One of my first reactions when I heard about the shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale was, “This is too close.”
This thought was quickly followed by, “This is too soon.”
Which was a thought quickly supplanted with, “Anywhere is too close, anytime is too soon.”
This is the 74th incident where there is gunfire on a school campus. 74, since the Sandy Hook shooting in December of 2012. Which means there have been an average of 4 incidents of gunfire on school campuses in the US per month, for the last 18 months.
And that does not count shootings in other places, in malls, or stores, or on the street, or in a place of worship, or in people’s homes, or on military bases. And it doesn’t account for violence that does not involve guns, such as stabbings.
I wish I could be writing something helpful. Something to comfort, something to incite change, something to make a difference. But instead I find myself just stuck.
I know that there will be a rise of voices about the need for gun reform, and a rise of voices in reaction to this. There will be a call, and the giving of, prayers, thoughts, and support. Depending on what information begins to unfold about the victim and the shooter, there may be rising conversations about bullying, mental health issues, school safety, and who knows what else.
There will be those who avoid the news, and there will be those who follow it obsessively, wanting to know more about the victim, the shooter, the community. There will be many questions, and perhaps accusations, people looking at the past and playing, “if only,” and “they should have.” There will be yet more heightened scrutiny at security in schools, what could have been done, what should have been done, what was done.
I can add my voice to the myriad of voices that will appear, but there will always be those who can voice things more articulately than I can. I can sign petitions, and send prayers, but it’s hard to feel like those make a difference when there is still so much violence. Every few days (if not every day) there is another report of death and violence. Yes, some of it has always been there, and the rise in coverage is tied highly to the media’s tendency to sensationalize everything.
But, it is hard to ignore the facts that we have so much violence in our society. We sensationalize it, we raise it up within our culture in many ways, it surrounds us. We normalize it in ways that are horrifying.
I write this because this time the violence is nearby. But the reality is that I want to be writing with without the nagging thoughts in the back of my mind that next time it will be another community. In a church, a store, a home, a park; taking over the media, or being ignored; a shooting, a stabbing, some other form of violence. It will happen again, and that makes me wish that there was more I could do.
It makes me angry that we all don’t do so much more to make changes. To figure out the changes that need to be made. To figure out the next steps so that change can happen. To stop digging in our heels on one side or another — responding out of fear and knee-jerk reactions, and digging deep in order to get to the real heart of the issue.
Why are things like this happening? How are we normalizing all of this? How can we change the culture that we have created? Because that is what really is needed, a cultural shift. A society recognizing deeply embedded issues and taking action to make a difference.