You can't engage in social media without seeing the heated discussions about school shootings, gun control, mental illness, arming teachers, disarming criminals, increased background checks, FBI failures....
So many questions.
So many answers.
But what's the real question?
What's the real answer? Is there an answer?
How do we protect our children?
Before we can have an honest discussion, we need to take off the gloves, get out of the boxing ring, close the pointing fingers, relax our fists, loosen our grips, and take a deep breath.
Hopefully we can all agree that we want to prevent another mass murder. We want children to go to school without fear of being shot. We want teachers to be able to teach without that same fear.
So far, that's as close as we have been able to get to any mutual understanding. Then it all falls apart into our different camps. Gun control. 2nd amendment. Mental illness. And on-and-on....
Perhaps, we need to look at the problem from another angle.
Why does a boy grow up to be a "professional school shooter?"
After the Columbine shooting, I heard a speaker say, "I know why those boys wanted to blow up the school and kill themselves." He proceeded to tell his own story of being ridiculed and isolated over the years to the point that his youth was about surviving rather than growing up. He described none of the "normal" things I remembered as a kid growing up.
Am I blaming the victims? Never. Those that kill make their own choices, but just like those who commit suicide most often drop clues and offer cries for help, often those who kill do the same.
But what happens?
Until the next shooting, then we repeat the cycle, and the didn't-really-want-to-be killers continue to grow up beneath our radar, feeding the cycle.
What ifs are only helpful if we apply them to constructive application. What if I lose my job? Not helpful. What is my plan if I lose my job? Helpful.
When a shooting occurs we scramble to our corners bound to the broad-sweeping categories into which we lump ourselves.
What if we focus on the individual? Instead of the big picture, we look at some details. Instead of trying to change the world, we try to change one person.
One common thread among most of these killers is indifference.
What do I mean?
The boys who killed their classmates in Columbine were essentially invisible. They didn't fit in. They were unnoticed, undetected, unwanted. Even the parents had no clue they were building a bomb in the garage. Can anyone be any more indifferent?
Classmates, teachers, law enforcement, no one saw it coming.
What if someone had seen the invisible?
What if someone had noticed Nicholas Cruz as a troubled loner in middle school? What if those around him had not been indifferent but engaged?
I know there are a million other "what ifs." What if the FBI...? What if the school...? What if local law enforcement...? What if the family he was staying with...?
But I'm not really talking about the latest killer, I'm talking about the next one. See something, say something? Maybe we could do something.
Where does the indifference come from?
What value do we put on life? We value our own comfortable lives, our own peace, our own families, jobs, security? Where does that value come from? Is it exclusive to us? Do we value others as well? Do we value them the same? Do we care about the Nicholas Cruzs of the world before they blow up in our face?
I'm reminded of another Nicky Cruz, the founder of Teen Challenge. As a teen, Nicky was a gang leader. His own mother called him a "son of Satan." But one man looked beyond the threatening exterior and saw a valuable life.
Did anyone really value Nicholas Cruz? Would it have made a difference? No one can really know, but I would like to think it would.
Regardless of where you stand on the big picture issues, let's try taking a stand on the issue of life. It's valuable. Not just yours and mine. Everyone's life.
If we start to see the invisible people, if we start to care enough to recognize they're not really invisible, that maybe their indifference to life is learned by our indifference to them, that they are forgotten until that final gunshot when we finally see them and remember them until the next news cycle, until the next shooting, until... we become indifferent again.
Perhaps we can make a difference. Perhaps the first step to preventing the next killing is killing indifference.