A Teenage Crisis

“The beginning of all wisdom is to call things by their right name.” Confucius

As I was prompted to look back some 55-years to my teenage days for this piece I was continually distracted by the shooting deaths of ten people in Santa Fe, Texas at their high school on Friday May 18th. Eight of the murder victims were teenagers.

Though I can certainly recall things in my teenage years that I considered stressful it was not a time when “lockdown and active shooter drills” were part of the routine at the largely white, middle class Catholic prep schools I attended in Michigan City, Indiana and then in Woodstock Illinois. Looking further back for some reason we did not even do the “duck and cover” drills in the 1950’s in case of nuclear annihilation. Perhaps the all controlling nuns did not want us out of their sight for even a few minutes, who knows what sort of mischief we might get into under those desks. And of course the Holy Cross nuns with their large fluted headgear were not about to crawl under any desk. The unimaginable horror of the frequent mass shootings, often in schools, that this country endures on a regular basis would have been unthinkable in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The trauma the kids at Santa Fe, Parkland and dozens of other school shooting sites experience truly makes any drama I thought I had back in my teenage years pale into insignificance.

Some of my crazier relatives back in Indiana are posting on Face Book insane crap that the reason for so many shootings these days is a lack of prayer in schools and maybe we need to all be saying the Pledge of Allegiance on a daily basis. Or if we only had that good old Catholic nun discipline this would not happen. It is of course ridiculous to think that a few nuns with rulers and their often-fierce looks is all it would take to intimidate an active shooter. I’d say that if there were any nuns left  still teaching high school these days we would probably be mourning a few dead nuns too.

Republican politicians are lining up in Texas to offer their own ridiculous reasons for school shootings, other than just too many damn guns of course. A few of the more outlandish causes being espoused, some old and some new, include abortion, video games, too many entrances and exits in schools, Ritalin, long black trench coats and everybody’s all time favorite gay marriage. These of course are all things fairly common in most highly developed countries that have nowhere near the number of mass shootings or overall gun deaths we do in the U.S.

Japan for example, no stranger to video games, has most years less than 10 gun murders per annum. Hell that number is just business as usual on any Friday night in many parts of America and I only slightly exaggerate here. Interestingly in surveys of religiosity well over 50% of Japanese surveyed state they are not religious or are atheist. Oh, and Japan by the way has very strict gun control laws.

In addition to invoking Emma Gonzales and “calling bullshit” on second amendment zealots it is also time we call the NRA by its right name and that would be a terrorist organization, one that is holding an entire nation hostage.

Though I am also a victim of NRA politics and in a country with more guns than people the possibility of my being murdered is statistically quite low. In this great country of ours though anything is possible I suppose. What is absolutely unconscionable is the fact that many if not most teenagers these days live with the real fear of being gunned down at school or in their own neighborhoods simply walking home from school.

We all need to help get out the vote this fall. It really is our only hope to address the evil and madness that has such a grip on our nation. Let me close with a snippet of a few words from the chorus of an old Grateful Dead song titled New Speedway Boogie: “One way or another this darkness has got to give”.

Perhaps this is too much information but it was New Speedway Boogie that Dead and Company performed in Sunrise Florida less that two weeks after the Parkland tragedy and after the band spent time that day with some of the survivors of that massacre. The song was originally written after the Altamont Speedway concert in 1969, that the Grateful Dead wisely backed out of at the last minute, and where Hell’s Angels stabbed a man to death during a performance of Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones.

“One way or another this darkness has got to give.”