Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Interspersed with the sounds of panic.
The sounds from inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
The sounds so common that we instantly know what they are.
The sounds of an assault rifle shredding lives in another mass shooting in our country.
As the father of a high school student, each pop cuts through my soul, knowing that there’s nothing to prevent the same thing in our community.
Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
The sounds of the monster that we’ve created.
The monster grows every day.
Every day we are baited by the blood fetish of a gun lobby that owns our politicians and finds no ethical dilemma in using guns and ammunition in a message of love.
Every day we throw medication at problem kids to suppress but not address their emotional pain.
Every day we scream our lungs out on social media when tragedy strikes but go back to scrolling through our Instagrammed lives once we’ve done our time in the pulpit.
Tragedy. Outrage. Silence.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
None of this changes until we face an ugly truth.
We’re too scared to face the monster — because the monster is us.
The monster lives because most of us walk the other way when we see troubled young men who don’t have good role models and support networks in their lives.
The monster lives because we’ve allowed and even pushed boys to be suppressed, alienated, and isolated. Radicalization is rooted in isolation and emotional pain. Humans have a need to belong — and its harder than ever to belong in this world — especially if you’re perceived as different. The persistent gaze of social media and the physical distance that technology enables only amplifies this isolation.
The monster lives because we don’t exemplify kindness to our kids. When we shy away from those who are troubled, when we make fun at their expense, that’s what we teach our kids to do to their classmates.
Yes, we need more reasonable gun laws that respect the spirit of the Second Amendment and keep weapons of mass harm out of the wrong hands. We need better enforcement of existing laws and improved response for identified threats. We need more funding for mental health care, school counselors, and youth mentoring programs. We need to elect politicians that have the backbone to do what is right, rather than what is profitable.
But it can’t stop there. We have to face the monster in our communities, our homes, our families, and ourselves. We have to acknowledge that legislation alone doesn’t reclaim the soul of this country.
We face — and fight — the monster, one personal connection at a time.