On August 20, 1999, I was out of the country, so I don’t really know firsthand how people reacted in the wake of the Columbine shootings. I do know that when I returned to the US at the end of the year, people were still talking about it.
Tuesday, November 30, 2021, I was right here, so I do know how people reacted to the latest school shooting. It was barely a headline. If you go looking, you can find the news about it, the condition of the victims that survived, and the shooter’s history of discipline problems; and, of course, the people looking for who to blame.
There have been over 200 school shootings in the US in the years since Columbine, but there were about 150 in the 20 years before. School shootings are not new, but they are far more deadly than they used to be, thanks to the proliferation of automatic weapons. Columbine caused us to at least take them seriously for a little while. Today, my children know not to run in a straight line away from an active shooter, and they know where to hide in the neighborhood around the schools. They practice ALICE drills (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) at school, something that is almost universally standard in America now.
I started to write about how things could change if we really wanted them to change. It is not about violence in the media or the proliferation of assault weapons or the lack of adequate mental health care in this country; even though the US does have a love of the myth of redemptive violence, and does have a gun problem, and does have a mental health crisis going on. The solution is not there.
So, where is it? How do we find it?
The answer to this is the answer I have to everything:
Confess how each one of us has contributed to a society where these atrocities have become normal.
Make a concerted effort to act in all things in love. Seek the best interest of others and not our own. Seek out the marginalized and outcast, the troubled and lonely. Show actual love and compassion and not lip service to those ideas. Show would-be shooters that they are valued and cared for as people, not just statistics.
Self-sacrificing love is the only solution there ever was.