This is the first blog post I’ve written in nearly five months. It almost didn’t get written, but not because of writer’s block. At the same time I took a break from blog writing, I began composing letters to the editor of my local newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot. Three of the letters were published.
My last letter, which appeared in the January 31 Pilot, addressed the same topic I’ve had difficulty writing about for Edjacent’s blog: mass shootings. It’s easy for me to write a letter to a newspaper because their word limit forces me to be concise. Writing a blog post about mass shootings has been much harder; every time I reach the end of a draft and start thinking about my “call to action” for readers, I become overwhelmed with feelings of shame, frustration, and despair. Then I walk away from my laptop.
The endless cycle of mass shootings in our country evokes strong emotions in many people, yet others—most notably politicians, especially those on the right—seem to have accepted that nothing can be done about it. Reacting to previous letters in the Pilot from “lefties” concerned about gun violence, the writer of a February 9 letter proclaimed, “our Second Amendment ain’t going away because that is a God-given right in our Constitution.” Sadly, people also have a God-given right to be callous and stupid.
My latest inspiration (if you can call it that) to try and finish this post was last week’s editorial in the Pilot titled “The School Shooting Generation.” The piece begins by describing how Michigan State University (MSU) students reacted when they learned there was an active shooter on campus: “They expected this and knew how to respond.”
The editorial mentioned current MSU undergrads who know school shootings all too well. Ten years ago, Jackie Matthews attended a middle school in Newtown, Connecticut that went into lockdown while a gunman massacred dozens at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School. Several MSU freshmen were at Oxford High School, north of Detroit, on November 30, 2021, when four of their classmates were shot to death. Shortly after the Oxford HS shooting, I wrote a blog post about gun violence, “Coming Soon to a School Near You?”.
The fact that a number of students experienced the second mass shooting of their young lives does not surprise me. It’s not a coincidence. In last month’s letter to the editor, I stated that “gun violence has touched my life on three occasions – two were mass shootings.”
On May 31, 2019, I was in the City of Virginia Beach’s Building 2 approximately two hours before 12 people were shot to death by a disgruntled employee. More recently, my daughter and her roommates hunkered down for hours in a windowless room after three young men were slain within a mile of her house in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Earlier I said that I couldn’t complete this blog post because feelings of shame, frustration, and despair overwhelmed me. I became aware of my shame after a 2017 incident in Charlottesville: the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. As I watched the tiki-torch march of White supremacists and listened to their chants, I was truly ashamed of my country and fellow Americans.
For the past 67 months, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the USA. I love my country because of what it’s supposed to represent, but I hate that our nation will never reach its potential because so many angry and uncompromising people continue to hold us back. I am frustrated beyond words and my despair has reached new depths.