Politics, culture, family and more. From a (mostly) Mennonite perspective.
Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife and son. He spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His honors include awards for best online commentary from the Online News Association and (twice) from the City and Regional Magazine Association.
It’s almost the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Here’s what’s happening in Denver schools today.
More than a dozen school districts in Colorado are closed Wednesday after the FBI and local law enforcement warned of an 18-year-old white woman who is “armed and dangerous” in the Denver metropolitan area.
Sol Pais flew from Miami to Denver on Monday and “immediately” bought a pump action shotgun and ammunition, FBI Denver Special Agent In Charge Dean Phillips told reporters Tuesday evening.
Pais had “made some concerning comments in the past” and had an “infatuation” with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and its perpetrators, Phillips said at the press conference. She was last seen in the foothills of Jefferson County, in the metro Denver area.
It’s good that authorities are protecting kids, but you know what? This is also insane.
Consider where mass shootings have taken place in America in recent years: schools, nightclubs, churches, concerts. And now, a gaming tournament. Two people were killed Sunday and a dozen others injured before the gunman — possibly a tournament participant — killed himself. Horrifyingly, the attack played out over a livestream, with the gunshots and agonized screams available for everybody to hear in real time.
There is no place where people gather in America that is safe from gun violence. In fact, large gatherings are becoming dangerous targets for the angry and unhinged. As that ugly realization slowly settles in, and gun advocates stand their ground in refusing any new regulations on the ability to possess and use weapons of death, there will only be one option for people concerned about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones: retreat from the public square.
We’ve now reached the stage where we’d rather close public schools entirely rather than take much of a step to restrict access to guns. It’s both a reasonable step and absolutely unreasonable. Guns are destroying community in America. This is is just the latest step.
I try not to push my outside work here too often, but my column at The Week today is kind of on-brand for SixOh6.
Last weekend, Sydney Aiello, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas shootings, took her own life. On Saturday, another survivor of that attack, a 16-year-old boy, also apparently died of suicide. And on Monday morning, Jeremy Richman, whose 6-year-old daughter died at Sandy Hook, was found dead in his office — he also seems to have killed himself
A caution: We don’t know all the reasons for these newly lost lives, though Aiello’s mom said her daughter had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the attack at Stoneman Douglas. What we do know is that each person’s life had been deeply marked by gun violence.
Collectively, their deaths suggest we should be working harder to tabulate the never-ending psychological and physical costs being imposed on our communities and our neighbors in this era of mass shootings. Those costs should be at the forefront of every discussion and debate we have about the use and misuse of guns in this country.
Politico has an interesting piece about Telos Group, which is trying to change the evangelical discussion about Israel:
“We sort of imported this conflict into our own culture, and into our churches, into our own politics,” Deatherage told me, as two WeWorkers played table tennis nearby. “We’ve created these ways of engaging it that are very one sided—they’re zero sum. So if I’m pro-Israeli, I’m by default anti-Palestinian. If I’m pro-Palestinian I’m, by default, anti-Israeli. That’s the kind of space for engaging it right now. So we’ve come around and suggested that maybe there’s a third way.” He’s also trying to reach a pro-Palestine constituency that demonizes Israel. He argues that a good future for Israelis requires a good future for the Palestinians.
The conflict, he says, has become a domestic issue in American politics, especially among evangelicals raised with a pro-Israel narrative. “It’s the software that’s pre-loaded into us in certain segments of the evangelical church that we just kinda grow up thinking that whatever happened in the Middle East in contemporary affairs is definitely God working something out there,” Deatherage said. “And that we gotta bless Israel. We gotta stand with Israel. We gotta be with Israel because they’re God’s people, and God’s project, right?”
The group doesn’t expect to completely transform that viewpoint:
Telos isn’t looking for transformation so much as incremental change. Even if evangelicals’ support for Israel wanes just a little, Wear says, it could eventually reshape America’s approach to the conflict. “If even an additional 10 percent of the evangelical community becomes more nuanced on these issues, that drastically changes the political calculations for how beholden politicians feel to holding a certain line because their constituency will be giving them more flexibility,” Wear said.
The Arsonists’ video for “Alex” was released in response to an astonishingly high number of shooting deaths at schools in the U.S. over the last year. Even in Lawrence, weapons were found on at least three separate occasions in schools just this month alone.
Frontman Giovanni Ventello says they were aiming for a powerful and significant project. “After countless incidents of gun violence, some even right here in Lawrence, we decided it was time we used our music to hopefully inspire change,” he says. “I hope the people who see this video are moved to either take action or even just learn a little about the gun violence epidemic we all face.”
They say “write what you know.” Today’s teens know to fear gun massacres.
This is kind of old news by now, but relatively new to me thanks to an editorial at Bloomberg.com. Two studies in late 2018 offered some interesting, tragic fact.
The first is that children in the U.S. are far more likely than kids in other countries to die by gun:
While the death rate from guns remained flat from 1999 to 2013, it jumped 28 percent in the next three years, to 4 deaths per 100,000 American kids. “We’re seeing increases in both gun homicide and gun suicide” among children and adolescents, Cunningham says.
Cunningham says she’s not sure why gun death rates have increased. But she says it should be addressed. “I don’t think it’s acceptable for firearms to be a preventable cause of death and remain the second cause of death of children and teens,” she says. “We’re not doing enough to keep kids safe.”
Compared with U.S. states with the strictest gun control legislation, gun deaths among children and teenagers are twice as common in states with the most lax gun laws, a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine has found.
“A child is 82 times more likely to die in our country of a firearm injury than in any other developed nation,” said senior author Stephanie Chao, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Stanford. “We focus a lot on the federal government and the things they can do to protect our children from firearms. But our study shows that what states do at the state level really does have an impact.”
Guns are killing our children. That’s a choice we’re collectively making.
I have a column over at The Week about the one year anniversary of the Parkland school massacre. I reflect on the shabby treatment that has been afforded the survivors. Wherever you find survivors of mass gun violence, it seems, you’ll also find gun rights defenders making the survivors’ lives more miserable.
Some people might argue that by plunging into the gun debate, Hogg and other survivors asked for the treatment they’re getting — our politics are loud and ugly, and if you’re going to take a stance, you’re not going to be treated with kid gloves. Hogg, in particular, seems to give as much as he takes, which might be why he seems to be singled out for extra abuse. That kind of argument, though, suggests that name-calling and conspiracy theorizing should be a normal part of politics. Maybe it’s time to challenge that idea.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that gun advocates have to accept the Parkland survivors’ policy prescriptions. And it doesn’t meant that gun-control advocates don’t have to listen to their opponents — Kasky, for example, has embarked on a project to listen to gun rights advocates. But the Parkland students should have been treated as people worthy of respect, as survivors of a horrific crime. Because that’s what they are.