When something happens so horrifically tragic like the Sandy Hook killings, no one knows what to do, but everyone wants to do something, blame someone and solve it quickly.
That’s a normal reaction, but it’s too complicated. There is nothing simple that leads to a human being feeling the need to shoot out an elementary school. There is nothing simple about preventing it from happening again or even understanding it.
There is no easy way to heal. There is no way to speed up the process and no amount of grief counseling that will make it like it was before. It will be a long and winding road.
But, the conversations are important. We need to really picture the whole scene, to try to understand, to the best of our ability, how such things can occur in our modern, comfortable society.
When we do, it will be really uncomfortable and that’s the only way to get the other side of it. We need to get very uncomfortable.
Swampscott High School brought in Calvin Terrell of Social Centric last week as part of Wellness Week and he challenged students, staff and community members to do this very thing. He was schedule to be here before Sandy Hook and he saw Sandy Hook in a perspective of many violent actions all over the world.
He made people uncomfortable with the idea that we zoomed in on this tragedy versus all the others that occur in other countries and here. He reminded us of atrocities that occurred on the way to building our country.
But, he also showed us how to confront our prejudices and stereotypes and he played games to show us how easily we can be brainwashed or brainwash another.
The interesting part was that people paid attention. Maybe this tragedy is one in a world of so many others, but if it makes us pay attention, that’s important.
Teenagers and adults actually put their phones away and really listened. Administrators and teachers in the middle and high schools said they had never seen anything like it.
When I think of elementary school, I picture what I see most of the time here in Swampscott.
We have children spilling out of school onto playgrounds, begging their parents for a bit of extra time to run around after school with friends in an unstructured joyful setting. We have parents, guardians and caregivers standing around the school yard creating the parental relationships that form the basis of community for years to come.
In the midst of this idyllic picture, I tried to imagine unimaginable – a gunman bursting into Hadley School, grabbing a first grade classroom right by the front entrance and emptying his magazine on innocent children. If I personify it, then I am forced to think of the last seven to 11 years and all the wonderful things these children will never do that my children and their friends got to do. And, I have to think of the future too, the one snuffed out.
After listening to the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre deliver his soliloquy on putting guns in our schools to protect our students, I tried to picture his strange world too. What would it look like? Teachers with guns? Armed guards on our playgrounds? This is not the world I want to live in. I can’t imagine that working on any level. It would seem to make things so much worse.
The only kind of bad guys versus good guys wars I want on our playgrounds are the sweet and innocent ones of young children playing, working out situations amongst themselves.
For most of us, the road ahead is less simple than a playground game. But, we saw a glimpse this week of how people want to listen, want to learn and are willing to get uncomfortable so they can get to a place of comfort once again.
Maybe Sandy Hook is the tragedy that will haunt us and help us prevent the next one. We have to slowly, steadily consider mental health issues, gun control and school safety while simultaneously confronting our own ideas about what this all means. We have to have strenuous, but respectful disagreements with people so we can arrive at consensus. Even, if that’s uncomfortable.