|Download For $1.99: - February 15, 1969- Second Sunday: America The Violent - NBC Radio - Gordon Skene Sound Collection|
Another School Shooting – another invasion of what once was Safe Haven – another stain on our society. Another period of mourning, of grief, of anger, of hand-wringing. Another period of vows and proclamations. Another period of fingers pointing. Another period of cries and heartbreak. Another period of eerie silence. Eerie silence of the dead – eerie silence of the ones who secretly know, who vow answers but who quietly put the phone down, lock the door, look at their bank accounts and wait for it all to blow over.
And in our society of Shiny Objects and false securities, we get distracted once again and chase after the stratagem – the next faux outrage, the next scandal. Until the next shooting – the next twisted manifesto – the next grudge. We are overwhelmed and reach for the quick fix, whether its pharmaceutical or ballistic – make it all stop. Make it all go away.
And the culprits are many – the answers are sometimes baffling. That inescapable feeling of impotence to make any difference in life – that anger over misguided expectations – that ease and comfort in the blaming of others – of picking scapegoats like Spring harvests. Blame “them”, blame “the others”, blame life. Blame that we are less than others, more than others, just like everybody else and we don’t want to be.
And the “thoughts and prayers” – the tut-tuts and pats on the head – the promises – all those empty gestures that don’t even pretend to be real. When all you want is to be at peace – feel a shadow of serene and a glimmer of happiness in however long we’re here for.
Yes, you can ban assault weapons – even gun owners openly wonder how dead does the game need to be before you feel somehow emboldened. You can turn schools into armed camps – you can put metal detectors at every entrance in every school in the country – you can turn us into a “heat-packing society” where everybody has a gun, and is required to carry it, like a wallet or spare change. You can set up Mental Health facilities on every street corner in every city and town in America – you can ban the sale of violent video games – you can censor films and TV for excessive violence. And every person has a different opinion on how the problem is solved – and in the end, give up – as we’ve done so many times before, because the task is overwhelming and no one knows where to start. And there are those who insist we do nothing – the “problem will work itself out”, and retreat to their X-Box and solitary interaction to the computer screen, and imagine things while being numbed to the urgency of life.
But all we’re left with is the notion that we have utterly failed – as a people, as a society, as an example of the Human Race and all it’s capable of. We’ve lost – yet again. Much as we trust everything will work out – it always does, you wonder if maybe it won’t this time. We have fallen for the con and refuse to cop to it.
But those are sentiments of 1966, when we were stunned by the unfolding drama in Austin Texas, that day in 1966 where a shooter barricaded himself at the Clock Tower at the University of Texas and took aim at strangers, people whose lives he had no concept of – but felt the imperative to end needlessly.
And we watched, horrified – yet felt somehow smug with the knowledge it wouldn’t and couldn’t happen to us – happen in our town – happen at our school. Our Schools were Safe Haven – this shooter at the Clock Tower was an abstract concept, an anomaly. That wouldn’t be us, not in a million years.
And some 53 years later, it continues – only worse. Only now we’re waving flags and carrying bibles and calling for no laws – no restrictions – no rules. We prefer the company of shiny objects, inflated hopes and expectations. We have replaced compassion with greed – empathy for apathy – knowledge for a pride of ignorance.
Somewhere, our moral center has dropped out and is floating aimlessly in space – we have lost the power to feel, the ability to help and the desire to change.
Even in 1968 they knew we had a problem – they talked openly about it. But 50 years ago we were in the middle of uncharted territory. We had no idea where we were going or how we were going to get there. But we were idealistic back then. Had shiny hopes and not shiny objects. We believed we could make a difference – believed we could make it different if we wanted to. We forgot to take into account that human beings are complicated and not everyone is on the same page. And that was our shortcoming. And maybe that’s the problem and why there are laws, why there are restrictions and rules. We are, after all, a violent nation.
And we’ve always been that way.
Here’s a reminder of where we were in 1969 – not that far from 2021.
America: The Violent – from NBC Radio’s Second Sunday program in 1969.