One thing you might not know about teachers is that deep down, we fear for our lives.
I know teachers across my state keep their classroom locked for no other reason than someone with an assault rifle could come through the door at any moment. They honestly don’t do it but for that: Not gangs, or the threat of a principal walking in unannounced. They do it just to be safe. It’s like wearing a seatbelt. When I put it like that it sounds alarmist, and I don’t mean to cause a panic, but when we talk about the dearth of gun laws in this country, some alarum might be in order.
Last week I was talking to my students about what is going on in the world. We talked about Kim Davis, the pope, Donald Trump, and Planned Parenthood. They wrote an essay of their own choosing directly related to those issues. In our writing and discussion, the topic of the NRA was mentioned and almost none of my students knew what an NRA was. We started talking about gun laws. And I told them very matter-of-factly that it had been a couple of weeks since there had been a mass shooting, and that next week there would be one. That’s how I said it: “Next week there will be a mass shooting at a school, because…well, that’s just how it is now.”
To tell you the truth, I wanted to be caught lying to my students. I wanted them this week to say, “You see Mr. Amaral, you exaggerated.” But in this country, of course I was right. How could I not be?
According to the Washington Post, the United States hasn’t gone more than 8 days without a mass shooting this year. In 274 days we’ve had 294 mass shootings. That’s just this year, since Newtown the amount of gun deaths are astounding at 84,000. I wrote about Newtown here on this blog, and as those elementary kids lay dead, I said that our government would do absolutely nothing about guns. I said that Republicans and Democrats alike are so deep in the pockets of special interests and their own interests in being re-elected that even the horror of that tragedy was not enough to change a single policy in congress.
And I was right then too.
Nothing has changed. Not a single policy. No universal background checks. No end to gun shows. But what hasn’t ended is the string of mass murders mere days apart that, as I so concretely showed my students, will only continue in perpetuation.
Unfortunately for teachers and students, a great many of these shootings take place in classrooms. They also take place in churches and movie theaters, but I can’t think of another job (aside from the military and police of course) where you actually consider the fact that an armed gunman might show up to your place of work more than when working on a school campus. The cowards who commit these crimes seem to target the most innocent and vulnerable. I have no tolerance or forgiveness for these men, and I cannot think of anything worse than hurting children. It is despicable.
At least our President has the courage to call those people out who refuse to acknowledge this is even remotely a problem. His speech after the shooting was so spot-on I advise you to watch it in its entirety. He somberly said, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it…We have become numb to this.”
He is right. The low point for me was when he reminded us that the only law our congress will pass is one that prohibits the government from keeping track of the data having to do with these shootings. Talk about some sort of backward vortex of asininity. But give President Obama some credit, with the most worthless congress in our country’s history, he keeps reminding us that “We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”
It’s like we are blind to the barrel pressed directly against the tip of our nose. So let me make it a little more real. If teachers lock their doors and live in fear, how do you think the students, your children, feel? Do you think our kids feel great when their teacher can predict a MASS SHOOTING with 100% accuracy? I wonder what it must feel like to grow up in a world where you know for a fact there will be a mass murder every eight days. If you too want to know, ask a kid, any kid, because they are living it. If we can’t make change for our actual children, then change isn’t happening, is it?
The most unfortunate part of this most recent tragedy is that once again NOTHING will happen. There will not be a single law passed. Congress will not take up a single bill or have a single debate. This is just another day for us, and there is no reason to think that tomorrow won’t be more of the same. We live in a Groundhog Day of death, and even Bill Murray can’t make this joke funny.
So in a week, the teachers in this country will start locking their doors again, and the students will look up in alarm every time someone knocks a little too loudly at the door. In a week I will remind my students that there will be another mass shooting very soon. And like always, I will be right. In this country, I always am.
Matt Amaral is a writer and high school English teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him on the blog, Teach4Real.com