Teenage Wasteland

We were fifteen in 1974. It was, in retrospect, maybe not the beat time to be growing up in America. Our political memory began with a pair of assassinations six years earlier. Drastic measures were taken to stabilize the economy three years after that. The first of several gas crises struck a couple years later. And, oh, a President resigned that August.

A month later, we started high school. We were fifteen, after all.

High school was, well, high school. Nothing special about that. We went to class, we participated in band and drama, we did what kids do.

Funny thing about that: Not once, not then, not before, not later, did it ever cross our mind that some idiot might walk in and shoot up the place.

And never could we imagine the people running our country not giving a shit if someone did.

But this is what it’s come to.

A student at Santa Fe High School was asked Friday about the massacre she had just escaped: “Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This could not happen at my school?’”

“No,” she said, “it’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here, too.”

Sandy Hook happened six years ago. For today’s high school student, that massacre — and the inaction that followed, as inaction follows all massacres — is all they know. They’ve grown up with the awareness that their country could care less about their lives, that their country’s leaders will piously offer thoughts and prayers and nothing else, that they have been abandoned to their fates.

What’s it like to grow up like that? What’s it like growing up in a world where massacre drills are as familiar as fire drills? What’s it like when the best grownups have to offer is armed teachers, or fewer doors? What’s it like knowing that politicians would sooner see you dead than lift a finger to protect you?

What’s it like knowing that more people have died this year in school shootings than serving in the military?

In 1974, at age fifteen, we were already plenty cynical — by nature, and because of the times. But we were lucky: Nothing new about crooked politicians, nothing personal about diminishing resources. Nobody was trying to kill us, and nobody would have complained if action was contemplated to prevent it. The NRA as we know it today had yet to corrupt our leaders and our values.

We didn’t grow up with a target on our back. Today’s kids do. And they know it. And they know nothing will be done to stop it.

Imagine growing up like that. We can’t begin to.

28 comments:

10:00 am • Saturday • May 19, 2018

It’s been 20 years since the Thurston High School shooting. That was treated almost as a “local” issue and did not garner much national press coverage. I was probably aware of it because I traveled to Oregon for work.

10:34 am • Saturday • May 19, 2018

When I was 15, fire drills were a joke. When was the last time someone set fire to the school? There was the unfortunate Shop jigsaw accident, and invariably someone in Chemistry did something they knew they weren’t supposed to do, but they had to see the reaction for themselves. We had faith that our teachers wouldn’t give us access to things too dangerous. No one came close to burning the place down. Fire drills were fun.

Fire drills were a break from the mundane and a chance to hang out with your friends and goof around in the parking lot. The teachers told us This Was Serious Shit, but meh. Party in the parking lot, and whining when we had to go back inside.

Today, Active Shooter Drills aren’t drills. They’re AP Survival classes. You start studying in Middle School, and the final could happen at any time or never. You can’t prepare for it, and you know this.

You can’t game the system like you’re taught in SAT prep courses where incorrect answers hurt you more than skipping the question. All you can do is try to break the system with your not-quite-adult tools and hope adults don’t kill you for trying to save your life.

10:53 am • Saturday • May 19, 2018

@DElurker: I was aware of Thurston because I lived in Eugene. Thurston’s the other end of Springfield, but that was an easy 15-20 minutes from my place.

Springfield’s blue collar, rural at the far end, as was that school in Kentucky (I think) that got shot up before. I’ve always thought Columbine got attention because it was suburban — now that the nice white kids are doing it, it’s a problem.

I’ve been challenged on this of late, that it was really the kill count that got attention, that economic status had nothing to do with it. Valid point, but my gut atill tells me that Thurston got Othered away.

2:30 pm • Saturday • May 19, 2018

@JNOV: They start way before middle school. First graders here have regular active shooter drills. :(

I cannot with the world today, so I’m watching the gospel choir at the royal wedding on repeat. Then I’m going to the Alien Daze parade downtown: http://ufofest.com/photo-gallery/

12:43 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@nojo: I only remembered Springfield for the lumber mills and titty bars. I never realized there was a school and I wasn’t aware of many houses.

12:43 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@nojo: Paducah is a very small city, but the school was in West Paducah, so probably pretty rural at that point. Since it happened in my state and the shooter was not much older than me, it definitely caught my attention, but of course Columbine overshadowed it the following spring.

1:01 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@Mistress Cynica: I’m not ignoring you. I just don’t know what to write. I watched American Masters’ Hedy Lamaar documentary. What a remarkable person she was.

@nojo: I think I might have been lambasted here after Sandy Hook when I wrote that people care most about dead rich white kids. I can’t remember who told me off.

All I know is that when my 15-year-old cousin was shot to death at home while babysitting my 2-year-old cousin (she was spared), people assumed he was selling drugs because he was a black male in Philly.

1:14 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@DElurker: Springfield is also known for Diane Downs and the Simpsons.

