You know your country’s culture is in trouble when two kids can be shot and killed at school and it barely qualifies as breaking news.
It hasn’t been that long ago that when such an incident occurred the world stopped turning. That it has become almost normalized is a garish, blinking sign that there is something fundamentally broken in our society.
The only “deep state” we need concern ourselves with right now is the deep state of denial in which we are living when it comes to school shootings.
Millions of Americans who watch the news every night and thank God they don’t live in some of the places shown have fooled themselves into thinking a school shooting couldn’t happen in their town because where they live is too homogeneous, or too small or too safe.
In 2012, millions of us naively believed that surely the wholesale slaughter of 6- and-7-year-olds in tiny Newtown, Connecticut would be the tipping point. Instead, we got conspiracy theories, lobbying to kneecap any gun-policy changes and dozens more children shot in schools across the country.
The 11th school shooting of 2018 happened last week in Benton, Kentucky, a town of 4,300, where stunned residents described themselves as “tight knit.”
Think about that. The new year isn’t even broken in, and we’ve had 11 school shootings.
And even as we watch such tragedy unfold in what feels like on endless video loop, we still don’t think it will happen where we live, so bullied kids continue to get ignored, those with mental health issues go underserved, guns are haphazardly monitored and people die.
No one seems surprised or even that upset when urban school kids get shot, because everyone assumes they know the reason why. Outsiders tsk-tsk at the blood spilled on the South Side of Chicago while somehow ignoring the river of unregistered firearms that spill onto those streets from Indiana.
But when it happens in Bedford Falls, USA, people are shocked, shocked, when in truth the two communities have more commonalities than differences.
As drugs lay waste to families, mental health resources are underfunded (if funded at all) and poverty remains firmly in place, rural kids struggle every bit as much as their inner-city peers — if not more.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate of 16.1 percent in rural America is 1.5 percent higher than in urban areas. Also, the rate of rural Americans who are uninsured outpaces their urban counterparts.
Rural America has become ground zero for opioid addiction, a problem exacerbated by pill mills, a lack of jobs in dying industries and residents’ inability to access treatment even when insurance is available. This, in turn, affects the incidences of abuse and the number of rural kids who end up in foster care, which has exploded.
As a result, depression, anger and despair become weaponized.
Now, no one is calling to do away with the Second Amendment, but the ease with which kids have access to guns should scare us all. As someone recently put it: Every gun a kid gains hold of first had to pass through the hands of an adult.
In two, maybe three weeks, it will happen again in another “all-American town” where folks will say it shouldn’t have. Cable news media will showcase shocked parents who didn’t believe it could happen to their community, and Americans will do what we’ve been conditioned to do: We’ll send our thoughts and prayers, erect teddy bear memorials and look at the pictures of the candlelight vigils.
If nothing changes, don’t fret; all of our towns will get their turn.