This is not a political outlet. So, I will confine my “political” comment to a single set of facts. 17 people killed yesterday. 32 school days so far this year. Time Magazine reports 18 school shootings. So a school shooting every other day.
The interviews I heard last night on television provided a haunting reminder of a conversation I had earlier that day with a colleague who treats families going through divorce. We spoke about a common case. The child we were discussing was enduring an acrimonious divorce. The child is caught in the middle and is traumatized by the experience. The therapist related to me that part of his concern was that the child we were discussing seemed to have no friends; no social connection of any substance. The kid is in a lot of pain and his parents are so absorbed by their own suffering, they have little empathy to give. So, the child spends hours of time alone in his home immersed in social media.
Last night I listened to coverage of the 19 year old shooter. I heard interviews with his classmates. The child was a loner with no identifiable friends despite efforts on his part to connect with peers directly and via social media. Children in the high school who knew the shooter before he was expelled described him as strange and his efforts to connect with his fellow students were rejected because he was odd. So, this child posted some very troubling things online and exercised his right under Florida laws to acquire an AR-15 automatic weapon shortly after attaining 18. That gun fires more than 700 rounds per minute.
Last year Parkland was named Florida’s safest city. The mayor described the community as “close knit.” Like Columbine, Colorado, Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, these are towns where mass shootings are not supposed to happen. But, let us be plain, we are not a close knit society. Our kids are more vulnerable to this kind of aberrant conduct than we would like to think. If you watched the interviews with the affected children, you can tell they don’t even know what they have just lived through. If anything, they are far too poised for people who have witnessed the death of mentors, classmates and come closer than they can consider, to being among those for whom there will never be another Valentine’s Day.
Eighty nine years ago yesterday, America learned of the brutal murder of seven men in a garage on North Clark Street in Chicago. The killings became a part of American history. Three months ago we watched 58 people killed and 851 wounded in Las Vegas. Cellular phones and computers can make us more connected than we could have ever dreamed possible a generation ago. But, we are less close knit and more disconnected than ever. When will we realize that “connectivity” is not just a reality? It is also a mirage.
President Trump has concluded that the nineteen year old shooter was mentally disturbed. That should be self evident. But, a child like this lurks in just about every high school in America. The question is, do we accept school shootings as part of the American way of life or are we going to do something to find these kids and give them help before more children die.