I’m exhausted. I’ve cried, screamed, pulled at my hair—this week has left me struggling to reconcile myself to the world around me. As a public school teacher and parent of two children, the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas has left me in despair.
It’s hard not to think of my own children, one of whom is the exact age of many of the victims. Like all parents, I drop my baby off at school trusting I’ll see them again when the day is over. Some days I’m impatient as we’re late, I complain, I rush giving hugs as we go our separate ways—such experiences are normal in parenting. That those parents in Uvalde will never be able to hug their children again, never be able to play and laugh, never watch them grow older is a truth that I can’t hold in my brain for too long. It hurts too much.
As a teacher, the trauma is also too much. The public doesn’t realize how much training we go through, the way we practice routinely for active shooters and the kinds of cruel decisions we are asked to make. Recently, we had an emergency lockdown on my high school campus. I grabbed random students from the hall and pulled them in the room. We locked the door, turned out the lights, and huddled in the corner as we feared a possible gunman on campus. Moments passed and a student for whom I care deeply came to the door. She’s on the autism spectrum. She was scared, confused, and begging to be let in the room, even calling out for me specifically. And I had to leave her out there.
That is the training we’ve all been given as teachers. Law enforcement officers warn that an active shooter will use students asking for help to gain access to locked classrooms and that letting in the one student endangers the lives of the others in the room that are trusting me to keep them safe.
Hearing her calling for me made me want to vomit. After an hour or so, the lockdown cleared; we were fortunate that no one was hurt and that the weapon on campus was merely a taser, not a gun. But these are the routine kinds of trauma that students and teachers experience in American schools. Students often share with me that the first thing they do when they enter a classroom is to plan where they will hide and how they will escape if there’s a shooter.
Teachers are asked to consider our options, whether we should try to escape with kids (and therefore be responsible for any casualties) or lead them in fighting back when a shooter gains access to the area in which we are hiding. We are given optional training to disarm gunmen, and have former military guest speakers explain the best types of furniture to use as cover. Being at school in America is trauma.
The Blame Game
In the midst of my grief and near-breakdown, I heard politicians and law enforcement officers list violent video games as a possible reason for this recent shooting. A deeper rage burned inside of me.
As a lifelong gamer, I’ve come to know how beautiful and inspiring video games can be as an art form, how life-giving they can be in social settings. Beyond the countless memories from my childhood, the ways I bonded with friends over multiplayer and First Person Shooter (FPS) games, I’ve seen the positive impact gaming has in schools.
I lead an informal club once a week at my school (I have for years). Students from across the social spectrum come to play after school. The games we play are competitive, involve fighting, and sometimes increase aggression as we battle and laugh. And it’s been unequivocally good. Students bond, connect, and feel like they have one more place to find a caring adult and friends that accept them. For some of the kids, it’s their place to shine, an activity they excel at in a school where grades, sports, and social class often determine how students are accepted. Video games are a force for good.
Beyond the fact that the politicians and law enforcement officials are blaming video games they likely have never played while having little understanding of gaming culture, it’s simply an illogical assertion that serves to obscure the real causes. I won’t take a deep dive into the statistics here (there are plenty out there right now doing so), but I’ll simply point out that video games are enormously popular around the world. Constant mass shootings happen only here in the United States. The notion that video games are the culprit is simply ridiculous.
A Broken System
While we won’t all agree on the deeper causes, the two most obvious needs that must be addressed are guns and mental health. Now I understand that scapegoating has taken place with these topics as well, but it’s worth pointing out that whether you believe the real cause is guns or mental health, we’re not doing anything about either of these issues. Nothing changes.
This past year, my family has had a painful and very personal education regarding just how broken America’s mental health care system really is. A close family member has had an ongoing mental health crisis that has required a greater level of care than we can give at home.
In spite of multiple doctors and mental health professionals prescribing long-term care and treatment facilities, our insurance simply decided it wouldn’t be covered. We were told that it would be unreasonable “to expect insurance to keep covering” this family member since they “weren’t getting better quick enough.”
Our only option was to pay out of pocket for the treatment centers doctors recommended (some of which cost $50k USD a month), or to return the family member home to the same situations that caused the crisis to begin with. After repeated trips to the emergency room, constant in and out experiences with short term care, the medical debt for our family became overwhelming. In six short months, we burned through all of our savings, sick leave, and credit cards trying to provide the life-saving care our family member needed.
When I asked what more could be done to keep this person safe, insurance and police said that until this person committed a crime, no help could be provided by the state. In essence, I learned what so many in this country already know: the prison system is the largest mental health “provider” in the nation. We simply don’t do anything to help people until it is too late. Families are left to drown in medical debt and desperation, hoping against all odds to prevent tragedy.
So when I hear those in power say mental health is the problem, I want to scream. OKAY—DO SOMETHING. Fund more beds in care facilities, provide for families in need, fund preventative measures, and for god’s sake don’t wait until it’s too late to give a damn.
Far too often though, the talk of mental health issues being the cause of mass shootings feels like a political shell game, meant to distract voters from meaningful gun legislation long enough to avoid action. There is no intention to solve the nation’s mental health crisis either.
As a teacher, a parent, an American who’s lived too much trauma, I’m exhausted. I don’t want to be afraid anymore when I’m on campus, don’t want to have catastrophic thoughts when I leave my children each morning, don’t want any more families to grieve. I don’t want to live in a country that sells assault weapons to 18-year-olds, that has police departments too afraid to act, that has politicians who lack empathy and humanity.
I don’t want to hear another soulless, corrupt, greedy politician blame video games so that they can avoid taking action. Do something.
Source: Andrew Kimmel
David Lasby is the Editor-in-Chief for Boss Rush Network. His favorite video games are The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and the Aliens franchise. You can find him on Twitter to talk all things Nintendo, sci-fi / fantasy, and creative writing.