“But where do you live mostly now?”
“With the lost boys.”
“Who are they?”
“They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to the Neverland to defray expanses. I’m captain.”
“What fun it must be!”
said cunning Peter,
“but we are rather lonely.”
J. M. Barrie
My heart is so tired today. I’ve been trying to write about other things, but I can’t.
When I heard the news yesterday I felt like I should write something- but no words came. I actually had the thought, “I’ll just go back to the last one and see what I said then.”
The last school shooting.
We need to look at gun violence. I almost don’t want to even write about that, because OF COURSE, WE DO. And you can make the argument that guns don’t kill people, people kill people- but there is no universe in which he could have killed that many people had he been wielding a knife and not a gun.
When you watch police dramas they frequently talk about how murder by knife is more personal. It’s up close. Maybe he wouldn’t have been able to stomach that- maybe that would have been too real. It’s easier, I imagine, to disassociate from the other side of a classroom, through a door. Across a campus.
Like a video game. Targets, not people. How many points for a girl? A teacher? A security guard?
And while we lament, while we grieve yet another sickening and senseless slaughter, the powers that be offer up “thoughts and prayers” while they pad their campaign coffers with bloodsoaked money.
In any case, I am heartsick and bone tired of making that particular argument. I will again. I will keep banging that fucking drum. The good news is, I have all the facts and statistics saved from the last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.
But of course he cared very much; and he was so full of wrath against grown-ups, who, as usual, were spoiling everything, that as soon as he got inside his tree he breathed intentionally quick short breaths at the rate of about five to a second. He did this because there is a saying in the Neverland that every time you breathe, a grown-up dies; and Peter was killing them vindictively as fast as possible.
I have a child in high school. My boyfriend has kids in elementary and high school. I think about this all the time. I think about it every time I drop my kid off and see the police officer standing out front. I suppose that should reassure me.
When I went to high school I worried about being bullied. I worried about my un-done homework. I worried about cheerleading try-outs, drill team and prom. I worried about a host of family things.
I never worried that some boy would pick me off to make a statement, or get revenge. It never occurred to me someone could bring a gun to school and turn study hall into a bloodsport. That was before Columbine.
I didn’t worry the boy I turned down for the dance would kill me in the hallway. That was before Maren.
When I dropped my son off at elementary school, I didn’t worry about their lockdown procedure. That was long before Sandy Hook.
Guns and knives were all available back then, obviously. So the easy access to weapons is part of the problem, but it’s not the whole problem.
We’re losing the boys.
Peter spoke indignantly. “You don’t think I would kill him while he was sleeping! I would wake him first, and then kill him. That’s the way I always do.” “I say! Do you kill many?” “Tons!”
Something is happening to our boys. Some things, really. I don’t think it’s ONE thing.
I think we no longer live in community. Not really. We spend so much time in virtual communities. We sit behind a screen and some of us try to connect. We find groups where other people are seeking connection, and yes- those places can make us feel less alone.
Anyone who spends time on the internet knows about trolls. About cyber-bullying. The reason those things are so pervasive is because it is so much easier to be vicious when your victim isn’t standing right in front of you. I think that culture of lashing out online, where people aren’t really PEOPLE, right? You’re telling a username you wish they’d die. You’re typing STUPID or USELESS or SLUT onto a screen- there’s no human reacting to the onslaught before your eyes. So it becomes easier to attack, bit by bit.
You’re at the lunch table, and everyone is on their phone. You’re together, but not TOGETHER. When you and your friends get together you sit in front of a big screen, or everyone is on their little screens. You spend more time preparing the online version of your time with your friends for social media than you do truly interacting with them.
This is how otherness happens.
I think otherness is at the root of a lot of these tragedies.
Depression in teenage boys often doesn’t look the way we think it will. It doesn’t always look SAD. Depressed and sad are not the same thing. Depression frequently looks a lot like apathy, Sullenness. Anger. Exhaustion.
We don’t do a good job teaching little boys to connect. We encourage little girls to play house, or make believe, where the play centers on interacting with each other, and relationships. We comfort them when they cry. We smile as they hold hands and hug and talk about their feelings.
We encourage parallel play in boys, we buy them toys that are more about DOING than BEING. We roll our eyes as they sit side by side playing video games, never talking. We smile as they knock each other about, and worry if they are too sensitive.
When you combine that type of socialization with mental illness, disconnection, and easy access to weapons?
You get Columbine. And Virginia Tech. And Delaware state. And Northern Illinois University. And Hampton University. And the University of Alabama. And Sandy Hook. And Isla Vista. And Taft Union. And the Stevens Institute. And New River Community College. And Santa Monica. And Sparks Middle School. And Berrendo Middle School. And South Carolina University. And UC Santa Barbara. And Marysville Pilchuck High School.
And Umpqua Community College.
Those are just the schools, by the way. And it’s not a complete list.
And whether a shooter dies on the scene or not, his parents lose a child that day, too.
There is more than one way to lose a child.
We are losing the boys. We are failing them.
I honestly do not want to hear a single politician talk about their thoughts and prayers. So what? I’m not sure I even want to hear them talk about gun control. Not today. Because it’s just talk, and I’m sick of it. And these boys are lost to us before they pick up a gun. Before they load it. Before they murder. Before they die.
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
We need to do something about the boys.
Of course Neverland had been make-believe in those days; but it was real now, and there were no night-lights, and it was getting darker every moment
If you are truly interested in the roots of all the school violence, there’s two books well worth reading:
Lost Boys: Why our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them
Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence
This is an area of expertise of my therapist of five years, and she’s been involved in several of those post-school shootings, going back to Columbine and another early one — she recommended these books to me.
Makes you realize how critical the very earliest of years are in our parenting, and how little we do as a society to protect the youngest and find and educate parents who could possibly benefit from intervention and skills training — and how too late it is by the time they are teens.
The Mandy Diaries says
Such truth. Sadness.
Excellent article. I never realized that gun violence always seems to be done by males. Interesting.
In Others' Words says
Not always, certainly. But most often, and I’ve yet to hear of a girl school shooter.
But even suicide by firearms are more likely to be male committed. I think there’s a gender bias towards that (un-scientifically speaking, of course.)
What? Is that to something I said? If so, I’m really sorry if I said something offensive. I hope you know I never would on purpose.
In Others' Words says
It wasn’t in response to you, and I made the decision to take the relevant post down. No worries, friend.
Wow… Brought tears to my eyes. Very powerful and moving.