From the Mind of R. S. Hill
A blog about this, that, and more...
Silence is golden. So, they say. Some deviate and claim silence is complicity. Others call it a right, a privilege, a mark of distinction among those who cannot help but vomit nonsense 24/7. Having mulled over these phases of silence ‘over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore’ (Poe is the man), I conclude that when it comes to hot button issues like school shootings, there is a time for silence and a time to speak. The time to speak is now.
Another school shooting—this one in Oxford, Michigan at a high school like any other in America—has stirred the country into more fruitless debate over gun control. Gun rights advocates shout, “Guns don’t kill, people do.” The anti-arms brigades are making the rounds slinging outrage, tears, and justifiable cries for reform. And while those conversations need to be heard for us to move on to ‘the same old, same old,’ perhaps it is time to stop avoiding a larger issue. The fact that people have the right to bear arms in America doesn’t scare me as much as what appears to be, for too many in America, the inconvenient responsibility of being a good parent.
The Oakland County lead prosecutor has a point as she seeks to hold the parents accountable for another deadly shooting. The shooter’s parents are accused of being negligent for not heeding warnings that their child was in serious crisis and for being irresponsible gun owners. In doing so they violated the golden rule all good parents commit to. ‘I am responsible for my child.’
The truth is that behind every school shooter there is usually a negligent parent. Sure, there are others responsible like bloated school districts, sketchy gun dealers, the NRA, lackadaisical educators, and out-of-touch leaders. The difference is that those culprits can, have been, and are being sued ($100 Million Lawsuit Against District), while negligent parents have walked away having to bear a great loss in most cases but never being held accountable for a disaster they could have averted.
If you have guns around your children, it’s your responsibility to secure them. If your kid uses that gun to kill, that’s your responsibility too. Simple. If my son has a car wreck and destroys property, I have to pay. If my daughter steals, breaks a window, or accidentally kills the neighbor’s pet, that’s on me. So instead of arguing endlessly about gun control when most Americans would distrust the police even more if they were the only ones with guns, let’s hold the right people accountable. When it comes to school shootings, responsibility has to start with the parents and the shooter they turned loose.
Responsible gun owners often cry, the problem lies in people not taking proper care of their guns. In addition to restrictions on assault rifles, perhaps, if there were more severe consequences for those careless gun owners whose neglect results in violent crimes committed by minors, then maybe this might happen less. Maybe not.
Jamil Khuja, a criminal defense lawyer and former assistant prosecutor in the Detroit area told Al Jazeera, that Oakland County’s message is simple. “…if you own guns, you need to lock them up and make sure your kids don’t have access to them without your knowledge.”
Fair enough. Yet the elephant in the room is that there are still too many parents who should not be parents. Period. Regardless of situation or circumstance, what your kid does is your responsibility and you have to own it and do what is best for the child. This contagious idea of parenthood being an inconvenient responsibility so many (who have kids) choose to avoid blows this parent and high school teacher’s mind.
For over fourteen years in classrooms, I have witnessed this kind of evasive negligence nearly every day. The kind of negligence I am talking about is common and sad. Too many parents don’t talk to their kids. They talk at them, over them, around, through, and down to them but not with them. The reason teachers are valuable today has little to do with academics, test scores, republican or democratic agendas. Teachers are valuable because of the emotional triage we perform on young people every day because too many have become that inconvenient responsibility.
While some kids truly need therapy and care from mental health professionals, talking to a child like they matter goes a long way towards constructing a person secure enough to withstand the serious pressures of life outside the home.
Communicating in this way is what most teachers do all day. And while some are better than others and we could certainly use more training, teachers listen to student complaints, help them work out what seem like small problems to adults, show and tell them they matter. Between lessons, after period bells, and during smartphone distractions, teachers listen to kids talk about everything from Star Wars to Kylie Jenner to the fate of Hermomine’s wand and on to why the world is so ‘F-ed up’ and ‘what is the point of existence if I can’t get into a good college.’ If you talk to your child, you know what I mean. You also know that these moments are priceless and a crucial part of raising a secure person.
Young people are frustrated with an adult world that heaps unrealistic expectations on them but doesn’t seem to care about them. They want to be heard and acknowledged. That’s what many teachers do whether their students earn Fs or As. Sure, teachers don’t do it enough, some contribute to student isolation and despair, we certainly miss too many conversations we should have, and there are serious mental and emotional situations that require professional intervention. But just remember this. While you’re solving those major adult crises like ‘when to buy or sell,’ ‘do I look fat in this,’ ‘am I ever gonna make the money I think I’m worth,’ or ‘screw your mask mandate,’ some teacher is gently talking a potential shooter down.
If you are a parent, ask yourself this question. When was the last time I talked to my kids about who they think they are or want to be, what they care about, and what they want their future to look like outside the educational goals and edicts you set in stone?
These conversations can be awkward, scary, circular, time-consuming, and inconvenient, but they go a long way toward helping young people see that despite their shortcomings and a world that appears to be burning in ‘the global warming inferno of death,’ they matter.
After enough of these conversations, when your child sees your gun unattended or knows where you keep it because you’re human too, he, she or they won’t sneak it out of the house and punish the world because you didn’t listen or acted like a dictator. They’ll leave it alone or feel secure enough in their skin to give you a nudge because you did it for them. Perhaps it is time to stop blaming the children and the guns and start punishing the guilty.
SUBSCRIBE to my FREE NEWSLETTER and get your FREE short story!
SUPPORT my publishing fund: Buy Me a Coffee: