New Yorker magazine staff writer Adam Gopnik in his February 15, 2018, article “Four Truths About the Florida School Shooting” offers “four simple truths worth saying again, in the aftermath of the Florida massacre, about gun control and gun violence.” Yet for me, perhaps, the most compelling is the first truth (the boldface is mine):
1. The gun lobby, and the Republican Party it controls, have accepted as a matter of necessity the ongoing deaths of hundreds of children as the price that they are prepared to pay for the fetishization of weapons. The claim of this lobby’s complicity in murder is not exaggerated or hysterical but, by now, quite simple and precise: when you refuse to act to stop a social catastrophe from happening, you are responsible for the consequences of the social catastrophe. If you refuse to immunize your children and a measles epidemic breaks out, you are implicated in the measles. If you refuse to pay money for sewers and cholera breaks out, you are complicit in the cholera. Acts have consequences. This complicity includes all of the hand-wringers and the tut-tutters and the “nothing to be done”-ers as much as the N.R.A. hardcore. Many people have predicted, repeatedly, that one gun massacre would lead to the next—and that more gun massacres would probably take place in one year in America than in the rest of the civilized world combined—and they have been proved right, and then right again. Since everyone knew that this would happen again, those who did nothing to stop it happening again—and who did everything they could to see that no one else could do anything to stop it happening again—are complicit when it happens, again.
The power of this truth is undeniable in my opinion — and clearly undeniable in the opinion of all the students and others across the U.S. organizing protests and other actions to bring attention to this fact.
In reading Gopnik’s article I am reminded of the following quote attributed to German pastor Martin Niemöller regarding complicity and the Nazis:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
(For information about variations of this quote click here.)
Fictional response to school shootings
The school shooting in Florida and the accompanying failures to prevent it caused me to add a half page to my sci fi novel THE MISSISSIPPI DIVIDE.
In the novel, the motivation for the antagonist — who starts out as William Colker before he replaces last names with numbers— has always been to encapsulate a part of the U.S. to seal it off from the vices and horrors of the rest of the U.S. and the world. Yet in reading articles about how the Florida school shooting could have possibly been prevented, I realized that my antagonist would be 18 in 2018 according to the timeline I created for the universe.
And that’s when I realized I could give him a more personal motivation to seal off his world than a general motivation. I thus wrote the following half-page prologue for the novel:
Prologue — The Trigger
2018 East of the Mississippi River
Her body lay sprawled at the base of the high school entrance steps, her arms upraised as if to protect her head from the shooter’s deadly aim. William Colker knew that, had he been five minutes earlier, he would undoubtedly be sprawled dead alongside her.
The rage that welled up inside him caused his heart to race and sweat to break out on his forehead. He was one of the few high school students who should have been prepared for this. The debate team had been preparing pros and cons of not allowing people with documented mental health issues to buy or own guns of any kind. His fellow debate team members had researched the leniency of federal gun purchase background checks as well as the lack of active shooter drills for soft targets such as schools and religious institutions.
As a first responder now ran towards William, waving him to get away from Sheila’s body, William felt in his pocket for the locket he should have placed around her neck that morning on the one-year anniversary of their dating. The locket contained the senior class photos of both William and Sheila.
His hand gripped the locket as he vowed – someday he would have the power to prevent such massacres! He would find a way to circumvent the politicians who kowtowed to the gun lobby, the FBI personnel who didn’t take immediate action on citizen-provided tips, and everyone who chose financial gain over human life.
He owed it to Sheila!
If we as Americans do not stop being complicit in school shootings and similar events, we, too, may someday face a totalitarian government (as in THE MISSISSIPPI DIVIDE) intent on sealing us off — and apart — from such threats.
Perhaps the tide has finally turned — and sensible truths such as Adam Gopnik presented will be put into action rather than just put into words.
P.S. In the last few days there have been many excellent articles on prevention strategies including ones about active shooter training in schools. For those people who think that such drills will unnecessarily scare children, it might be a good idea to study how Israel trains everyone, including small children, to respond to life-and-death situations.
Click here to read Gopnik’s complete New Yorker article.
Click here to read more about THE MISSISSIPPI DIVIDE: A Dystopian Sci Fi Thriller.
© 2018 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. Phyllis is available by skype for book group discussions and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her Kindle fiction ebooks may be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller — and her Kindle nonfiction ebooks may also be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller