By Yvonne Sam
Social and Political Commentator
Oh say can you see the frightening statistics from which America cannot flee. The facts are plain for all to see.
Let us start off by doing the numbers. America witnessed 30 mass shootings — instances with loss of four or more lives — in the first 45 days of 2018. Emerging from this frightening statistic is the fact that as many as 18 of these incidents were school shootings.
The latest shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became the third deadliest school shooting in modern United States history, to occur within the past five months, and also the 25th fatal shooting since 1999, of an elementary, middle or secondary school, including Columbine in 1999.
In 2016, some extremely startling statistics was produced by the American Journal of Medicine, ranked as one of the oldest and most prestigious general internal medicine journals published in the United States.
Based primarily on a study of mortality data taken from 23 highly-developed countries, America accounted for, among the following:
82% of all deaths by firearms;
90% of all deaths among women caused by firearms;
91% of all firearm deaths among children 4-14 years of age;
92% of all deaths among youths 15-24 years caused by firearms.
These numbers startling as they are, take on a more terrifying hue, considering that the U.S.A has only half of the population of the other 22 high-income nations combined.
The response to the latest killing spree was horribly anticipated, with everyone retreating as usual into their gun control corners. What is certain is that while the U. S continues to engage in the same conversations about all the same things, there is a student somewhere, simply biding his time, who feels that it is acceptable and justified to murder school children. He is planning to do just that while the debate goes on as to whether Barack Obama or Donald Trump is to blame.
Although there is little doubt as to the underlying importance of this discussion, I strongly feel that thus far, we are sadly missing the point. Before even entering or entertaining any discussion regarding guns, a question that should be asked, and one which has certainly been delayed in being asked is: “Why do American school children want to see each other dead” — why are the schools being repeatedly converted into shooting galleries?
I wholeheartedly agree that while the ongoing controversy as to whether removing access to guns would diminish the instance of such occurrences is important, it still remains a long way off from the crux of what I believe should be the discussion.
All efforts should be expended towards searching to determine what lies under the surface and that allows children to see killing other children as an option. Disregard the guns for a brief moment; they are the means of death. They are the result.
There is an urgent and crying need to understand what causes children to experience the level of alienation and pain that they plan and carry out the atrocities that have become so prevalent in American school environment. Therefore, deeper questions must be asked about education and American society.
The answer is undoubtedly complicated. It is improbable that it is essentially about guns and Democrats versus Republicans, and Obama and Trump and the gun lobby. It is unlikely that it is merely about the absence of God in schools, or mental health or bullying. Again it is implausible that emotional hurt has created the moral equivalence of, hurt my feelings and I can harm you.
The ace is in place; no longer can society sit back and view school shootings as a problem of security or security technologies, but instead must now regard it as a problem of education.
A nation mourns while the world watches on. It is emotionally difficult to imagine how the survivors of the Parkland school shooting will recover, and even harder to imagine the families of the deceased.
However, the ace that must immediately be put into place is that real conversations must begin about why the shootings are happening; instead of with what it is happening. Failure to carry out this simple plan provides an answer very plain: America can count on it happening once again.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.