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Kindergarten Shooting Drills ~ Welcome to the United States of America

The other day I attended a poetry reading at Island Books on Mercer Island in the greater Seattle area. Peter Ludwin and Megan Snyder-Camp each read several of their poems, which I both enjoyed and valued. I know very little about poetry, so I’m not sure if it is a compliment or a damning indictment that I liked their poems. I’m going to assume it is a compliment. After the reading we had an interesting discussion about motivation, research, inspiration, and the sticky issue of cultural appropriation. Megan Synder-Camp shared that her former teacher, Liz Bradbury, said: “When you’re trading into waters that aren’t yours, walk slowly and shuffle your feet.” I liked that.

At the end of Megan’s presentation she read a poem motivated by an encounter with our young son who was in kindergarten the time. When she asked what he had learned that day, he told her about the “shooting drill.” Obviously the children weren’t being taught how to shoot, though I have no doubt that somewhere in the United States people are teaching five and six year olds how to shoot weapons. No, a shooting drill is an exercise to teach children what to do if someone attacks the school with the purpose of killing as many children and teachers as possible. The poem spoke of children being taught to press themselves up against the wall or, for the lucky few, how to hide in a dark closet.

I have known for years that U.S. schools hold shooting drills. I read of one school that had some children play the murdered victims of a school invasion while the other students sought safety. However, the poem had an instant and powerful impact on me. Suddenly, the utter absurdity, insanity, of having five and six year old children being taught how they might survive an attack seemed surreal, almost incomprehensible.

What kind of society allows this to happen? Well, the answer is easy. A weaponized society that has cloaked gun ownership in quasi-religious justifications.

What kind of society refused to stop this from happening? Easy again. A society that believes, while unfortunate, the death of its children is an acceptable price to pay for the right to own and carry weapons.

When what should be unacceptable becomes normal, the question of acceptability ceases to be asked. America is a place where people draped in assault weapons and hand guns go into schools and university and shoot children, young people, teachers, and anyone who gets in the way. Given that even the lightest suggestions of restrictions and regulations on weapons is deemed immoral and political suicide, it becomes imperative to teach five and six year old children how to protect themselves in the event of an attack. It’s only logical.

The gun lobby demands no restrictions at all on weapons. Trump has made it possible for mentally ill people to buy weapons and the Republican Party opposed efforts to prevent people on the no fly list – because they are potential terrorist – from buy weapons. Such moves are wrapped in Second Amendment glory even as the brutality and insanity of a society practicing shooting drills in kindergarten classes goes unquestioned.

Gun enthusiasts have a solution to the massacring of our children. Arm the teachers. The solution is to teach teachers how to kill students. More guns is always the answer to gun violence. When what should be unacceptable becomes normal, the question of acceptability ceases to be asked.

We have numerous restrictions on our freedom: we are required to have a driver license and obey the laws of the road; we cannot just say anything despite the immense importance of the First Amendment; we have to pay taxes (well, most of us); we cannot buy and sell any old drug we want; we cannot sell food found dangerous to public health; in my community development I cannot paint my front door red or live my garbage cans out all the time.

Living together in society means accepting a boat load of restrictions on our freedom, but in the U.S. not when it comes to weapons. And so, we need to teach our children to hide against walls and in dark closets and hope for the best. We need to teach them to psychologically deal with the ever present danger of being shot. We need to teach them to empty themselves and press against the wall. And we need them to grow up healthy and happy in this greatest country in the world.

Copyright © 2017 Dale Rominger

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