It was in kindergarten when my children first came home with the tales of active shooter drills. They didn’t call them that, of course. They’d say things like, “Today the teacher taught us to sit very quietly in a place where we couldn’t be seen by someone looking in through the window.” I was horrified at the thought that my lovely children, unblemished by news of things like bad guys and guns, were having it poured over them in a way I couldn’t control.
“That’s just practice,” I told them. “You know that kind of stuff doesn’t really happen in schools. They just like everyone to be prepared, kind of like a fire drill.” It was six years post-Columbine, so it was a lie, but then I also told them that their Christmas presents came from Santa, because I wanted them to live in a world of magic and hope, not active shooters.
It didn’t work for long. It would only be a couple of years before they fully understood what they were being told to prepare for – a person with a gun roaming the halls picking people off. Be the quietest and maybe you get to live. They told me how they all tried to stay out of sight during drills. We discussed the possibility of their school hiring an armed guard. My heart ached for their innocence.
Sandy Hook happened when they were twelve and eleven, old enough to understand that children they were big enough to consider babies had been slaughtered while they cowered and tried to look small, the way they’d no doubt been taught. I lacked the language for the explanation, because twelve and eleven also feels too young to be introduced to a world with such brutality. Even worse than explaining the shooter, I had to explain the gun lobby. And that’s when it really got hard.
We are raising an entire generation with the passive (and wrong) mentality that there’s just nothing we can do besides learn how to hide in classroom closets while a maniac with an automatic weapon fires at will. We turn aside all common sense when a well-funded lobby, interested much more in profits than the lives of children, muddies the waters with lies and obfuscations. We are fed a very recent – and wrong – interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, which clearly states in the first line that it refers to state militias, not individuals. The fears of people (mostly white men) who feel like they’re losing their grip on their supremacy, are stoked by making the right to own all the guns you want somehow akin to freedom. We are told we cannot regulate and legislate something that is turning way too many classrooms into killing fields. We regulate cars and medicine and countless other things, but suggest commonsense gun laws and watch people run around like you’re trying to take their house away.
The propaganda has worked to such a degree that people will actually say there is nothing we can do in these circumstances. That the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Nothing about stopping the gun from getting into the hands of the “bad” (usually mentally ill) guy. Just more guns, guns on teachers, guns on school principals, guns on armed guards, and children cowering in corners. And all the while, gun manufacturers lining their pockets with bills splattered with the blood of innocents.
So, educational system, I wish you would do better. I cannot unteach my children an entire school career of being taught that there’s nothing we can do about an active shooter but hide. That enrages me. What I can do is tell them this is not the only way. And pray that the generation that has been taught to passively accept this has the moxie and the smarts to be better than their parents and the system in which they’ve been raised.