I can think of few things more sacred to Americans than defending our children and our individual liberty. It is no wonder that the debate surrounding what is the best solution for providing our children with safe schools is passionate from both sides of the aisle. Chris Hayes, host on MSNBC, recently ran a story titled Fake Blood and Blanks: Schools Stage Active Shooter Drills. During the emotionally charged segment they covered a Missouri school’s simulation of an active shooter entering their school. Students partake as victims, adults act as the shooters, and police participate as first responders. In order to add a high level of authenticity, victims have simulated gun shot wounds, and fake screams can be heard in the background. Role players storm the school with rifles (loaded with blanks) and methodically move through the school as teachers attempt to react quickly, effectively, and according to protocol. It was reported that some participants broke down in tears. The on scene MSNBC reporter, Nona Willis Aronowitz, was almost at a loss for words, shocked by what she had witnessed.
The image of children with gun shot wounds is appalling. Wounds suffered at their place of learning, a place that is assumed to be safe. In America, recent generations have attempted to insulate children, and in many ways themselves, from all forms of discomfort, displeasure, and reality. In the past, killing and death were experienced and therefore respected and recognized as part of life in a self-reliant society. Prior to the advent of nursing homes, we lived in multi-generational households; we experienced the suffering and death of family members first hand. It is far more rare that people die at home today. Sustenance was derived from the planting and harvesting of crops, and the raising and slaughter of animals. If you wanted to eat meat of any kind it was necessary to care for, raise, and slaughter the animal with your own hands. Forced to watch as the spark of life faded from its eyes. This led to a deeper understanding and respect of the relationship between life and death.
Not just our youth, but most citizens in our modern society, are wholly insulated from the reality of death. In our modern society animals are slaughtered out of the public’s view. Their meat is then packaged in a sterile container, at a sterile facility, delivered in a sterile truck, to a sterile grocery store and we pick up our artificially enhanced boneless-skinless chicken breasts all pretty and pink out of the refrigerated section. We give not a thought that death occurred so we could eat. I can hear you now, you think I sound like a vegan screaming for the cruelty to stop, but you would be mistaken. I love meat; it is part of almost all of my meals. What I don’t love is how sheltered and naïve we have become about life and death. This has led to a mindset, and belief in a false reality, where a “gun free zone” prevents criminals from committing atrocities.
In addition to our sheltered lives, we allow our children by the tens of millions to play extraordinarily violent games that romanticize killing, and not the honorable kind of killing, but senseless killing. Games in which the player is rewarded for killing brutally and committing heinous acts. If the player dies during these games what is the cost? Nothing, you just re-spawn in place and continue your rampage laughing all the way through the carnage. These games are surprisingly good a desensitizing our youth to violence, but accomplish nothing in way of educating them about the sanctity of life, or what it really means to kill. I support the first amendment just as much as the second, and would never call for any kind of ban on these games. These games are merely a reflection of what we consume as a society. If we are going to indoctrinate our children to violence, death, and killing it must be done in a mature, realistic, and responsible manner. This socialization was once handled by the parents. The great tradition of hunting in this country exposes countless youth to the reality of death in a responsible and respectful way. In a way that allows them to understand, this is not just a game and guns are not toys.
This, quite literally, is the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately it is the human being who uses the tool (gun, knife, bomb, bat) to commit heinous crimes against other human beings. Seeing how society has changed in so many ways, can we really conclude that gun control is the answer? The form of preparation, particularly the one chosen by this Missouri school, can be debated and I am sure that it was. Ultimately I commend them for taking a stance. By making a politically volatile but courageous decision to prepare their local law enforcement, teachers, faculty, and students to confront and effectively face a horrific reality of modern life, they took a step in the right direction. This conversation has just begun, more to follow.