A few weeks ago, Miss O’s school sent an email alerting parents to an upcoming event at school. The subject line read “terrorism preparedness.” That was enough to make my heart stop a moment and trigger so many feelings I am not yet equipped to deal with. I cannot imagine what families who have been through any attack or loss of a child are going through, but I do know that I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and my heart is breaking for them all over again as I write this.
The rational person in me understands why a school, or any organization, would feel the need to draft a plan for how they will deal with an impending crisis. For many years, I was the one who drafted those plans for meetings and conferences. They usually involved acts of nature, power loss, and infectious disease. I’ve either never had to address an act of violence or I’ve blocked it out because I hate the thought so much, but I understand why someone would want a plan for that. Being adequately prepared for these kinds of crises, especially with large groups of people in a panic-rife situation is critical. You write it, vet it with local authorities and first responders, keep it on your nightstand with a full attendee list at night and pray you don’t need to look at it again until the next event planning cycle starts.
There is another person in me that wants desperately to believe this kind preparation is completely unnecessary and questions what impact it will have on my daughter and her friends. How will it affect the teachers and how they approach their work? While I realize it will change the way they view safety and overall preparedness in a proactive and positive way, I can’t help but wonder how much, if any, negative impact this will have.
I am glad that the school values preparation and procedure. I am thrilled they care so much about our children. I am sad that there needs to be such training at all. I am sad that this is becoming a routine occurrence that warrants a Preschool inviting the local police to the school for more than a “career day.” I want to get the image of an active shooter in my daughter’s pre-k classroom out of my head.
I have days where I can’t listen to the news because it moves me beyond feeling informed about the world and carries me into depression. I get mired in all the loss of life and destruction of civilization. I weep for the people who have left their homes with no money or possessions, risking their lives to find a better way for their families, if they are even lucky enough to have their families with them. I get angry at the state of the educational system in our country that I feel I should be grateful to even take a part of since I am a woman. I am mystified by the way we treat each other. Our country is made up of people of different skin tones, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and socio-economic backgrounds and if I remember primary school at all, I thought this country was founded on the belief that people could come here and be who they are and want to be.
So why can’t we all just get along? What is it about being different that makes us act differently? We read articles and studies about why. Collectively, we know why, yet we don’t all work to not do it. Some people even go so far as to perpetuate what can only be described at hateful behavior. Why is it so hard to simply allow people to be who they are and move on? Because as a society we consider who is or who might get hurt, and entering into a conversation attempting to define that hurt, what hurt is, who it applies to and what the limits are, has no resolution. It is subjective and relative. “There is no capital T Truth”, as my favorite college sociology professor would say.
And so we now live in a powder keg. Some people feel that free speech allows them to be who they are and they’re right. For some that freedom means openly loving someone of the same sex. For others, that freedom means publicly decrying that love and fearing the effect it will have on society. Freedom of thought allows for those two opinions to coexist in the same space. There is no right or wrong, there is only thought. When you couple emotion with that thought, reactions happen. Some are visceral and vocal while others are subtle and muffled.
Disagreement is natural and creates so many wonderful conversations. Disagreement can foster healthy debate, enjoyed by both sides if you can separate out the emotion, keep the conversation rational and based in fact or acknowledged opinion, and leave the posturing out of it. It can also create fervor if you inject it with emotion, unfounded claims and resort to rudeness as a counter.
This intolerance of another’s opinion is fueling the environment I fear is permeating our society and I don’t know what to do about it. All things being fair, I can’t defend a friend for professing their love of Star Wars in the name of free speech, if I can’t also defend the friend who hates it and thinks it is wrong. They are both entitled to their opinions. They are welcome to engage in healthy debate over it. We learn things through discussion, so it would be interesting to see what points of note surfaced. Why is this notion different when we replace it with equality in marriage or equality in pay? Why is it different if we replace it with race?
Power and access.
Those two things are what keep some people up and others down. It’s what allows people to declare what is right and what is wrong. The debate on what those things are has gotten, in my opinion, farther and farther away from a healthy discussion and closer to spiteful, mudslinging filled with misinformation and manipulation of the truth. There are a lot of people caught in between and their lives are affected by the resulting turmoil. Some of them can’t take it or the bullies it produces. Yes, bullies. How you disagree is an indicator of your ability to tolerate a differing opinion. I have noticed more and more people unable to agree to disagree and just walk away from the conversation or devolve into nothing more than hateful, petty, name calling. This need to win an argument or to force an opinion on people so they see one side’s capital T truth is deteriorating into basic bullying. Making people feel worthless is not the way to get them to agree your side is valid.
When people are pushed to a certain point, they break down. Some people cry and get over it. Some people cry and don’t get over it without properly trained assistance. Some people cry and never get over it. Some people break so badly, they can’t think rationally anymore. Those people are why today my daughter’s pre-Kindergarten class learned how to be so quiet and follow their teacher into a closet like little ducklings following a mama duck.
No. This is where we are, but it is not where we can stay. I get sick to my stomach thinking of how someone needs to fix this. I don’t know who that is. I know it’s more than one person and I know it’s not an easy ask. It has to be fixed. My little duckling should be learning her letters and playing with her friends at recess, not hiding in a closet wondering when the game is over.