The Real Monsters, and How We Mask Them

According to several news companies, there has been nearly one school shooting a week since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. In the first week of October, college students all around the Philadelphia area experienced first­hand the terrifying problem that has been created due to the way we portray these acts of violence in the media. A threat was made anonymously online toward an unspecified school in the Philadelphia area, leaving thousands of students and faculty feeling nervous and unsure of how to react. Classes were canceled, people were on edge, and everyone got a little less sleep than they should have. Being so close to the recent shooting at the community college in Oregon, we were all too scared not to take this threat seriously. It was very real, very possible, and incredibly terrifying. Personally, I was up the night prior to when the threat was supposed to take place with anxieties, not just about my safety, but everyone in the Philadelphia area’s safety. I did not leave the confines of my dorm during the early afternoon, except to get food quickly, I stayed away from any largely populated areas of the university, and I was checking the news on my phone every 15 minutes to see if something bad had happened. It affected me in a very real way, and I was not the only one.

It is time to say enough is enough. Students should not have to skip class and hide out in their friends’ off ­campus apartments simply because of a vague anonymous threat made online. There was once a time when no one would even bat an eye to a post made on 4chan or Reddit, but that was before school shootings began happening more frequently than the average quiz.

It would be unproductive to sit here and state an issue without offering a possible solution. There are many solutions, and many reasons why this problem exists in the first place.

These acts of violence are done by monsters, yet we treat them like celebrities. Perhaps the world wouldn’t pay so much attention to the idiocy of Donald Trump if the media left him alone and started covering the real politicians for once. Everything we think is guided by the media, and right now the media is acting as an excellent mask and shield to these criminals. The media is hiding the real problem.

My School, Arcadia University, responded to the anonymous threat against Philadelphia schools in a way that any college student or nervous parent would hope for; they were calm, made students feel secure, and updated everyone regularly. In other words, they followed the protocol almost perfectly. This is a problem. Public safety officials at universities across America have spent hours training and developing systems of response if/when an armed intruder enters the campus. Why are we preparing for the worst when we should be preventing it? As a student in the Philadelphia area, I am thankful that protocol was in place, but I am concerned about how flawlessly it was executed. As the President said in his speech regarding the Oregon shooting, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.”

Students in elementary schools and middle Schools respond to an intruder drill with almost the same monotony as saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Teachers keep baseball bats in the corners of the rooms to use in defense. People are scared, and they should be.

The major media companies need to stop covering every school shooting like that particular week’s feature story, and start posting the facts about gun violence in this country. These facts are that on average 100,000 people are shot each year in this country; over 330,000 died from guns between 2000 and 2010, which is more people than the population of Pittsburgh; Almost three times more kids were injured by firearms than U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010 (NBC News).  The media needs to stop putting the attention on the shooter, attempting to justify his or her acts, and instead investigate how someone who could do that was able to be in possession of a gun. Schools need to stop teaching their students that a school shooting is as likely to happen as a hurricane, and start fighting against people who are supporting laws that are allowing for people to die.

We are preparing for the apocalypse before we even attempt to save the earth. It is time to stop masking the real issue at hand, which is access to guns, and start being honest with what values we are currently standing for as a country.

Photo Attributed to: USA. 1959. Untitled. (from the Inge Morath Mask Series with Saul STEINBERG).

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