It’s Friday. I had slotted something lighthearted for this spot, something funny, perhaps heartwarming. But I’m sorry. I can’t.
My son has an escape route.
I found this out at dinner the other night. My son, 12, was done eating and had returned to his homework while my wife and I lingered at the table. It was then that she informed me that he had an escape route planned in case of a shooting at his school. He had told her about it on the ride home at the end of the day.
“No, I mean he planned one himself,” my wife said quietly. “Out the back way and through the gym, and he thinks he can get out that way if he has to.”
I fingered the stem of my wine glass and took this in, pursing my lips. An escape route. From a locked Catholic school. Age 12. My kind, gentle boy.
The wheel of randomness, which spins in partial fog, has been kind to us as a family. We are healthy and, as far as we know, safe. We have no complaints worth stating, no problems worthy of the name. God has been good.
Still, when I was 12, I felt no need of an escape route. To this day, I haven’t. But my son does.
We cannot, should not even, shield him from all the news. It was impossible to keep Newtown from him. Then with this week’s gun idiocies — the poor Australian kid gunned down for fun in Oklahoma, the wacko in a school in suburban Atlanta with an AK-47 assault weapon (thank the good Lord no one was hurt) — well, my son got wind of those too.
Imagine yourself at 12. How did your mind work? Wouldn’t you imagine bullets ripping into children? Wouldn’t you imagine being one? How could you help imagining it, if only for a terrifying second? There is a realness in your imagination at 12 that is hard to control; you can’t blunt it with adult cares and distractions.
I discuss the news with my boy; my wife does too. We give him a chance to get his concerns out where we can see them, pin them down, tame them if necessary. But there is only so much I can do without intensifying the very effect I want to dissipate.
I will not pluck the perpetually oozing gun-control scab here. But I will say that the “if guns are criminal/controlled/regulated, only criminals will have guns” canard has been disproved by the experience of nearly every nation with gun control — and I mean controls even more stringent than the reasonable regulation that most Americans want here. That includes the United Kingdom after the Dunblane incident and Australia…where a family sent their boy on what was supposed to have been the adventure of a lifetime, and instead have had to endure the end of that lifetime.
The village that is supposed to help raise my child has failed him. The National Rifle Association has failed him. Congress has failed him. Timid gun owners who favor reasonable regulation, but will not browbeat the stiff-necked Second Amendment torturers and the insurrectionist fantasizers into submission, have failed him.
My son. Has quite seriously. Planned how. To escape. From a school shooter. He sincerely feels the need.
Think about that. And how we, as a nation, are going to escape from that need. If ever.♦
© 2013 Adam Barr