On Friday morning, a 17-year-old student opened fire at Santa Fe High School in the small Texas town of the same name. The shooter killed 10 people — eight students and two teachers — and wounded 13 others. The gunman used a shotgun and a revolver that officials said belonged to his father. It was the country’s deadliest school shooting since the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed by a student.
This chilling quote was uttered by Santa Fe High School student Paige Curry, speaking to a Houston TV station, and it quickly went viral:
“It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I’ve always kind of felt like, eventually, it was going to happen here, too.”
The 17-year-old was clearly shaken, but she didn’t hesitate in responding to this particular question — which was whether she felt any disbelief that a mass shooting was unfolding at her school. She was terrified, but she could believe it. All too terribly well, she could believe it.
This is the world we have created for our children. They have begun to expect that someday, their schools may be targeted by this kind of catastrophe — the kind of catastrophe that should be rare, and is rare in other countries, which also have troubled teenagers but do not offer the same ready access to guns as we do in the United States.
It was tempting over the weekend to take refuge in the coverage of Saturday’s wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry to former actress Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex. And it was an absorbing spectacle, what with this biracial California-born princess, her beautiful and dignified black mother, the gospel choir singing “Stand by Me” — a 1961 blues ballad embraced by the U.S. civil rights movement — and the American bishop who preached passionately about the redemptive power of love (somewhat to the discomfiture of some of the royals, who are allergic to genuine emotion).
But the reality of what had transpired Friday in Texas could not be avoided. Even the sermon delivered in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle seemed relevant.
It was not just that Bishop Michael B. Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, shares a surname with the Santa Fe teen who so perfectly encapsulated the fear of American students.
It was that he was envisioning a world that seemed completely out of reach. And that was heartbreaking.
“Imagine,” he said, “a world where love is the way. ... Imagine our governments and nations when love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way.”
Yes, let’s take a minute to imagine this, however unrealistic it may be. Imagine the National Rifle Association representing its member families and not gun manufacturers whose only interest is making money, however irresponsibly.
Imagine a Congress whose leaders listened to the young people living with the terror of school shootings every day, instead of catering to the gun lobby.
“Imagine,” Curry continued, “this tired old world when love is the way. When love is the way — unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.”
Unselfish? Sacrificial? Redemptive? Do any of these adjectives apply to our leaders?
“When love is the way,” Curry said, “we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. ... When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside. ... When love is the way, we actually treat each other — well, like we’re actually family.”
Imagine if our elected officials saw the children murdered in schools as their own children, as part of their own families. Might that clarify for them the need for sensible gun regulation?
It’s clear that Florida Gov. Rick Scott was so moved when he attended the funerals of the murdered Parkland students.
“The hardest thing I have ever had to do as governor is try to find the words to console a parent who lost their child,” Scott said. “There are just no words.”
Just a few weeks after the Parkland massacre, the Republican governor, a stalwart supporter of the NRA, signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which raised Florida’s minimum age for gun purchases from 18 to 21. The legislation provided $75 million for student mental health counseling. Controversially, it also contained a provision for arming teachers, though Gov. Scott said he believed “law enforcement officers should be the ones who protect our schools.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, by contrast, wants to arm more teachers, even though, as The Washington Post pointed out Saturday, Santa Fe High School had armed police officers and considered itself a hardened target, prepared to counter a school shooting.
Unhelpful ideas are not confined to one side of the political aisle.
Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who served under President Barack Obama, actually supports a school boycott.
“What if no children went to school until gun laws changed to keep them safe?” Duncan tweeted Friday. “My family is all in if we can do this at scale.”
That’s the best we can do? Pull our kids out of school? How about the kids whose parents cannot afford to stay home with them? This is a nonstarter.
We should be able to do better.
Bishop Curry preached about love’s real power to change the world. We could use some of it in the United States, so that school shootings no longer are seen as inevitable by students like Paige Curry.