1:20 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@mellbell: Yeesh. I thought Kentucky came first, but both are footnotes at best. Then again, how are we to keep track? Growing up, it was the Austin clock tower and nothing else.

As it happens, I now live about 20 minutes from Columbine High School. Also 20 minutes from Aurora.

2:09 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@nojo: Got the years mixed up. Heath was 1997, Thurston (which I had not heard of, or at least did not recall, before reading these comments) was 1998, and Columbine was 1999. Too many to keep track of. Too many period.

2:57 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

WaPo: “Most residents here didn’t blame any gun for the tragedy down the street. Many of them pointed to a lack of religion in schools.”

Americans are gonna get us all killed.

4:45 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

If this becomes a thing, I can handle 5-8 kids if local parents boycott public schools until gun laws are changed.

10:08 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

According to the NRA: Life begins at conception and ends in high school.

10:25 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

Sadly, they start active shooter drills as early as preschool. They teach the kids to lock the doors and hide in closets. And all because a gang of pathetic, cowardly, hate-crazed, stupid old white people feel so inadequate, threatened, and scared of people of color.

In fact, one could say that the only real difference between the tDUMP regime and our previous malevolent rulers is that the Republinazis have started treating other white people at home and abroad the same way this nation always has treated people of color. This KKKountry is so fucking sick… but the cure is on the way.

10:29 am • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@ManchuCandidate: The right to life ends at birth. If mom wants to blow that baby away with an AR-15, she’d be met with enthusiastic applause.

3:54 pm • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@nojo: Second-Amendment Martyrs. Yes. Thank you for adding it to the sidebar.

4:04 pm • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@JNOV: Somehow that category preceded Sandy Hook by a few months. All I can remember is being in a very dark frame of mind when I came up with it.

4:13 pm • Sunday • May 20, 2018

@Benedick:

Let’s talk about proportion. And privilege. And the overwhelming grief of all the dead children unreported, all those sacrificed on the altar on the NRO’s convictions. Let’s talk about all the gun deaths. In the cities. Across the nation.

Someone page Benedict. I miss him, and I’m no longer on FB.

@nojo: Yes, I noticed that. How is it even possible that I forget these things? I need to set some time aside each week to reflect, remember, write letters to the local newspaper, write my legislators, write gun manufacturers and distributors, write the kids, just write and write. It’s time to use that roll of dusty stamps.

10:15 am • Monday • May 21, 2018

The Duchess of Sussex sounds like a new Peaches album.

10:32 am • Monday • May 21, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Did you know that peaches come in a can? They were put there by a man.

10:56 am • Tuesday • May 22, 2018

/hear ye, hear ye/

Finally! Some great Prezinazi AntiChrist news:

When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember (Tdumbp) Will Be Dead In About 15 Or 20 Years

That’s right. In the not-very-distant future I will die and then be gone from the world for all eternity. You may even get to watch me in a casket on national television being lowered into the ground, never to be seen again. I bet you’re smiling just thinking about that.

Indeed, you can always take solace in the fact that the monstrous, unimaginable piece of shit that is me will stop existing fairly soon, and that I will continue to not exist for the remainder of your lifetime.

And if you need a real shot in the arm to get you laughing and smiling again, just remember that I could trip down a flight of stairs in my own ultra-plush luxury high-rise this very night and shatter my skull right there. Isn’t that great?

So there’s no reason to be wearing a frown, my friend. I will die, and I will die soon. And as long as you remember that, your days will be brighter. I promise.

Best of all, they wrote that five years ago–we’re almost there!

12:07 pm • Tuesday • May 22, 2018

@¡Andrew!: Ok, but really best of all is that as recently as five years ago, Michael Cohen did not realize that The Onion is satire, and The Onion is now belatedly (although, to be fair, who would have cared at the time?) trolling him for it. *Italian chef kiss*

8:36 pm • Tuesday • May 22, 2018

@mellbell: Pure gold

10:04 pm • Thursday • May 24, 2018

Oh, fuck you, Morgan Freeman!

11:36 pm • Thursday • May 24, 2018

@JNOV: God is dead.

7:13 pm • Friday • May 25, 2018

They say that history repeats as a farce, so it’s wild how we’re getting all sixteen combined years of the Raygun and CaliguBush scandals, thievery, mendacity, insanity, and incompetence crammed into eighteen months.

Bonus points for this entire disgusting sleazy ordeal almost exactly following the plot of Animal Farm.

9:43 pm • Friday • May 25, 2018

@nojo:

God Flees Universe With $250 Cash

“See you later, assholes!” said the Supreme Being, who was spotted peeling out of the Universe in his 1986 Chevrolet Camaro while fanning the sum of small bills and shaking his head at how simple the whole con job was. “Best part of all this? None of you stupid motherfuckers even saw it coming.”

9:51 pm • Friday • May 25, 2018

Re: Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation

I’d say we’re more of a pariah.

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