|Graffiti in my neighborhood in Louisville, KY|
Both times, it turned out to be a misunderstanding and everything and everyone was fine. Things got back to normal fairly quickly. We were collectively relieved that our little commuter campus in southern Indiana hadn't become another name on a long list of schools where innocent people were shot to death because they happened to go to school the same day someone else decided they had to die.
I drop my daughter off a pre-kindergarten two or three days a week. The cars line up and wait for the door to open, and while we sit in line, my daughter sits in the front seat, sometimes leaning out the passenger window to yell greetings to her friends in the car ahead or behind, sometimes just being goofy with me. And when we get to the front of the line, I get out of the car so she can clamber over the driver's seat and run into school after a quick hug. Dropping her off is one of my favorite things in the world. But it's always tinged by the small voice in my head that warns me that school shootings can happen at any school, even a little Lutheran preschool. I hate having that thought so often.
Since we will continue sending our two children to school, and since our country is not prepared to do anything to stop these shootings, I asked my wife how old our children should be when we talk to them, to tell them that there are people out there who may want to hurt them and may come to their school to do it. Do we tell them that there's almost nothing we can do to keep them safe in these public spaces?
As a parent, how am I supposed to talk to my children about this?
As a husband, how do I reassure my wife that I will be fine when I am doing my job?
As a teacher, how do I make students feel safe in our classrooms?
Like so many of you, yesterday's shooting left me in rage, sorrow, and despair. Just as the shooting before and the shooting before that. "Shit Academics Say," a social media account that so accurately satirizes academics under different circumstances, posted this last night:
As it so often does, SAS put it just right.
Now about a day after the shooting, I am still working through the complex emotions I'm experiencing and shifting through the same political responses that always follow these events. As I sit here, thinking of the people in Oregon who were killed while they were trying to make their lives better, I want answers to the questions above. Not canned political responses, not savage ideologically-oriented retorts.
When I introduce my upper-level undergraduates to stasis theory--short, simple explanation of stasis theory: people on different sides of arguments need to talk about the same issue to have an argument that might result in change--I usually use abortion as the ultimate example of an argument that we just can't seem to find a way to put into stasis, to talk about in a way that might resolve the problem. But now I think gun violence has become a strong contender for the problem our country can't (or won't) solve.
I want to believe that we can be safe in the public spaces that so often become the sites of these horrific shootings. I desperately want to believe. But I don't.