My high school students have never known a world where school shootings were not a reality. And I can’t help but wonder: what have we done?
They were still in diapers when the shootings at Columbine first awakened our country to such atrocities. They were learning their letters and numbers when the twin towers fell. They were navigating jr. high when their own community made the national news for the shootings at NIU. This is all they have ever known and I want to know: What have we done?
Our job is to protect them and we have seemingly done so by inundating them with so much violence that they are numb to its atrocities.
My students were fairly unfazed by the shootings in Connecticut, not because they are cruel or heartless—far from it. They were unfazed because it is just their reality. And we are not doing enough to awaken them to the horror of their indifference. And perhaps we are not doing enough to stop it because we recognize the roles that we have played within it.
Some blame guns or our lack of control over them. Others blame mental illness or our lack of care for those who suffer from it. Some blame video games and movies for their dismissal of the value of human life. Still others blame the media for giving such explicit attention to these situations that we give the perpetrators the very fame that they desired.
Perhaps we’re all so busy pointing fingers at one thing—wanting one thing to be the reason for these atrocities, because we are too overwhelmed by the reality that it is all of these things (and more). Each of these are merely the parts which equal a sum total that has constructed a culture of violence where human life is disregarded and destroyed.
The more time and energy that we waste blaming the entirety of this situation on one thing or one issue, the more we are able to go on ignoring the reality that nothing productive or restorative is taking place. We aren’t merely wasting time, we are wasting lives. We are watching children grow up with profound desensitization and disregard for human life and that is just as great a tragedy as any one of these horrific massacres.
I long for my students to live in a world where life is valued as much by each of us as by the very hands who first created it. I realize, however, that I won’t see that day until God’s Kingdom comes in its fullness. But I believe that even as we light a candle each week of Advent; that even as we anticipate the One who is to come—that we are charged with the responsibility of being active participants in God’s Kingdom here on earth, right now. And in our darkest days, I am reminded of the Sleeping at Last lyrics which read:
The smartest thing I’ve ever learned
Is that I don’t have all the answers
Just a little light to call my own.
Though it pales in comparison
To the overarching shadows,
A speck of light can reignite the sun
And swallow darkness whole.
May it be so.