Friday, February 23, 2018

when the ground breaks - devastatingly acceptable expectations

quiet spaces in my head - which are admittedly not super common - have been filled this past week with emotion, thought, and a sensation of gravity trying to suck me down into the earth. That's the best way to describe what it feels like when I think about the kids who lost their lives in the Florida school shooting.

I have a kid that age. He is in the last few months of his high school career. He is a defender. He teaches in our kids' self-defense program and talks all the time about how much fun it is and how much joy he gets when the littles end class with eyes shining with accomplishment.

He wants them to be strong. He gets angry when people get bullied. He's not silent about his beliefs and he struggles when there's a suicide of a classmate and scratches his head when people doubt their value because he gets everyone HAS value.

And I think about him and this shooting could be his school just as easily as a school in Florida. I think about the terror and the choice he might make. As his mom, I want him to find cover and go dark. Wait for the LEO's to make the scene, subdue the shooter and clear the building.

I have mixed feelings when I think about what he might actually do because I think he'd be torn. He would know we would be devastated if he became one of the victims and he knows we are all defenders in this household. All of us in our own way, and he would stand in that gap. I am both frightened by this and proud of him at the same time.

I've seen video of the father addressing Trump. I've read the article about the 3 JROTC students who died because they stood as defenders, helping their peers get to safety. They paid for their commitment with their lives. And I can't even remotely imagine being one of those parents without feeling like the ground is coming apart under my feet.

And I don't believe the solution is to arm all teachers - some of them don't want to be armed and that's a bad metric. I don't believe the solution is to make certain weapons or ammunition or magazines illegal. Laws only control people who already believe in the behavior being regulated. I believe we are pathetic (our culture) in how we address mental and psychological health. I also know, having worked with violent individuals as a mental health professional, that better mental health will not categorically fix the problem.

I don't know the solution. Do we set guards at schools? Do we have metal detectors at all entrances? Controlled access points are already in many public schools but that's not a fail-safe. What I think (which means we are in dangerous territory) is that there are solutions to be found, they won't be one-size fits all and we won't find them until we stop being anaphylactically allergic to honest, thoughtful, investigative and progressive dialogue about violence and conflict.

In Violence Dynamics we always deliver ConCom aka Conflict Communications as a cornerstone of the seminar/conference. It's seminal because it basically says...look sports fans... emotions aren't bad but they make a really fucking horrible compass. They're fuel but so is spilled gasoline waiting for a match. Acknowledge the emotional energy and then, don't let it own you.

Get curious. Be willing to discover and discuss and engage and listen. We are ridiculously intelligent as a species. It is completely achievable for us [humans] to have an investigative conversation about violence in a manner that produces tangible, logical and reliable progress against the question - how do we keep our kids alive when they're at school?

Our wildly emotional and splatter painted gestures at the problem have become devastatingly acceptable.

Is it possible that we could take a collective stand for unreasonably high expectations? Expectations for effective, committed communication? How about if we don't stop having dialogue when the emotional deluge has past - and - what would become possible if we just stayed in it even when we got our feelings hurt, or angry or frustrated and we just kept exploring?

Seriously. We are so fucking collectively intelligent. I refuse to believe we are incapable, authentically biologically incapable, of solving this problem.


  1. Very clearly put- a couple of great sentences- so obvious but not usually put so succinctly- especially/ laws only control people who already believe in the behaviour being regulated- true in so many areas!!!

  2. I work in a school. Architecturally, it is passively defenseless.

    Fire codes and aesthetics take precedence over violent threat mitigation. We are a school in Florida; our architects live in Canada.

    A passive solution: safe rooms, better doors, windows that can be blocked or blacked out, doors that can be locked from both sides, offices with shared doors that are keyed the same, safety respect for teachers who are in the space temporarily (substitutes, itinerant specialist) (safety respect=hand off your key and make sure they know how to use it) are all measures that would make our campus safer.
    Honestly, I believe part of what keeps our campuses unsafe is denial. Denial that this can happen anywhere at any time, denial that you have to think about what you're going to do when someone comes to kill you and the twenty children in your care, denial that kids, especially kids with certain exceptionalitites, are unpredictable and will do things like yell or cry randomly, or all laugh at a fart or in some other way give away your position. That's the moment when i would wish for a firearm, but having a loaded gun that I'm not trained to use in a room full of frightened, impulsive people who are prone to grabbing and touching me when they are nervous seems like a good way to up the body count not mitigate it.
    Our plan is to hide in dark silence, to make our campus boring, frustrating and confusing, and to stay out of the way until the SWAT team arrives. My plan is to keep my kids silent and to beat anyone who breaches our envelope to death with a hammer. These plans are in place for the day that someone comes to kill us all. I'd feel a lot safer if I had more faith in the building than I do in my hammer.