The Issue that Built my Soapbox

This originally appeared as a diatribe I posted on my Facebook page in the wake of the UCC shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. Having worked in higher education in Oregon prior to moving to Seattle, the news out of UCC was personally very poignant. I realized that one of the things that kept dogging me, impelling me to speak up during the teachers strike was this issue that teachers are increasingly on the front lines of mass shootings. 

I got a little soap-box-y earlier this month during the Seattle teachers’s strike. Here’s why.

The day of the Newtown shootings, my oldest was a kindergartener. And there has not been a damn day since then when I’ve had to drop off a kid at school or daycare without the thought that THIS teacher, this underpaid person, cares enough. Cares enough to do untold thousands of things to ensure that my child develops, grows, and reaches her potential. But also cares enough that I’ve never had a doubt that any one of them would have done everything he or she could to put him or herself between my child and a mass shooter. 

I just want you to think on that for a second. That person who cannot afford median rent in Seattle on teacher’s pay. That person who gets the state medicaid program sign up information in their hiring packet because if they are supporting a family they’d qualify?

That person. We’ve set up a society so that THAT person has to be ready to respond to some nutbar armed to the teeth hell-bent on taking a score of six year olds with him to the afterlife?

It’s distracting, frankly. I’m trying to sit with the idea that I need to learn the new math curriculum and figure out how to help with writing homework without going out of my gourd and all I can think about is that we’re paying you peanuts to someday have to shove a clutch of little kids into a broom closet and fend off an active shooter with a bunch of school supplies that parents provided?

Aw hell to the no.

I’m not a catastrophe-addicted parent. I don’t obsess on whether my kids will get kidnapped. I let them walk places alone. We ride public transportation. They fall down hills. They talk to strangers. They get really dirty and stay that way for a day or two. I let them eat string cheese that has been unrefrigerated for some sketchy duration. Suck it up, dust it off, splint and limp is my motto.

But there is nothing that I can teach my kids that will stop a bullet. Not a damn thing. And that scares the hell out of me.

I remember the disorienting shock at Columbine. I was in college and people in our dorm had the news on. A shooting in a school? It seemed so improbable. Against the rules, somehow. So foreign to our experience.

My kids are growing up with mass shootings indelibly in the fabric of their young psyches. They drill for it when they should be hopscotching or learning cursive. It’s in the NPR coverage that I turn down if I notice them listening too intently. They think that this is how the world works. Sometimes, somebody gets their knickers in a twist and just kills a whole ton of people. That’s just how it is.

But that’s not the world that we must hand them.

We’ve overcome big public health crises in this country. Smoking. Deaths due to drunk driving. Unsafe levels of all kinds of nonsense in our food, our water, and our air.

We can overcome gun violence as well. It’s not rocket science.

There are a lot of common sense approaches to reducing gun violence; it will be more than one solution. It will be incremental. It will be multi-pronged. It will take years to work. It will not work 100% of the time.

But we have to do something. Because I’m damned tired of looking at every teacher my kids have and thinking about how they can protect my kid in a mass shooting.

At the same time, after Newtown and Charleston, I don’t have a lot of faith that things will change.If we don’t have the collective will to change our gun laws after those tragedies…if we are tacitly accepting of massacres of 7-year-olds and bible study ladies… I’m not really sure that we’ll ever do it.

I only know that if I don’t want my kids to see me as someone who accepts this as OK. So, Sunday morning at 10, come on over to our place. Bring your laptops and your outrage. I’ll provide the stuff to write to a bunch of elected leaders. I can’t promise the house will be perfectly clean or even that I’ll bake all of the muffins myself. But if you want to do something…if you want to hold our elected officials accountable, if you want to show up to say “Not one more,” join me. PM me if you need address/details. Thanks.

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