, to compartmentalize people based on political or religious views. I think we sometimes forget about simple humanity. What drives a teenager to the point that picking up a gun and killing others (or themselves) seems like the best option? Isolation? Anger? Depression? Abuse? Perhaps a combination of all of these things. How often do we even consider the question before we fall back to our preset arguments and positions?
Over and over, we hear about these incidents on the news. And we do nothing to address the root causes, because “it could never happen here”, or “if we just ban guns, then they won’t be able to kill other people”, or “if we just arm the teachers, that’ll fix it!” When are we going to start asking ourselves the hard questions about the toxicity of our culture? About what sort of environment leads to violence in the first place? And, when are we going to start reaching across the boundaries of our differences, to make sure that our sense of humanity isn’t lost?
In Wayne County, the answer is now. I hope you’ll join me.
Artwork by Molly Wallen