When I was in sixth grade, I vividly remember being told that were going under a lockdown drill. When the secretary came over the intercom and said that we were going under a lockdown, we all knew what to do instantaneously, as if we were machines producing a car. We hid in our designated spots. I remember my teacher saying something like, “If you don’t hide, then you’ll get shot.”
As a teenager who can now ascertain the severity of this, I’ve come to realize that this is the sad truth that we all have to face. Recently, a Colorado K-12 STEM school was gunned down by two students. The tragedy left one student dead and eight injured. As discomforting as this is, I can unfortunately say that I am not surprised.
After watching the news and hearing about what students had to say about the incident and what they did, it was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking that they knew what they had to do, and the drills my school and I had been doing for almost a decade had become a reality to that school. It was absolutely disheartening that we are forced to live in a reality where we have to take these precautions. We are teaching students safety and what to do if something like this would ever occur, but we’re almost failing to teach students how to love.
This lack of love and lack of shock value with this kind of tragedy is desensitizing, or the diminishing of the emotional responsiveness to something negative. The fact that we have school shootings going on to this day, it makes me wonder two things: are we becoming more desensitized to tragedy and have we learned from past instances?
Desentization can go back very far in history. After reading “Night,” a Holocaust memoir written by Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, it made me realize the dangers to desentization and how it can plague the masses.
For example, when Adolf Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf”, translating to “My Struggle”, in 1925, he explained his anti semitic beliefs and his future plans for Germany. When he became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, he began to make these plans a reality.
First, it was implemented that those who were Jewish need to wear the Star of David on their clothes when out in public. Jews were also denied rights, such as access to healthcare and legal qualifications. They ultimately faced a period of segregation until it was decided that the Jews would be taken to concentration camps where they would be exterminated. Of course, Hitler received the popular vote for policies, thus making German citizens believe in his values, ultimately desentizing them.
We can see a similar situation in today’s society, within people who are suspects of school shootings and even ourselves. Those shooters are desentized from their wrongdoings. NPR concludes that there are many factors that contribute to the mind of a school shooter, such as experiencing a difficult life, suffering from psychological problems and mental health issues. These experiences and problems can affect the brain to make it function in a different manner.
Now, we can even say that our own society is desensitized from these types of tragedies. Like I said earlier, I was not surprised that we experienced another shooting. That repetition of similar events can almost jade us. Yes, we do feel remorse for the people that were affected, but we are not at all surprised because of how much it occurs.
Overall, this leads me to believe that we have not learned from the past. One of the most poignant school shootings in American history was the Columbine high school massacre in 1999. One teacher and 12 students died from that event. 20 years later, we still are having similar experiences. This recent shooting was the 116th mass shooting in 2019. As of May 8, 128 days in this year have already passed, meaning that we have gone 12 days without a mass shooting. Thinking about those numbers is one of the most unsettling things to me.
Because of these past massacres, the one thing we should say we have learned is peace. Peace amongst ourselves and our society. We’re counting the days comprised of mass shootings, but we should also count the days without. The number of days with shootings may outweigh the number of days without, but those days without mass shootings are days without mass deaths and injuries by gunfire. Those days are steps towards peace.