Friday, February 23, 2018

On arming teachers

I have never held a gun, and that is an intentional choice.  I see their incredible power to succinctly end life, I see how obsessively low folks will stoop to retain their power, I see their capacity for murder, genocide, and our civilization's end.  I have never held a gun.  And I never intend to, especially in a classroom.  I think that I should know what to do should the need ever arise, but I am also frank with myself that I am too anxious, consistently set my keys down in the wrong place throughout the day, and the horror of thinking about what responsibility I would have to have a loaded firearm on my person would be too much.  I don't trust myself, I don't want the responsibility and don't I have enough responsibility already?  My job is daily disrespected by a government that continues to take funding and expect miracles with our children, and while I would be willing to give my life to save my students, I could not bear the thought that a firearm issued to me could be stolen, taken and used to inflict harm in the building where I love every single life that thrives. 

More than arming teachers, I am concerned with a culture that cannot put the lives of its next generation before its weapons.  I don't want to raise my children in a place so infected by individualism and greed that they can justify not valuing their lives.  On a local level, I know this is not the case as I have lived and worked in communities rooted in survival despite frequent loss.  So many funerals.  We have been working on policy, on buy-backs, on stopping the violence events, on safe alternatives for youth for years.  But the guns are here, and no one asks how they got here, who brought them here or why black and brown kids continue to die at record speeds, with bullets shot from officers, from peers, from enemies.

That we can look our youth in the face and call them paid actors, or pass laws allowing semi-automatic weapons after tragedies continue to plague our schools, our homes, our churches, our streets is unconscionable to me.   That we have trained our youth with a culture of violence and a spirit of resistance and then seem shocked that they are rising up is the perfect irony.

But more guns to solve the gun obsession is not an answer we can accept.  School budgets have been slashed so much that in my tenure as a teacher, basic teaching needs like pens and pencils, copier paper and art supplies are diminished way before the end of the year.  I am forever needing to Donors Choose and save receipts to attempt to get a tax break for the hundreds I spend each year.  Technology isn't as accessible as it should be in my, and many public schools, and we don't have space to teach tech ettiquette in our curriculum, or adequate funding to train teachers properly on using technology in their classrooms.  Yet, rather than investing in the future of our youth and asking teachers how to allocate budgets, we are instead looking for budgets for weapons and weapons training.

Instead of investing in restorative practices, more social workers and counselors, advisory, special education services and ways to engage and help every single child we teach, we are taking our gun obsession to new heights, still and always.   Instead of asking, as a society, why this is a uniquely American problem amongst first world nations, instead of considering the militarization of police and more guns in the hood aimed at the people by law enforcement as part of the problem, instead of considering that mental health funding is needed, screening is needed (both in schools as common practice and in order to purchase a firearm), our representatives are bowing to the money and signing bills to put "In God We Trust" in school hallways, next to armed guards.

Responsible gun ownership is not under attack with more stringent gun laws.  Banning automatic and semi-automatic weapons will not impact someone's desire to own a firearm, and caring about your community should mean that you are willing to jump through a hoop or two to ensure that only folks who should have guns are able to access them.  Though I think the 2nd amendment is sorely outdated with the ways in which technology has advanced, we can afford to disarm, we need to disarm our civilians if we intend to stop mass shootings.   But until we value life over profit, communal life over individual rights, black lives, Native lives, and brown lives, we will find ourselves in this place.  Right now, I am letting it simmer, basting in the discomfort and grief that has moved me to act for years -- because I still grieve for students and family who have experienced loss due to gun violence.  I save space for them, remember them and honor them in this pause.  Because we must move, we must act, we must resist, and we must let the youth lead us in the direction they decide.

No comments: