The Massacre Of The Holy Innocents Matthew 2: 16-18
"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
This column is dedicated to all the victims of school violence.
According to the book of Matthew, Joseph was forewarned in a dream to take his family from Bethlehem to Egypt because King Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus. What reportedly followed was a massacre ordered by Herod of all boys under two years old in Bethlehem. While questions remain as to whether the massacre actually occurred (due to lack of corroboration from other sources), it is nonetheless recorded that, at some point in his reign, Herod may have even killed his own sons. As Bethlehem had a population of about a thousand souls at that time, estimates place the possible child death total of such a massacre at about twenty innocent souls.
Twenty. The Biblical parallel with recent events in Connecticut would be hard to miss.
Whether by royal decree, deranged mind, or both; whether by sword, or by spear, or by gun, the terrible results of human fear, loathing, hatred and evil are the same throughout history. Holy Innocents are all too often the first to suffer.
It's so easy to isolate some particularly monstrous evil as being a stand-alone event. It's so easy to come up with quick-fix solutions to specific and horrific problems in life. At the same time, it is so important to realize that there are many degrees of evil in the human race. Every single day, there are millions of children, other Holy Innocents, who are verbally or physically brutalized, as, at various times, are spouses, employees in the workplace, the homeless on our streets, and the elderly in some nursing homes. It's easy to blame guns too, and many will, but were all the guns to be gone, then the swords, knives, paperweights, ball bats, and box cutters would all readily take their place. It's not just the choice of murder weapon that's involved here either, it's also the glorification of evil in our society that needs to be addressed.
Believe it or not, as recently as the 1950s, many American schools, including the Lakewood schools, had rifle clubs competing weekly in our school gymnasiums. It was no big thing to see a Lakewood student carrying a .22 rifle, open and unloaded, through the halls of Emerson or Horace Mann on his way to the gym for supervised target practice. The National Rifle Association was originally chartered by an act of Congress in order to help young Americans prepare for the national defense, and rifle training was encouraged in the public schools well into the late 1950s. At that time, no one ever thought of a gun being used in school in a "bad" way. That just was not in our national paradigm. The evil that America faced back then supposedly came from beyond our shores.
These days? America appears to be doing very well with creating its own evils. In the 1950s for example, compromise was considered a solid American virtue. Nowadays? You tell me. So many movies, video games and television shows are so graphic with gore as to leave only the smell to one's imagination. In the 1950s, one seldom, if ever, heard a swear word on the screen, let alone some graphically depicted evil. Back in the 1950s, black and white TV sets and careful plot-setting may have implied evil, but they were severely limited in showing evil's terrible effects. Then along came color TV and movies, and with them came ever more blood and gore. The glorification of evil turned out to be a real money-maker too, as testosterone-driven young males would pay good money to satisfy their primal urge to experience, at least vicariously, the thrill of violent evil. For some, the urge became so much more than vicarious. Presented with those constant on-screen and in-print triggers, facing ongoing medical and treatment issues, and living with ever-present problems of social understanding and acceptance in our increasingly conformist society, the seriously mentally unbalanced among us sometimes became even more so.
The triggers that cause evil deeds to occur in contemporary American society are indeed many and varied, and concrete solutions are so often mired in the no-compromise political world that we have created for ourselves. WE MUST KEEP THE FOCUS ON FIRST THINGS FIRST....SAVING INNOCENT LIVES IN THE FUTURE.
After Columbine, there was a national effort to make our schools more secure, and they really are...but the fact remains that there are TWO MORE things that most districts could do in every school building (and many have probably NOT done yet) that could really help with overall school safety. One would be to have portable weapon detection equipment available, and the other? To implement a police/guard presence.
In the past, both of those proposals were set aside or stalled by any number of districts, often due to budgetary considerations and public relations variables. Some districts (and taxpayers) were convinced that this sort of thing could not happen where they were. But it has, of course. Many times, and in many places.
People who, to this point, did not want their neighborhood schools turned into lockdown prison-like institutions are now starting to reconsider. In a crisis event, seconds do count. Trained and rapid response is critical in the saving of innocent lives. The deterrent factor can never be over-emphasized either. It's been my experience as an educator that the more anti-violence countermeasures (including classroom conflict-resolution lessons) that are in place, the less likely that trouble will start.
With respect to our school security, Lakewood is probably more fortunate than some outlying districts, in that police help is only minutes away. At the same time, at the risk of reiteration, seconds do count.
The complex issue of gun control, on the other hand, is one that will probably take quite a bit of time to work out. We just can't wait for that to happen. We need to always keep the short focus on pragmatic ways that schools can keep improving their security.
Having portable weapon detection equipment available and an increased police/guard presence in EACH and EVERY school building are ideas that need serious consideration, with the only caveat being that school professionals would need to carefully research such equipment to be sure it is up to date and in full compliance with the most modern health standards of repeated exposure to magnetic or other forms of radiation.
Hopefully, these and other security questions are already being addressed by Lakewood's schools, as we move forward in these difficult times.