There is a tragic sense of urgency as I write this. I shook my head as I heard about Christopher Lane, a young baseball player who was gunned down in broad daylight by three teens who said they did it because they were bored. Lane’s death reminded me of Skylar Neese, another teen who was killed in July 2012 by her supposed childhood friends, only because they didn’t want to be her friend anymore. Lane’s death comes on the heels of Michael Brandon Hill’s gun-wielding in an Atlanta school.
Neese and Lane did not know each other but there is something that links them. And it is something that no one has properly brought to the surface to talk about and take action upon. Something is happening to our teens that no one is talking about. What I see are kids who don’t know how to communicate and think violence towards another is the only option. I fail to see the logic behind being so bored that the only way to cure it is to drive down the street and randomly shoot someone in the back.
What happened to those three boys that made them think so nonchalantly about taking Lane’s life? To pose with wads of money and guns in photos taken prior to the shooting? Where did they get their guns? What happened to Neese’s two supposed friends that made them feel so strongly about their friendship that instead of facing the fact that they wouldn’t socialize in the same circles, they much preferred to make her disappear? Where were the parents of those troubled kids?
There is a break-down in society. Something is tearing at the fabric of common sense, making it the least common of all senses. We must look for the cause but instead of looking forward to a hanging, we must discover the road that took that person to the hangman’s tree and change the problem from the root, not at the bud.
The solution, I believe, comes in the form of a woman like Antoinette Tuff, the one who talked Hill, who entered McNair Discovery Learning Academy with a gun, into turning himself in. Because of her actions, not a single person died that day. She talked to him and told him she loved Hill, that she’d been through rough patches too and that it was going to be alright.
If those kids had someone like Tuff to talk to, I know it would have been a different story for Neese and Lane.
What happened in Atlanta could have easily turned into another Sandy Hook.
And as I read about the face-off between supporters of stricter gun laws and gun rights advocates who, to emphasize their right to carry a gun anywhere, walked into a Starbucks in Newtown on August 9, 2013 to exercise the company’s policy of allowing people to carry guns in their coffee shops so long as it is permitted by state and local ordinances, I only have one thought to add: Is arming ourselves to the teeth really helping us get the criminal mindset off the streets?
Perhaps we can take a page out of Antoinette’s book and arm ourselves, rather, with humanity and a mere wish to help someone in times of need. To make an effort to let a person know they exist and maybe, just maybe, turn their crap day into a nice one because of something you did. To recognize that behind those eyes is someone who only wants to be heard and to receive them with the understanding that love is more rewarding than violence could ever be.