Monday, July 23, 2012

Never Go Godless into the World

I can tell a lot about people based on the way they respond when I tell them I teach kids from Camden. And trust me, I've gotten responses from all over the board.

Mr. J had a publication party for his book, and at that event, one of the liberal columnists from his newspaper literally got teary-eyed and told me what a noble cause I was devoting myself to.

Day before yesterday, other end of the spectrum, a woman said to me, "Wow. How come you haven't been shot yet?"

Of course, the truth falls squarely in the middle of these extremes.

The noble cause is complicated by the fact that I'm trying to teach teenagers. Remember when you were a teenager? Did you like sitting still and writing essays? Okay, okay, I did. But I was still rowdy. It's in the teenage playbook to be rowdy. Sometimes it's in the teenage playbook to be nasty and rude, other times sullen and even teary. Emotions all over the place. Kind of complicates the high-minded mission of the dedicated educator.

I was highly offended by the stereotype that all Camden teenagers are trigger-happy. Let me tell you, quite the opposite is the case. My students live their lives surrounded by gun violence, and they have seen the consequences of it more closely than anyone this side of Iraq. Shootings like the one this past week in Aurora totally baffle my kids. They understand targeted violence (and try to steer way clear of it). They don't understand randomness, unless it's a drive-by with collateral damage.

Having said that, my school is state-mandated to practice Code Orange drills where we act like there's an active shooter in the building. These drills make my students anxious. Inevitably they ask: "What if the shooter just shoots out the glass in the door and comes into the room?"

And I tell them, "I would try to protect you, even if it meant that I got shot. I've lived a good long life, and you are still young."

The sad truth is that I'm not sure I would have the courage to do that. This bothers me exceedingly, readers. If I could put a finger on one thing that really scares me, it's how I would respond if some person made crazy by the inequities of our current economy senseless lunatic started spraying bullets through my school.

This can happen anywhere. Last year this time, my daughter The Heir was in Oslo. She heard a pop like firecrackers, and all the glass blew out of the store she was in. A couple of hours later, more than four dozen teenagers had been shot dead on an offshore island. In Oslo. Freakin. Norway.

I find myself asking myself the most dreadful question. Would I have the courage, the faith in Higher Powers, to put myself in front of a bullet to save someone else's life?

See, this is why I take my bored gods with me to school. I may not talk about Them in class, but this economy is causing people to lose their minds. Never go Godless into the world, that's my philosophy. Hope that you can rise to any occasion. Hope even more that you'll never, ever face that test.


Anonymous said...

I think you would rise to the occasion. You have thought about it. This horrid event in Aurora made me think of the similar event in a Knoxville UU church in July 2008: One man did, indeed, stand up and take bullets point blank to protect those behind him, while others tackled the shooter (hard enough to break his arm) and held him down with no further violence until the cops came and took over. Others ushered the children out the back and to the church next door. Everyone reacted exactly right for the situation, not how the shooter expected, which was terrified passivity. Tackling the shooter and holding him down til rescued is what to aim for -- it makes for the fewest injuries and deaths.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I don't think any of us know how we would react in an extreme situation until it happens. And so I spend my time just hoping it will never happen.

Lavanah said...

Tough questions. I think that none of us really know how we will respond under extreme duress until placed in that pressure cooker. And honestly? I'd rather live with the uncertainty.

yellowdoggranny said...

Freya said to tell you she has you covered.

BellaDonna said...

As a teen, I always thought I'd be too afraid to do anything but run and hide, until I was babysitting one day in a bad neighborhood, and heard someone downstairs fiddling with the front door handle like they were trying to break in. I met them at the top of the stairs with a butcher knife. Turned out to be the FATHER, thank the gods, but I didn't know that, and he didn't announce himself. He was rather surprised, I think!

You'll do what you need to do, what your gut tells you to do, if and when the time comes. And, like you, I hope and pray it never does.

Vest said...

It is with genuine sadness I hear of these unecesarry shootings.
But as long as the dyed in the wool shooters in America demand the 'Right to bear Arms', the Cits of America with access to more than 1,000,000,000 registered weapons (non Military) can expect situations like this to happen more frequently, given that loonies are among you waiting to be prompted by horror movies and the like. The present day situation means you have to take your chances and live in hope it does not happen anymore, however, I dont think that will be the case. Good post. Stay safe, Vest.