It seems like every time there is a tragedy like this, people immediately hop up on their soapboxes and start arguing. Seize the opportunity to make their point, as if that is somehow more relevant than the lives lost.
Within five posts of scrolling through Facebook in the first moments after I found out the news, I'd seen posts blaming all this on the lack of adequate gun control, and posts decrying any attempt to limit people's second amendment rights.
The school was still on lockdown. The police there weren't sure if the gunman acted alone. Children, both of whom would later die, had been taken to the hospital. Kids were still locked in bathrooms being shushed by teachers who feared they were next.
And people had already hopped up on their soapboxes.
Speculating. Assuming. Laying blame in a case that was still ongoing, where no investigation had even had the chance to happen yet.
By bedtime last night, I'd heard blame placed on all of the following.
- His mother
- The fact that she was divorced
- The fact that she was a working parent
- The fact that she purchased semi-automatic weapons legally
- The laws that allowed her to purchase the weapons
- His mental conditions (which no one seems to be sure of yet)
- The fact that he was on the spectrum somewhere (this as a potential source of "blame" is a huge disservice to the community, and frankly terrifies me)
- The school for letting him in (when they are pretty sure now that he accessed the building without permission)
- The school's lax security (it's an elementary school!)
- The fact that teachers are not permitted to carry concealed weapons (this one made my head hurt)
There are probably more I am missing.
All while dead children still lay on the school floors, while parents are still holding out hope that their little one might have been hiding in a closet somewhere.
It's one thing to be passionate about finding explanations to tragedies like this. It's something else entirely to stand on a soapbox constructed of dead children who's parents haven't even been notified yet.
Passion is great. Without the necessary compassion for the victims, here the most innocent ones possible, though, the passion just makes you look like an heartless monster.
It's human nature to want to find something to point a finger at. We crave a place to lay blame. We want to have an answer so that we can tell ourselves that we don't live in a world where things like this can happen to us.
They can happen to us. They do happen to us. All of us.
Until we let go of the idea that we can explain it all away and accept the fact that we are all at risk, nothing will change.
The answers that will come as to why and how will only create new questions. The answer here isn't a simple one. There are complicated reasons why things like this happen, and the ways to prevent them in the future are also complicated.
It's not just about gun control.
It's not just about restricting sales - which would truly only serve to create more disincentives for people who need it to seek help.
It's not just about the brokenness of the mental health system.
It's not just about HIPPA and patient rights and privacy.
It's not just about ensuring good support for single parent families.
It's not just about adequate services for children with special needs.
It's not just about how accessible schools are or whether they should have armed guards.
At the end of the day, there are uncomfortable discussions that need to take place if we are to reduce the number of times we mourn dead children. These discussions are huge and systemic. They are politically charged, they are fear driven.
I urge everyone to take a moment. Take a step back. Grieve.
Resist the urge to find reason in something that most of us will never understand.
Have the clarity to understand that we will not have a full picture of what happened for some time.
Understand that blame is not simple, that solutions aren't easy, that we are all at risk for this to happen until and unless we find pragmatic, systemic ways to fix these daunting problems.
And accept that even then, even in a world where we've actually done all that we can to prevent losses like this, even then...there is still and will always be evil in this world.
Each day is a gift, each day could be your last, and no amount of prevention can guarantee anyone's safety.
Time. Patience. Reflection. Learning.
Balance the passion with the compassion.
We owe these children at least that much.
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