A month later, at a school in Georgia, a student opened fire. I guess that since no students died, we swept that under the mental rug. Indeed, I don’t even recall hearing about it at the time.
The next mass school shooting that I can recall hearing of was the Virginia Tech shooting. I remember this one well. My oldest son was 6, my youngest 5. I read about the horrors as they unfolded, clustered up in my office at the diamond company I had been working at. I had my Moto Razr in my back pocket, as usual, and I remember seeing news updates on my wall on MySpace. Yeah, this was a while back, kids. All of 11 years ago. I was horrified. That night, over dinner, I talked to my kids about what to do in case of a school shooter. That is a conversation no one should ever have to have with their kindergartener or first grader. Period. I remember the fear in my youngest son’s eyes as I tried to explain to him that he couldn’t stop the shooter, the best he could do was run. I remember lingering a little longer over their bedtime story that night, I remember the extra kisses I gave them. I remember picking up their tiny, sleeping forms and taking them to my bedroom to sleep with me because I just couldn’t stand the thought of being away from them that night.
From that time, the facts and details of other school shootings became a blur. I know I heard of them and getting angrier and angrier every damn time. “Why don’t these assholes just kill themselves like normal depressed people? Why do they have to take other people down with them? Selfish bastards!” I would rant and rave. I pissed and moaned. I bitched and complained. But I didn’t do a damn thing about it, did I? I didn’t pay attention to politics, I didn’t even really vote all that much at the time. For the President, sure, but not in my local elections. Not for who was running the state. Not for specific legislation.
I remember the day the world came crashing down. December 14, 2012. My family of six had just moved home to Taos from Florida. That day had been declared a two-hour delay. When I saw how much snow there was, I decided “screw it, I am not taking them to school in that.” and had called the school to tell them the boys would be absent that day. I was pregnant with my youngest daughter. My youngest at the time was not even a year old. I watched, in horror, as small children were being walked out of their school in a single file line. I shuddered as the body count rose. I wept, openly, as we learned the ages of the victims. I pictured the fear, the terror, the horror those children experienced, and I hugged my similarly aged children so close I hurt them. This was unimaginable. This was inexcusable. Babies had been slaughtered. They had been gunned down for no reason.
It broke the veil. I think up until that day, this country had become complacent because it was older kids. I know that is harsh to say, and it was even worse to type, but it’s the truth. Somehow, we view teenagers as expendable in this country. And as long as they were killing each other, we kind of treated it like the Pol Potts bullshit in Cambodia. “Well, if they hadn’t bullied him, he wouldn’t have opened fire.” That sort of shit. This was different. Not a single one of those babies was known to Adam Lanza. He wasn’t related to a single one. Hell, his own mom hadn’t worked at that school for a while. This was true madness.
And then the conspiracy bullshit started. “It wasn’t real! It is a government conspiracy to take our guns!!” The alarmingly stupid rhetoric started almost immediately. The harassment of the victims’ families was appalling. It was a true horror shit-show. I mean, what in the actual fuck, dude. Even if it WAS a conspiracy, don’t you think you wouldn’t bother the people just on the off chance your dumbass is wrong? This is the information age, kids. Unfortunately, these people are just as ruthless with words as gunmen are with bullets.
It should have stopped then. We should have put our fucking foot down then and demanded change. We should have voted in every goddamned election, we should have shamed those fucking lobbyists into oblivion. We should have, we could have, but we didn’t. What in the actual fuck?
People claim that we have become “desensitized” in this country. That the violent video games and movies and shitty music has turned us complacent to real world suffering. But, I don’t think that’s right. We have, indeed, become desensitized. But, it isn’t from the movies. It’s not the music. It’s not even those stupid video games. Hell, we had Tomb Raider in my day and this shit wasn’t a thing then.
No, it’s none of those things. You want to know what desensitized this country? The corruption. We figured out, and I couldn’t tell you when, but we did. We figured out that no matter what the masses voted on, no matter how loud we raised our voices, nothing was going to change. That the fat cats in office didn’t give a shit about what we had to say, so long as their wallets stayed full. There is so much corruption that we decided it didn’t matter who the fuck we voted for, one asshole was as screwed up as the next. And we were right.
Video courtesy of ABC News
But this time. This time, I can feel it. It’s almost palpable. One can almost reach out and touch it. This time, the narrative has changed. And it’s all due to a courageous group of high school kids from South Florida. This group of kids, these amazing survivors, have stood up and said “ENOUGH!”. Their first shout boomed around the world. They have proven that there truly is power in numbers. They have shown us that unity is the only way. The tide has turned. Whether or not the people in power believe it or not is irrelevant. Because they have forgotten one fundamental truth. There are more of us than there are of you. And you can shout your falsehoods, you can attempt to gaslight us until your face turns blue. But we know the truth. We know the reality. We see you. For what you really are.
These students, these warriors. They have awakened a sleeping beast. You see, Generation X has been compromised. We fed into the bullshit, we bought the lies. We were so mired in our student loan debt and struggle to survive that we didn’t look up from our screens long enough to see what was happening. We allowed them to keep us satiated on fluff entertainment and horseshit. We gobbled down their Kardashian nonsense and came back for more. Like Oliver fucking Twist. We allowed them to divide us, bitching about those “lazy millennials”, we took on the patina of a Scooby Doo villain.
The mask is off now. We have taken our first breath of real air in decades, and damn, it feels good. And it’s because of these kids. These children. These warriors in the making. They have taken their pain and translated it into a war cry. They lifted the fallen banner and carry it into battle. They have reminded old geezers like me that our day is not done. We hadn’t even started it yet. They have brought us back to reality and away from our screens. And they have done it all while nursing wounds that will never fully heal. While mourning. While crying. Through the pain and through the fear. These kids have more guts in one little group than the entirety of our currently sitting government combined. That is precisely why they are coming after them so damn hard. They have them running scared. And I will be damned if I let them go into battle alone.
Please see Part 1 of Never Again by Casey Martinez
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