Is it guns? Is it violent TV shows, movies, or video games? Is it crazy America?
School Violence: Not New
Well, before violent movies, in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927, three bombs were exploded at Bath School, killing 38 elementary (second- to sixth-grade) school children, as well as two teachers and four other adults (plus the bomber). At least 58 others were injured.
The bomber? The treasurer for the School Board, who drove up in his car and set off a bomb to kill and injure those who went to the school to help. That, not Newtown, not Columbine, not Virginia Tech, was the deadliest mass murder in a school in U.S. history. No guns involved, and Hollywood couldn’t be blamed back then.
Nor were there guns — or Americans — involved in another incident today, which was mostly pushed out of the news in the U.S. in light of the horrific Connecticut incident: in Henan, China, a man went into a school and stabbed 22 children, plus one adult. Apparently, no one was killed, but one report I read said it was part of a “wave of brutal stabbings and hammerings throughout China” over the past few years.
Cripes: hammerings of children is a thing?!
Apparently so: “at least 25 dead and some 115 injured,” according to a Wikipedia summary.
We Refuse to Learn the Lesson
What lesson can we get from things like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown? That it’s not something new, it’s not something American, and it’s not about bombs, guns, knives …or hammers. It’s about how crazy people (and sometimes not-so-crazy people) turn to violence as an answer to their problems, real or perceived.
I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s going to have to involve discussion on how we’ve closed most of our mental hospitals, pushing the mentally ill out to fend for themselves, or for ill-equipped families to deal with them without help. And yes, we do need to have a discussion about whether it’s too easy for nutballs to get guns.
As I was writing this, I had the news on in the background. My “local” stations are from Denver; Columbine High School is just outside Littleton, a Denver suburb. I had the paragraph above finished when they showed an interview with the principal at Columbine — at the time of the 1999 shootings there, and still today. Frank DeAngeles said the answer isn’t more school security, and isn’t more gun control, but rather better help for people with mental problems. “The thing that I keep stating time and time again is what causes so much hate in people’s hearts that they’re willing to walk into an elementary school to injure or kill kids? Where did this start?”
One thing that’s clear is, it started long, long ago. The better question to ask is, How will it end?
The only other thing I want to say tonight is a thank-you to my brother and sister First Responders — police, firefighters, and medics — who rushed in to help today without having any idea whether it was safe, and were witness to unspeakable horror.
On that thought, I posted this to Facebook this afternoon, attributed to the late children’s TV host Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” It is indeed comforting to know that when something like this does happen, there are always — always — helpers who work toward making things better.
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