It doesn’t seem so long ago that death was something shocking and emotional.
What happened to us?
Several months ago I responded to a house for a baby in distress, but by the time I had arrived, there was no more distress.
The baby was dead.
A formerly healthy two month old baby was dressed in her onesie, laying on her back with her arms to her side, eyes closed as if she was asleep. One could imagine she was asleep, without having to use much imagination.
As teams of first responders made their way through the house, the mother, a teenager herself, pecked away on her phone with enough seeming disinterest that part of me wanted to slap her upside her head. The baby’s grandfather couldn’t wait for all of us to leave, because he had to water his flowers. He left at one point to go and buy a bag of chips, all while this little person who lived with them for two months laid dead in a bed upstairs.
A few weeks later, we got what has become a dime a dozen call these days, an overdose.
Heroin is a hell of a drug, and its contribution to the death toll in the St. Louis region isn’t insignificant.
This particular woman was also on her back, arms to her side and eyes closed. There was no pretending that she was asleep though. Her pale and bloated body was on the floor of the disgusting apartment she shared with her drug addict boyfriend. Dressed in nothing but her purple panties, her contorted face tried in vain to share the horrors of what her last few minutes on earth, as she realized she was dying, must have been like.
The boyfriend’s convoluted story about what happened to his girlfriend were also significantly lacking in empathy or sorrow for the woman he allegedly loved. His emotions all centered around the possibility that he was about to be in a heap of trouble, with no hint of concern over the death of this woman.
Accidental deaths and deaths from drugs and violence, especially gun violence, is nothing new.
The types of drugs change, as do the players and the reasons for the violence, but the one thing that society could deal with for years was that most of the issues surrounding drugs and violence were other peoples’ concern.
Poor people, usually.
Druggies were people who lived on the streets, maybe they were hippies or high school drop outs. Violence was mostly afflicted upon people who didn’t have clean hands themselves. Mob and gang violence was mostly reserved for other mobsters and gangsters. People who were buying or selling drugs should know the dangers of such activities.
Shame on them, we could all say from suburbia as we stockpiled our guns and worry just in case one of these crazies tried to come into our homes.
As the drugs and violence spread into suburbia, laws were changed to protect the kids. Suburban kids had joined the homeless and high school drop-outs as everyday drug users.
To protect our new suburban drug addicts, drug laws became looser, even going so far as to incentivize calling 911 for help, should one of your loved ones find himself overdosing on heroin. In Missouri, if you call for help on behalf of a person overdosing on drugs, and drugs are found on them or somebody nearby, they can’t be arrested. The idea that we want people to call for help instead of worrying about going to jail and letting another human being die instead, isn’t a bad one, but let’s not pretend it didn’t take white kids in the suburbs becoming the drug addicts to change the rules of the game.
The violence that often follows drugs has also made its way into suburbia, not only into suburbia, but into the most trusted of places in our communities, our schools.
School gun violence was never even an afterthought when I was a kid.
I remember in junior high that one of the bussed city students was dismissed from school for having a gun in his locker. He used to sell us baggies of bubble gum, which we weren’t allowed to have in school, so his sudden absence was noticed.
I doubt a letter was sent to our parents, and it never occurred to any of us that he ever intended to use it against another person.
Our junior high student body had a fight date every Friday after school. If two people got into it, they would agree to fist fight each other behind the nearby McDonald’s. Sometimes, other kids would choose sides and it would turn into quite a rumble, but nobody ever died and by Monday, we had all forgotten what we were mad about on Friday.
Today, fights are too often settled with guns, and those that are settled with fists are videoed and posted online and talked about incessantly, so that it is next to impossible for today’s kids to forget on Monday why they were mad on Friday.
Kids have always had cliques with other, similar kids in school.
The jocks and cool kids hung out with like minded friends, as did the nerds and goth kids and all the other different groups that I’m sure still exist today.
