Repeat
Alvina Najor, Division 3, College freshman #ws18e-s3d3

Nothing has changed. The monotony of life is all that anyone can focus on. We are mindless beings: awake, eat, school, sleep

Repeat.

It’s simply another day of another life that everyone is living - except, their lives are the same.

We explore extracurriculars, athletics, and even jobs as coping mechanisms to endure a repetitive life that we’d otherwise dislike living.

Some take this notion of exploration a bit too far.

Years of inaction toward mental health and safe environments have led to a nationwide epidemic that affects everyone at every level of education, as well as those who haven’t stepped foot in a classroom in 20+ years: shootings.

This idea that Columbine (1999) was the worst of the worst for most Americans and would remain the worst for all of eternity was one that granted them great comfort, regardless of whether or not they’d admit it. A small school torn apart by two mentally unstable students gained national attention as one of, if not the worst massacre in modern American history. The idea that they had gotten through the most horrific thing imaginable in their minds, for at least their lifetime, gave them solace, until someone decided to challenge this notion.

Suddenly, Columbine, with its 13 deaths, wasn’t the worst people could think of. Having endured the continuous terrors of

BREAKING NEWS: SHOOTING IN Virginia Tech (2007) - 32 killed.

BREAKING NEWS: SHOOTING IN Sandy Hook (2012) - 27 killed.

BREAKING NEWS: SHOOTING IN Parkland, Florida (2018) - 17 killed.

school shootings has highlighted the result of the stigmatization of mental health and betterment of the common public. These, however, are just the school shootings that managed to exceed Columbine after its occurrence (which wasn’t the first school shooting America had seen, either), which don’t even rank within the worst two shootings in modern-day American history.

Being told by a notable congressman that ‘it’s a darn shame’ that [he believes] the federal government is unable to do anything to help America with these shootings does nothing to expel these issues, but is simply attempts to shift accountability elsewhere, despite shootings affecting all facets of life.

It was once a fear of experiencing this only emotionally, by feeling the aftermath of a multitude of children and teachers murdered in an environment that was meant to help them lead lives that would someday translate into the real world - until, that is, the horrors of the real world were brought to them, shortening their lifespan, leading to a number of slaughtered people and further inaction.

Now, people worry for their own kids, parents, siblings, neighbors, and themselves.

Suddenly, the monotony of repetition doesn’t sound so bad.

Until, of course, you account for the fact that these shootings are a result of uninterrupted repetition.

They occur in a timely manner, in that, just as we believe we’ve overcome the last one, a new tragedy plasters the news - as long as there’s enough terror to get views and clicks - and overcomes our thoughts and prayers, leaving us living in fear of when and where the next attack will hit.

It is for this reason that it is impossible to speak of only my school when regarding shootings. They’ve come to hurt too many people from too many backgrounds, too many times for it to be appropriate to focus on my environment and my environment only, especially when considering that the lives of Americans nationwide are a concern for me, rather than just those within my vicinity.

Inaction is, we have found, almost as bad as encouraging the action at all. It acts as a nonverbal challenge. It offers a chance at nationwide infamy, a phenomenon that is found to be very much desirable to a number of school shooters and yet is, too often, underspoken within our nationwide community.

What we have done, however, is offer our thoughts and prayers. We’ve become good at it. Yet, time and time again, we have seen the “thoughts and prayers” offered do nothing to prevent individuals from performing their own atrocities, and still we treat it as though it is just another part of life.

Thoughts and prayers act simply as a moral obligation to those who do nothing but offer them - a simple check mark in the box to satisfy the mental note to “express condolences” in the psyche’s guideline of how-to-be-a-good-person, saving face for those possibly looking to them to say something at all. It acts as nothing but reassurance to the individual that they are somehow making a difference. That by putting their words into the world, they’ve managed to help humanity, putting them on a moral pedestal, and convincing others of it as well.

There’s nothing past that box. Condolences are the first and last stop for the majority of America’s response to tragedy. One would think it’s because thoughts and prayers work.

They don’t. They would have by now if they did.

Still, we acknowledge that it is a ‘darn shame’ that these things happen, but fail to agree on a method as to how to combat this. Gone are the days where America has a shooting and people believe it’s the last of their time. Now, it has become a waiting game. Schools are employing more security, lessening their number of exits and entryways, and having active shooter drills.

Even these, however, fail to answer why people conduct school shootings at all. These do nothing to stress the importance of mental health and healthy living standards. Still, it’d be wrong to ignore the fact that these schools do more than does the national government for its own people.

It is for this reason that schools nationwide must employ classes that teach mental health and coping mechanisms, especially for those who may not have the resources nor the support system to help them. A weeklong unit in a highschool freshman health class is not enough to educate the future’s leaders about healthy living habits that in turn, influence their mental stability, nor is it enough time to teach someone to act as a support system to their friends or family, which is why is must be adopted at least in the university level. It is also not enough to rely on students to take themselves to their counselor and seek help, as many students lack the level of trust needed. Hence, having a required class eliminates this need for trust at all, while still providing students with at least some resources they may need to help themselves or others.

However, people must engage in conversation of why school shootings occur at all, and why America seems to be the only major democratic power who has this issue to such a widespread extent. We must question whether this is simply a mental health issue, or if gun control plays a larger role as well. No matter the personal beliefs, it is our obligation as Americans to engage in conduct that will allow for honest, insightful, and accurate conversations that help these issues. Hence, it is also important to push our educational systems to educate on source analysis, a method which is used generally by scholars in order to deduce the reliability of a source and a source’s information. This, if decided upon by me, would be taught at my university through a required undergraduate class, teaching important study/social habits for college students that guarantee their success both inside and out the classroom, as many universities already have a variation of this, but fail to acknowledge the importance of detecting and stopping the circulation of misinformation.

Many disagreements result not due to just differing viewpoints, but rather, the circulation of false information that acts as confirmation bias for those who hold preconceived notions, which is what these ideas hope to challenge whilst promoting personal wellness.

These ideas are not expected to stop school shootings. However, they challenge the trend of deadly inaction, and they allow for honest, factual (informationally) conversation about how to help Americans in ways we may not have considered previously.

Still, because of this discourse, regardless of its causes, giving thoughts and prayers is all that America seems to be able to do. We’ve become good at it, but not good enough to stop shootings - of any kind.

It is, then, unsurprising that this inaction has become normal. It’s even expected. We’ve become mindless beings conditioned to living, tragedy, mourning

Repeat.

There is no break. There are no extracurriculars, athletics, or jobs to escape this. It is all part of a greater cycle that some attempt to disrupt with their rallying voices, and to a slight extent, it has worked. It has shown there is a generation of young adults, teens, and even children unwilling to allow tragedy pass by them, acknowledging that some sort of action must be taken, as this inactivity acts as the water to a seed that needed to grow.

It has grown. It has prospered.

We have allowed it to.
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