I was at school when I saw the news bulletin about the shooter at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. UCC is just about 3 hours south of us, but we are part of the same community college system. Just that morning we had talked about guns on campus in my WR 115 classroom. Meanwhile, the shooter had entered another WR 115 class and interrupted their conversation in a vicious and terrible way.
Shock at a distance is shock nonetheless. As an instructor at a CC, it's hard not to imagine the same thing happening on my campus, even in my classroom. There's one exit and a pair of enormous windows that open on the world. What would I do? How could I protect my students? I know the emergency drill: lock the door turn off the lights, pull the blinds, turn off the projector and get everyone on the floor. But that only works if the shooter is somewhere else.
I've been reading responses to the news, many of which suggest that we need more armed security guards and even armed instructors--unworkable for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the plethora of aging educators who are just as likely to shoot themselves in the foot as protect their charges. Besides, taking out one shooter does just that and no more. Another will rise to take his place.
So, how do we stop this epidemic of gun violence? How do I do something? That's the crux of it, isn't it? Knowing as we all do that politics and government won't serve, the duty falls to the individual. What can each of us do to keep unhappiness and its frequent companion, mental illness, from deteriorating into an unreasoning rage that takes its revenge on the innocent?
As I look at the parade of killers who've emerged over the past 20 years, I see souls who've been rejected and marginalized, who grow in their anger towards insanity and violence. They are not born this way--or, if they are, they need treatment. I'd like to suggest that each of us has the power, through love and kindness, to salvage lives and turn them towards open-hearted community rather than festering isolation. I can do this in my classroom, on the street, in social media. What about you?