Friday, December 14, 2012

Fight Cowardice with Courage

Naturally, the events in Newtown, Connecticut have loosed a torrent of emotions in the media and the social media-sphere.  I'm not here to address those specifically.  I am only here to share my thoughts personally. Some of them were, admittedly, sparked by reactions on my FB and Twitter.  I am not intending to offend anyone, but I'm also not going to censor my thoughts when it comes to the senseless, heartbreaking shooting.

First, I am beyond heartbroken.  Every time I get to thinking about those parents who have to deal with this at what should be such a joyous time when you have elementary age kids, I damn near cry.  Columbine was devastating.  This is beyond anything I've ever imagined.  It's also more profoundly affected me than I thought it would.  Any loss of life is tragic in a situation like this (the Oregon mall shooting earlier this week, for example), but I have a soft spot for kids of any age, especially elementary school.

It is not my place to speculate about the wheres or whys of the shooter's mental health.  If the Columbine Tragedy in 1999 taught us anything, it's that there are people out there who aren't right, and we may never know that.  This shooter may have never given any indication of mental illness, and may, in fact, have never been diagnosed had he seen a therapist.  He also may have not have any detectable mental illness and made a conscious, pre-meditated decision.  Either way, it is not my place, nor anyone else's who does not know him (them?) to speculate.

It seems whenever this type of event occurs, the discussion about guns comes out.  I wish this conversation could happen when it's not so emotionally charged, but events in the second half of this year have shown us that a real discussion needs to be had on the issue.  I am in favor and support of the Second Amendment.  I am not well enough versed to speak to the accessibility of "black market" arms, but I also don't understand why the average person has any need to possess an assault rifle type of weapon.  I intend to own firearms one day (soon, but that has nothing to do with recent events, I have just always wanted to be proficient with a handgun and have it just in case), but only for the protection of my family.  An assault rifle seems unnecessary for that.  It also seems unnecessary for hunting.

Teachers should not carry firearms in the classroom.  Period.  I understand the debate here, but I've been fortunate enough to be blessed with this career, and I will protect these kiddos at the cost of my own life if need be.  However, I don't EVER want to have another person's death on my head.  I also don't have the training or capacity to make that call about whether or not another person's life should be ended.  I have many great friends who are police officers and military personnel, or have been one of them, and they are trained for making that call.  I am not.  I don't want to be.  I will do everything in my power to protect the life of the people in my building, but taking the life of another is not in my power, nor do I want it to be.

This is the hardest truth in all of this to me: 20 elementary school students lost their lives at school today. 20 years ago, we never would have imagined security guards and metal detectors in schools.  The School Resource Officer was reserved for high schools, and was a borderline figurehead there, giving anti-drug speeches and helping students who'd locked themselves out of their cars.  Now even teachers have to know how to respond to this type of crisis.  My prayers, my fervent prayers, go to those people whose whole lives were flipped upside down in Connecticut today.

Finally, we have to fight cowardice with courage.  As FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  Being afraid allows us to be victims.  It's what the bullies feed off of.  We cannot be afraid to bring new life into this world.  We cannot be afraid to send them to school.  It's a scary place, but we can change that by bringing children into homes full of love, encouragement, and strength and instilling them with those values as they go into their interactions in the world.  We've gradually become afraid.  We're afraid of offending, afraid of overstepping our bounds, afraid of being seen as different from the status quo.  What if we courageously espoused our values without judging others whose values are different?  What if we stood by what we believe in, but with an open mind so as to appreciate and learn from others?  What if we went out feeling empowered and courageous, instead of timid and frightened?

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