Trying to find solutions
Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, Americans have watched a horrifying trend spread across the country: Colorado, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Minnesota again, Tennessee, Colorado again, an Amish schoolhouse — again in Pennsylvania, Tennessee again, Alabama, Nebraska, Ohio, Connecticut, Nevada, Colorado … again, Oregon, Washington, South Carolina, California again, Washington again, New Mexico, Kentucky … and now, Florida. Again.
Those are just the shootings, and at K-12 schools. It doesn’t count the stabbings or use of vehicles, or attacks on college campuses and churches.
And as happens every time, the political walls go up immediately. Your response makes you either rightwing or leftwing. Your ideas for solutions, or the entities you verbally attack/defend mark you as a conservative or a liberal. The extremes come out in a way that only makes the problem worse.
It’s about guns, or gun control, or the NRA or violence-glorifying pop culture. It’s about mental health, or the frightening territory of the adolescent mind, parents coddling their entitled kids, or bullying. It’s the FBI’s fault, it’s the fault of the family that took him in after his mother died. It’s about social media, or isolation. Something is to blame, and that something falls on the opposite end of the political spectrum from where the blamer stands.
In 1999, there were 248 million Internet users worldwide, 4.1 percent of the global population — it had only been generally accessible for four or five years, depending on where you lived, at that point. Facebook came on the scene in 2004. By December 2017 there were 4.05 billion users, 51.8 percent of the world’s population.
Is it the Internet’s fault? Are we doing such a terrible job of listening to each other as humans because we spend so much time in cyberspace?
I don’t know. I have no idea what the answer is, partly because the answer is not a simple one. And it probably is not one that will hit the right political buttons on either side.
There is a social media post being shared which goes so far as to say (paraphrasing) Maybe we should change the word “school” to “uterus,” so all the Republicans will finally care about kids dying in them.
Come on, people. How does that get us closer to solving the problem? Has no one figured out by now that the quickest way to get someone from “the other side” to harden his or her stance and quit listening completely is to hurl that kind of holier-than-thou snark at them?
Everyone wants to see an end to violence in our schools. Everyone wants our kids to be safer. That means we’re all on the same side. We just have different ideas about how to make it happen — and each person has deeply held reasons for the ideas for which they advocate.
But what in the world makes us think all those ideas are mutually exclusive? If we lived in a society where each person was willing to listen to the others, and allow what he or she learned to move them — even a little — from the ideological spot on which they are rooted, we would get closer together. Or, at least, we might stop the frantic rush to distance ourselves from one another.
Come to think of it, that might be the first step toward solving the problem of young people resorting to such horrifying violence at what seems to be an increasing rate. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org