school shooting

America (Unthinkable)

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet'.

A grim reminder:

There have been over 200 school shooting incidents―an average of nearly one a week―since the horrifying morning when 20-year-old Adam Lanza marched into Sandy Hook Elementary School and did the unthinkable.

Four years ago today, Lanza shot and killed his mother in her home in Newtown, Connecticut, before making his way to the school and opening fire, leaving 20 children and six staff members dead.

(Miller)

Why do we say unthinkable? One of the interesting questions of once upon a time was the question of killing children onscreen in cinema. You’re not actually supposed to depict such acts; it’s one of those codes that isn’t a law, but still, you know?

So you wouldn’t show what we see in the movies if it’s a child. Show an airplane full of children crashing, though, and, well, according to the old code that is, quite technically, just fine. And then perhaps we might recall the beginning of T2: Judgment Day, and so much for fretting about traditional codes.

Still, though, there are a lot of things we might think are unthinkable; perhaps what we mean is that actually doing these things is unthinkable.

All of which only reminds how much easier it is to talk about something else.

We’re halfway through December. Let us please, as many as possible, make it through to next year. Sure, that sounds like a grim joke, but come on. This is America, and there just isn’t much left we can call unthinkable. Take care of yourselves; take care of each other. Be well. Stay safe. Live through this.

Please.

____________________

Image note: Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, “Brittle Bullet”.

Miller, Hayley. “There Have Been Over 200 School Shooting Incidents Since The Sandy Hook Massacre”. The Huffington Post. 14 December 2016.

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An Appeal

I think, therefore you are.

I need to step out of any pretense of character, but it is most important to stress that this is not supposed to be about me.

If you have five minutes to spare, I would ask that you take a bit over four and a half of them to watch Rachel Maddow’s report and commentary about the shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. There is a bit to take in, but the segment includes a point about readiness, and regardless of what you think about how Maddow makes the point—I’m aware many just flat don’t like what she has to say, or how she says it, and so on—the key word is readiness.

Geographic proximity is always a bit rattling when these atrocities occur. And this time it was really close; my daughter does not attend Marysville schools, but that is beside the point. The only reason the two-town hop to Marysville seems like a long drive is because traffic through Everett is often plain obnoxious.

But this is not about fear. This is just the horror and revulsion, and yes, it seems a fairly reliable human behavior that proximity increases the magnitude of those sickening sensations. Let that say what it will.

But this is where it gets weird.

There are a handful of people in this area for whom this was the second jolt in a week.

Nobody died, but this was Wednesday for anyone who reads The Stranger, a weekly newspaper in Seattle:

Who the fuck calls in a bomb threat at GeekGirlCon?

And then one might wonder, “I’m sorry, what? How is it only now that I’m hearing about this?”

For BoingBoing readers, the news came a day earlier:

I didn’t feel safe going into GeekGirlCon. Hours earlier, Game developer Brianna Wu had tweeted about the threats she’d received, about calling the police, about sleeping somewhere else.

Just thinking about it made it hard to sleep. The next day, I was almost late to game critic Anita Sarkeesian’s opening panel, and was one of the last to be let in. There had been a bomb threat, of course, though we wouldn’t know about it until afterwards. They searched our bags.

Either way, there are a few people who experienced a very strange silence in their chests: My daughter was there, damn it!

And it is possible to skip denial, fleeing desperately into rationalization. It is not mine to suggest the threat was treated lightly. True, #GamerGate and its merry miscreant tagalongsα have yet to actually muster the will to follow through on their threats, but that really is not a fate worth tempting. It is enough to know the issue was handled well by conference personnel and local law enforcement. Something about readiness probably goes here.

In the end, it is tempting to skip anger according to the principle of whether it is really worth it to waste the energy of being angry.

Which in turn would seem to leave but a few basic questions that one might dare hope would have some useful purpose:

• What, exactly, is going on here?

• Why is this happening?

• How is this happening?

• What needs to happen in order to change what is happening?

• Please?

The worst thing that could happen now is that we don’t learn anything.

This is going to keep happening. What are we going to do about that?

Please?

____________________

α The dust that followed the dog that followed the horse they rode in on.

Broom, Jack. “Wounded girls identified in Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting”. The Seattle Times. 25 October 2014.

Maddow, Rachel. “Gun-wielding student shocks Washington school”. The Rachel maddow Show. 24 October 2014.

Anonymous. “You Can’t Keep a GeekGirl Down”. The Stranger. 22 October 2014.

Dieker, Nicole. “GeekGirlCon is an oasis of acceptance”. BoingBoing. 21 October 2014.

Responsible Gun Ownership

'Scuse me while I responsibly point this at you.

David Waldman describes the latest particular emergence of the general inevitability:

We have had our third in-school accidental discharge by an armed teacher during the still-very young 2014-2015 school year.

As Waldman notes, a criminal justice instructor at the Technology Center of DuPage, who is also a retired FBI agent, apparently shot a filing cabinet by accident on Friday, with a gun he was not authorized to carry on campus. Luckily, nobody was injured; the bullet passed through the filing cabinet and wall, finally stopping somewhere in “another classroom”.

You will recall that last month saw an armed 6th grade teacher injure herself with porcelain shrapnel as she accidentally Second Amendmented the toilet out from beneath herself in the faculty restroom, and an Idaho State University professor Second Amendment himself in the foot during class.

And that paragraph is just fun, reminding us that these responsible gun owners did at least manage to be responsible enough to not hurt anyone else. Then again, is that something we really need to thank them for?

But think about it for a moment. For the last twenty-five years, at least, as we have wrangled with gun violence in our American society, we keep running into a wall whereby doing the right thing is an unjust abrogation of the rights of “responsible gun owners”.

And these folks remind us that everyone is a responsible gun owner until they aren’t.

No, really. We all know these people. They use the “responsible gun owner” argument when discussing public safety, but always have a story or three to whip out ostensibly intended to be humorous or admirable or even defining, that also describes them being incredibly irresponsible with their firearms.

Like these teachers. They’re all responsible gun owners. Or, well, you know. They were. Not a one of them should ever describe themselves that way, ever again.

And let’s face it, this is the sort of thing “responsible gun owners” want to protect. Well, this and “accidentally” shooting a child to death in the parking lot of a gun store with a firearm you are not, by law, supposed to be carrying. And that’s why we don’t prosecute those outcomes: It’s the fair price of responsible gun ownership.

That is to say, the rest of us have to pay for the responsible gun owners irresponsibility.

You know. It’s the American Way.

____________________

Waldman, David. “Seriously, people. This armed teacher thing really might not work out.” The Daily Kos. 4 October 2014.