By ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Managing Editor
As I was dragging myself out of bed this morning, a young man decided to take his life in a middle school bathroom. And since then, the speculation about how and why this happened has been non-stop.
Belonging to the sectors of the media that have to provide coverage of these kinds of events is a hard job, and I hold a lot of respect the reporters, photographers, cameramen, and producers who are forced to see some things that no one should ever have to see. However, there is often a lack of respect in the fight to obtain the latest scoop, to get all the details possible. Right now, it doesn’t matter what the boy’s name was, what he did or did not write in his note, or how he got the gun into school. What matters is that a 14 year old had so much pain inside of him that he could not live with it anymore. What matters is that a 14 year old felt that the only way he could feel better was to put a gun to his head. What matters is that his parents, siblings, friends, and teachers will never get to see him again. Let them grapple with the horrific realities in peace, please.
Scrolling through the comments on various local news websites, I could not believe how political some readers were making this event. Ever since the Newtown shootings just over three months ago, the gun control debates have run rampant; but this was not the only issue being discussed. As I combed through boards talking about the entitlement of this generation, why parents shouldn’t shelter their children, and the consequences of a “liberal method of child rearing,” I could not believe what I was seeing. There were even comments going back and forth about whether God exists or should be allowed in schools, and why such an omnipotent being would let this happen. It makes me sick to my stomach that some folks would use the suicide of an eighth grader as a champion to their cause. It doesn’t matter whether you have the Second Amendment tattooed across your back, or whether you think violent video games are the root of all evil. A suicide by gunshot to the head is not, and will never be, the forum for such a political or religious debate. This is the place and time to be sending positive energy, thoughts, and prayers towards the family of the victim and the staff and students of that middle school. If you are truly selfish enough to turn this into a personal rant about governmental policies or religion: Shame. On. You.
One thing I saw that further disturbed me was the quantification of the shooting. “Very sad, but I am thankful he didn’t feel he had to take anyone else with him.” Saying one tragedy is worse than another, or that it could have been worse, gets into a whole gray area of emotions that I feel should never be delved into. Try telling this boy’s parents that this isn’t “as bad” as some past incidents where guns were brought to school. Keep these thoughts to yourself – they will get you nowhere, and do nothing to alleviate the situation.
I would like to end with a plea to school districts everywhere, not just in Southgate. Please, please, please don’t simply cover up the damage and put on a show of better security. This is not the time for armed guards keeping watch over the school entry ways. This is the time to bring in more counselors, encourage peer mediation, and to provide a safe haven for these children so that they never, ever feel this kind of pain. Counseling for the next few weeks, even months, is not enough in the aftermath of such tragic events like this. There needs to be an ongoing discussion between students and teachers, between parents and children, and among the students themselves about how to treat other people, and how to take care of one’s self.
Now is the time to ask – are you happy? Now is the time to say – I am here for you. I care about you. I accept you. I love you.
Because until this happens, and until the root of causes of such immense emotional pain is dealt with, this is going to continue to occur.