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  • Julie

The Perfect Storm of a Thousand Mistakes

I’m not usually one to write about headlines, but this past week I’ve had trouble thinking about, and certainly writing about, anything else. The school shooting in Florida haunts me. It is yet another reminder that I, a mother, cannot always protect my children. No matter how dedicated and vigilant we are as parents, our children may one day be in harm’s way. That is a difficult fact to accept.

From the moment I became a mother, nothing mattered more to me than my children’s wellbeing. Some twenty plus years later, that is still the case. The mothers I know are “mama bears,” women willing to rip to shreds anyone who threatens our children. It is our instinct, our job, our purpose. 

When we see another mother suffer the injury, illness, or loss of a child, we understand the depth of her pain. We know that what happened to her child could happen to ours. We share her feeling of utter helplessness, the agony of every what if question and if only prayer.

So here we are again, mothers, fathers, all of us, watching politicians and pundits attempt to explain the unexplainable. And we’re sick of it. Sick of empty promises, agenda driven non-solutions, and the 20-20 hindsight analysis of the multiple red flags that were overlooked or disregarded.

I am blinded by tears of anger, of heartbreak, and of shame. Shame that in the United States of America, our children are not safe at school. Government is paralyzed to the point of stupidity. Politicians are beholden to special interest groups, refusing to compromise or consider options that are not in perfect alignment with their agendas. They are afraid of losing party support, endorsements, funding, and elections. 

And what about us? Do we cling to our opinions and beliefs so tightly it defies logic? Do we dismiss the reality of who and what people are? We know that certain individuals are more likely to be violent than others. We know what situations and conditions can lead to deviant behavior. We know how to identify potential school shooters. They are not created in a vacuum and then unleashed upon us like aliens from another planet!

So why do we tip-toe around profiling? It’s what advertisers do every day: the act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits, tendencies, behaviors. Of course it involves generalizations and assumptions, but it’s common sense. There’s a profile for every one of us — just ask Facebook. If an algorithm can identify me as a woman likely to buy shoes, there’s an algorithm that can identify a young man likely to commit violence. 

Following a mass shooting, we learn all about the shooter. He was troubled, lacked proper parenting, had been bullied or isolated or abused. We find out he was obsessed with Hitler, McVeigh, or Columbine. We discover that despite multiple suspensions, expulsions, mental health evaluations, and calls to police, the kid still was able to get his hands on a gun.  

I’m sure there’s a troubled young man somewhere in our country right this minute who identifies with Nikolas Cruz. In his twisted mind, he reveres him and believes that Cruz matters now, when he did not matter before. Will the adults responsible for this young man notice the problem? Will social services intervene? Will his petty crimes be recorded? Will classmates report his bizarre behavior? Will he be helped? Will he be incarcerated? Or will he be ignored? Will he slip between the cracks, get his hands on a gun, and become the next school shooter?

I’m sorry I don’t have the answers. I can only pose the questions. 

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Rudyard Kipling

We have heard the same story time and time again. And it’s not that we fail to remember it; we just fail to learn from it.

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