The popular kids did their thing and the less popular or social kids did theirs. On Mondays, the less popular kids may have learned that there was a big party they weren’t invited to, but it could be shrugged off, because they didn’t necessarily know what they were missing. The nerds or “weird” kids did their thing on the weekends, and nobody cared or gave them grief.
Today’s kids know what they missed at the party they weren’t invited to because they see it on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or whatever app that these kids know how to use that adults don’t. The things that weird kids do to make them weird are likewise shared online, meant to tease them as a joke, but oftentimes, they go viral and that joke ends up more hurtful than we could ever know to those private kids.
Bullying is a big deal nowadays because it often leads to suicides, and even violence.
Seventeen people were killed in a high school in Florida last week, and if you read most of what can be found online, very little of the response has to do with empathy, sympathy or love for each other.
Most of it is vitriol and politics.
Extremists on both sides of the political spectrum are yelling and shouting nonsense at each other, and it’s causing those of us in the middle to tune it out.
We have become apathetic, even to death in our schools.
Our childrens’ schools.
I think the kids have noticed this and have come to the conclusion, rightfully, that if things are going to change, then it’s up to them.
Watching empassioned kids articulably plead for their futures is encouraging.
How we as adults can’t draw the line at kids being murdered in the streets, and especially in schools, is mind boggling, but not surprising. In a society where Nazis have made a resurgence and racism is proudly trumpeted in public, any asinine occurrence is possible, especially anything that lacks logic and reason.
More guns in schools is one such illogical and unreasoned potential occurrence.
Arming teachers or custodians with guns literally makes a bad problem worse by introducing guns where they weren’t before.
There is no argument, no matter how passionate you are about whether or not gun possession is your God given right, that guns make it easier to kill people.
Don’t even try.
AR-15s are fun to shoot.
I’ve shot them at targets and it really is a rush, but they are meant for killing, and they do it well.
These sorts of rifles are not only popular with rural/suburban school shooters, but also with the murder suspects in many urban neighborhoods.
Victims shot by most handguns, assuming the bullet doesn’t go through their brain or heart, actually stand a pretty good chance of surviving, if they make it to a decent trauma center.
These same victims, shot by rounds from an AR, are normally less likely to survive. The damage is exacerbated by the speed and strength of the round.
That’s why the homicide rate has gone up in so many cities recently. The firearm used now isn’t a .22 or a .9mm. ARs are turning yesterday’s “assault” charges into today’s homicides because the victims are dying more often as a result of being shot.
The rounds will more easily go through doors and cars and even a police officer’s bullet proof vest, because that’s what they’re made to do.
The idea that Mrs. Brooks, my amazing 3rd grade teacher, could match a madman’s rush with an AR-15, with any sort of firearm she might carry, makes me laugh and cry at the same time.
It’s such a stupid idea that when I asked my eight year old what the thought, he literally said, “That’s stupid,” when I asked him if he thought it would make the school safer for him if Mrs. B. Had a gun in the classroom.
Don’t ask me what the answer is, because law enforcement spoke fifteen years ago when we didn’t want the assault rifle ban lifted. We said that we would be outgunned, and we are. We are outgunned everyday, and we have SWAT officers to help back us up.
Arming teachers with anything less than hours and hours of training each year, along with firearms equal to or more powerful than what the bad guys are all using is a waste.
At the end of the day, who will benefit from more guns and ammo and training for teachers?
The gun people will.
Let’s make this decision on our own, people, without money or profits or whatever clouding our judgement. I mean, if we can’t come together to protect our own kids, then fuck us all. We’re awful and useless.
I think these Parkland kids and kids all around the country see that we adults can’t be trusted, and they’re right.
Godspeed, kids. May your lack of apathy make a difference.
As a reminder that gun violence against kids isn’t just a “school shooting” problem, here’s a photo of a six year old’s blood all over the shirt of a good friend of mine. The boy was shot with a smaller caliber bullet, and still died after bleeding all over the shirt of this officer who tried to save him. Imagine this blood times 17, and if you can’t be moved to help do something to fix this, then we’re all screwed.