Friday, December 13, 2013

Always Remember to Thank a Teacher: Repost

Last year, on this Friday, the Newtown School Shooting happened. A few days later, I wrote this. I'd like to repost it, because it fits pretty much entirely with how I'm feeling still.

Originally posted here, on December 19, 2012,
Editorial cartoon link here.

A teacher may stand for your child when they are in need.

It's essentially the same thing I put on facebook, and yet...

Everyone wants there to be a "magic fix". We are mired so deeply in the need for justification and for there to be an easy equation of "If we do this, the bad stuff won't happen anymore," that we can't see the forest for the trees.

It's deeper than that, and deep down, we know it.

Without acknowledging the complexity of what goes into such a tragedy, we will continue to hack at the Gordian knot with a kitchen knife.

The problem is not God being taken out of the schools. I loathe that idea with a passion, because i loathe the concept of a God so unloving that He would allow carnage to occur as, what? Some kind of punishment? Was He punishing the six-year-olds? What sort of explanation is that?

It's not because there are too many guns or not enough. A gun is nothing without a finger pulling the trigger. Don't mistake me on this; I am not comfortable with guns, and am a staunch advocate for better regulation of the firearms industry. I support a ban on clips with more than ten bullets and a ban on assault rifles being sold to the public.

But I also have friends who own rifles, and pistols, handguns and shotguns and all sorts of things. I have loved ones who hunt. I have loved ones who have taken me to a shooting range, invited me to try it out despite my discomfort. They have tried to educate me. They are knowledgeable, and careful, and work hard to combat the idea of gun owners as crazed killers just looking for their chance.

A gun is nothing without a finger to pull the trigger, but it is designed for one horrible purpose nonetheless. To cause harm to a living thing.

There isn't any one problem.

The truth is that we don't know how to fix this. There isn't any one way. Our culture glorifies violence too heavily, ignores or victimizes the mentally ill, makes needing help a kind of shame. We glorify and demonize firearms in the same breath. We are clearly wrong, and have been wrong for much longer than most people want to admit to. There is no "good old days". The "good old days" are just the time when the terrible things weren't reported, depending on who they happened to. The "good old days" are just the days when it was easier to pretend, when the memories are rosier and your mind wants to focus on the positives and not the negatives.

All that said, there is something much more important to do.

Go thank a teacher for the under appreciated and overwhelming work they do, often underpaid.

Go thank them for three hours after every school day spent planning their lesson for the next or helping out students in need. Go thank them for every time they've bought a kid a backpack when they couldn't afford one, every time they've been there to buy lunch for the kid who goes hungry. Thank them for their patience, for their work, for serving the greater good of the community.

Thank them for standing between children and the world.

Thank Victoria Soto for hiding her children, for being the one thing that stood between them and horror.

Thank the teachers of Sandy Hook who lived, and those who died. Thank those who read to their students to keep them calm while gunshots popped in the hallway, and those who tried to confront the gunman and lost their lives in the process.

Don't say his name.

Say the names of those teachers, and their students.

Say them over and over and over and over again, until they are the only names left in the news. Until we have forgotten him.

Until we remember that the most important thing we can do now is make sure we remember them.


  1. All of this.

    I live in Massachusetts, so this whole ordeal was a bit too close to home for comfort, but it's something to think about realistically as it happens far too often to far too many. I read this blog post right after reading about the CO shooting just a few hours ago; It's so heart wrenching and uncalled for. But thank you for reposting this from your original; it was just what I needed to read tonight because it's so blaringly true. I shed a couple of tears at the validity of it all. Thank you.

    1. When I posted this, I hadn't listened to the news recently enough to hear about the CO shooting that happened. My heart goes out to the family of the girl he killed, and to the shooter's family as well. If there's anything I learned from Columbine, it is how easy it is to miss "the signs", and we can't depend on that... we have a lot to work on, as a nation.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Word.

    An element of this complex, systemic cultural problem that I don't think has made it into the discussion at large is paternalism: the subconscious cultural notion that sees power as inherently fatherly. Whether it's the Titan style worship of the mythic Forefathers or the social deference granted to men in boardrooms and Senate halls, this autocratic view creates people who see themselves as part of that paternal order of the powerful (those who clearly believe the second amendment was handed to them by God himself, like kings saw the crown), and those who feel inherently stifled and frustrated by the constant controlling hand of a "father" whose whims decide your place in a society you feel you have little say in. This latter group become exasperated, angry, and bitter, just the same way an asshole dad inevitably drives his teenage son to hate him, even as the son deep-down wishes to BE his asshole dad. It's Freud and stuff.

    Anyway, I feel like both sides of this coin feed the violent society we live in, driving the conversation in circles and never directing the questions inward. But that's just like, my opinion man.

    1. Yeah, it's notable that these shootings happen at school - which is really the first place kids dread to be in their lives, the first building full of paternalistic authority figures we force them to respect, regardless of their circumstances. Of course that's never saying that those authority figures don't deserve some respect - teachers especially, I have lots of feelings about the 'respect' some of the principals I've dealt with really deserved - but school is kind of prison for kids for a long time, or at least that's how they see it... I don't see it as a coincidence that these shootings happen so often within school buildings.


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