Vincent Gullo | Staff Columnist
Earlier this month, in the small town of Spokane, Washington, a sophomore named Caleb Sharpe walked into his high school with two firearms and one intention: to kill. Sharpe killed a fellow student and injured three others before he stood down. At the age of 15, Sharpe may be charged as an adult for murder and face life in prison.
Later investigation and an affidavit has shown that Sharpe had been bullied in school. The boy that Sharpe killed had supposedly told Sharpe, “I always knew you were going to shoot up the school.” Sharpe had spent time with his guidance counselor dealing with suicidal thoughts and had even written a suicide note to his parents weeks before.
The families of Sharpe and his victims, the school, and the entire town of Spokane will never be the same. But the true tragedy lies in the fact that we, as Americans, will be the same.
We are at the point in society where we have become numb to school shootings. What used to be an event that could stir emotions out of the most stoic of individuals now barely pulls a second glance from us off our twitter timelines. We have become numb to the politicization of the school shooting.
Immediately following a shooting, both Democrats and Republicans run to their pro/anti-gun camps faster than you can say:
Okay maybe that’s kind of long, but you get the point. The politicization of the school shooting not only is insensitive to those who have lost loved ones but also desensitizes us to the actual event. We no longer see Sharpe, a teenager who was the victim of bullying, we see a monster with an AR-15 who should “never have gotten his hands on it.” We no longer see dead children and their forever-tormented families, we see blank helpless faces who “could’ve been saved if they had someone with a gun to protect them.”
It’s nauseating. I am supportive of looking to prevent future shootings, but no legislation passed has had any real effect in preventing them. All they have done is gotten people reelected.
Even those who recognize the dilapidated state of mental health in America very often after events like this just throw up their hands and scream, “MENTAL HEALTH” as if that is going to suddenly solve anything more than the gun talk.
The reality is that, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 teenagers live with a mental health condition. Many of these conditions are lifelong, and often bring about an array of social and emotional issues, especially in the Darwinian hellhole that is high school.
Even in 2017, when 20 percent of teenagers suffer from mental illnesses, kids who reach the emotional point in where they feel the need to end the lives of their peers and kids are so deprived of self esteem that they drive kids to that point through bullying, we still fail to take mental health seriously.
Most importantly, we as a society don’t care about school shootings anymore. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. The school shooting is so ingrained in us that it has seamlessly slipped into our pop culture rhetoric, and we haven’t batted an eye. Look at the rap hit and white girl anthem, “Broccoli” by D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty, a song that went quintuple platinum opens up with the line “…we gon’ turn this s*** to Columbine.” The song is played everywhere from school dances to professional sporting events, with a reference to one of the saddest events in American history opening up the song. The reference isn’t even used out of reverence, but as a way for Lil Yachty to allude to the heights that he would take a situation. I know it’s just a song, but taking something to “Columbine levels” should not have any place in the vernacular.
How about American Horror Story Season 1, where Evan Peter’s character Tate Langdon was a school shooter. Regardless of his crimes, the story is written in such a way that we often found ourselves sympathizing for him.
Subliminally, these references add up and causes us to become totally numb to the entire concept of a school shooting. Added to the fact that violent video games sell tens of millions of copies, often to kids well below the recommended age group, and violent action movies continue to be some of the most box-office-breaking, it’s safe to say we live in a society where violence is normal and almost accepted.
There was nothing irregular going on in Spokane. Kids in every school are bullied, kids in every school have mental health issues and guns are available to anyone who wants one bad enough. Spokane could’ve happened anywhere else in America, and it will continue to happen until America decides to start caring again.