Earlier in the semester, I used Barbara Kingsolver’s essay “Life is Precious, Or Its Not” in a lesson on active reading strategies. I used it because it discusses school shootings and America’s obsession with violence. At the time, I didn’t necessarily agree with everything she said, but I thought–and still think–it’s an important topic for students to think about and to discuss.

If you’re anywhere near the St. Louis area, you have likely heard about the shooting in the Kirkwood City Hall. Two police officers have been confirmed dead, along with 3 other people, due to a shooting at a city council meeting.

I may have mentioned this before, but my fiancee is a police officer. Though not a part of the Kirkwood department, he does work at a nearby department. I received a quick call from him earlier to say he was fine, but wouldn’t be home for a while.

He’s been a police officer since we began dating, and this is not the first time the story of a slain police officer has sent my heart dropping. People die everyday. People are even murdered everyday. But, police are often in the middle of those things, targets to some. It isn’t an easy thing to accept, but I have always been able to balance that fear with the very fact that any of us can go at any time. There are a million and one things out there that can take a life, and to dwell on one particular occupation as being the sole possibility of that end seems silly.

So, it is not his job that has me shaken this evening. It is a line in Kingsolver’s essay that replays in my head, leaving me with this feeling of utter despair. “Why would any student, however frustrated with meanspirited tormentors, believe that guns and bombs were the answer?” In my head, I wonder why any man or person believes that guns and murder is the answer. The news is reporting that this man was a constant problem with the city council, he claimed his rights were violated and that he was harassed. All of this may be the case, but what did the death of innocent or even not-so-innocent people prove? What did it change?

We live in a society that glorifies violence–I think I can claim that as fact. We are society that results to violence, that chants revenge, and in the wake of this event, my heart aches for that society that cannot find a way to resolve a situation without violence.

We can blame this on mental instability. We can blame it on the harassment. We can blame it on the guns, the video games, the economy, race– but the bottom line is blame and scapegoats solve no more than the guns d0.

We can say these murders were senseless, but as Kingsolver asserts, “‘Senseless’ sounds like ‘without cause,’ and it requires no action, so that after an appropriate interval of dismayed handwringing, we can go back to business as usual.”

How can we go back to business as usual? How can we not demand change? How can we not begin to determine WHY. Why do people result to this unbelievable act? What makes a person have so little value for the life around him? Until we try to answer these questions–and change whatever the answers are, I have to live with a certain amount of fear. Fear that on any given day a disgruntled student could walk into my classroom and shoot. Fear that on any given day my future husband will be shot on his way to get some food because of the uniform he wears. Fear that in a mall, in a school, in a church, in an office, in just about any place, any neighborhood, someone can decide that today is their day to take another person’s life. Today is their day for revenge.

In the end, we are all to blame. And we must all suffer the consequences until we are, as a society, ready to change.

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