Something bad happened in Knoxville today. As soon as it happened, some people began seeking solutions. Some people just wanted to place blame. Memories of the school, the community, the past and the present are being woven into the story. I did not attend this school. I attended a school of privilege in a city on the other end of this state. In the student parking lot of my school were rows and rows of vehicles bought for the students whose parents paid for them to attend the school. In the window of almost every pickup was a gun. In the glove box of many of the sports cars, were guns. Any student or teacher could have easily accessed a gun to permanently solve a temporary problem, but they didn’t. Bad things happened at other places though. I haven’t forgotten the UT Martin student who was slowly beaten to death in his apartment. There were shootings in schools, too.
I have no doubt that there were students in my school with painful stories, but they must have had something inside of them that children who kill don’t have. Maybe they used to have it and they lost it. Maybe someone or something suffocated that thing inside of them and left them with a hollow emptiness that nothing could fill. Maybe that thing was never allowed to grow inside of them. I don’t know. I don’t even know how to describe that thing, that respect for life and hope for the future. The only thing I know for certain is that we can’t start trying to reach children when they get to high school and we shouldn’t stop trying to reach them until they pull that trigger. After the trigger is pulled, I wish I still believed that there is always hope, but I don’t. I have seen the dead in the eyes of children who have killed. I have listened to their hollow words. Incarceration makes them worse, but it is the only place they can function.
We can’t give up and write off this generation of children. We have to try harder to give them the love and compassion that they are not getting elsewhere. We have to instill in children, from the day that they are born, a sense of hope and optimism. They have to understand that every life is a precious gift which shouldn’t be squandered. They have to believe that things can always get better. I don’t want to blame guns because the problem is not that simple. I just can’t escape the thought that if there hadn’t been a gun at Central High School today, a 15-year-old boy would not have died there. I know that if I worked for our local media, I would delete every single comment and article saying anything even remotely negative about the victim. He didn’t use a gun. Stop blaming him. Now.
The good has to outweigh the bad.