The tragedy that unfolded in Parkland, Florida is a heartbreaking and harsh reminder that the world we live in is both broken and flawed in such a way that it seems as if no one person is safe from the actions of another. Children shooting children, teens wiping out their classmates, individuals assassinating crowds of unsuspecting people…. The dynamics themselves are variable but the end result is still the same – carnage, heartache, disbelief, sadness, grief, and a loss of innocence for those who survive.
So what’s going to be the catalyst that ultimately incites change? The students of Parkland certainly seem to be a driving force…a voice, a catalyst, a change movement of youth to be reckoned with. We as a society need to harness that generated momentum that was born in grief and start asking some very key and potentially uncomfortable questions of one another and of ourselves as a society. We cannot shy away from the crux of the problems for fear of infringing or offending. If we are going to forge a solution as a whole then we need to look at the individual components and challenge them. We need to ask what the majority are thinking. When did it become okay to purchase an assault riffle? To what purpose does owning such a powerful weapon or any powerful weapon serve at an everyday level? This is not meant to stir the pot on gun control – I am ultimately of the belief that guns don’t kill people but rather that people kill people with whatever the means they can get their hands on. But I also don’t believe that assault riffles have a place in the hands of everyday people.
Yet maybe a bigger issue that has yet to sufficiently be addressed is the mental health component behind all of these tragedies. How many times in the aftermath do we hear how the perpetrator battled depression or anxiety, was a loner or social outcast, or exhibited antisocial tendencies, rage disorders, and erratic behaviors. In the most recent cases there was also mention of animal cruelty and use of social media which hinted at something bigger. The signs, even if subtle, are there. We cannot remain quiet if we identify a red flag – right? Isn’t it our duty to report our concerns, protect ourselves and others? Wouldn’t you rather be wrong then realize if you’d only spoke up maybe a tragedy could have been avoided? Look at the grandmother who reported her grandson to authorities after reading his journal in which he expressed a plan to kill others. Thankfully she had the courage to speak out against her grandson, and thankfully law enforcement acted on it. So why didn’t the FBI in the Parkland case? To those we report concerns to, they have a duty to investigate – don’t they? How do we best identify whether or not someone with a mental health issue might become violent or exhibit violent tendencies? This is not to discriminate against those with mental health issues but rather to concede that there is often a correlation between mental health illness and violent tendencies in certain situations. Should having a mental health issue or illness prevent you from purchasing a gun? Is that even possible? If not, should it be? Sadly, in general, mental health services are seemingly lacking in funding. Even on the most basic of levels, services are limited and scarce for so many people who need them. So why isn’t there more funding, more services, more facilities, and even institutions for those who so desperately need them?
Just today a friend of mine told me of a situation that unfolded at her son’s school the day after the Parkland shooting occurred. Apparently a student made a comment to two other classmates that he “was going to make Parkland look like a joke.” Needless to say the school handled it poorly and parents were outraged and beyond upset. This situation is disturbing on a multitude of levels for a multitude of reasons as you can very well surmise. In fact, the school’s poor response coupled with the minimal repercussions for the student making this horrific comment left parents feeling uneasy and students questioning their safety. Whether said in seriousness or for effect, the student making this statement certainly has a disturbing and skewed view of things that at best warrant (in my opinion) a thorough mental health evaluation. As for the students of the school, my friend and I discussed what was next for her son and his peers. I suggested that they band together and become one voice denouncing those who threaten their safety and the system that ultimately was set up to fail them as evidenced by the school’s response to the threat. While no one wants their child to become a target for being a change agent, it is fear that gives power to the cowards who steal their innocence.
I don’t know what the answer is. But what I do believe is that the answer will come from challenging social norms. I believe it will come from asking the tough questions, the ones that illicit discomfort and spark debate. And it will come from respecting the fact that ultimately we all are looking to solve the same problem. We cannot lose site of the fact that the goal is a common one.