I live a swinging bachelor lifestyle. You know how it is. Each weekend night I watch Jeopardy, see how much I don’t know and then I turn the TV off, turn off the lights, start up an audio book and go to sleep. Sleep comes in about 13 minutes, so I don’t really know what happens in any book I listen to. I do know, I usually wake up around 3 or 4 in the morning, turn off the audio book, turn on the TV news and start waking up for the day.
Early last Tuesday morning, I got triggered – or was it re-triggered? I heard “MSU” and “shooting” a couple of times through the fog in my brain. The last time I heard it, it registered. There was a mass shooting at Michigan State University last night. My son, Sean was working on the MSU campus that Monday night (he attends class there during the day). I know, because before he went to work I talked to him on the phone, “Have a great night at work, Son. I love you,” I told him. My stomach did the proverbial flip-flop drop. I snatched my phone and saw I had two messages. And, yes, they were from Sean. I believe I started breathing again.
“Heyo, dunno if you’re awake or looking at the news, but, I’m doing alright, just been hiding in place since 8:30,” he wrote at 12:12 a.m. At 1:32 he sent, “Back home safe.”
Another mass shooting at another institution of learning. Damn. For the last 15 months, I have been covering life in Oxford after the mass shooting at their high school. I haven’t really lived their reality, I’ve only sort of hovered above observing the people there and their healing process. If I was re-triggered by the MSU events, I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster the folks from Oxford must feel.
My sons, Shamus and Sean, are sort of like me. You have to expend a lot of energy to pry out their feelings. Just like when I was young, when the parental units ask “how are you doing?” the only two answers are “fine” and “okay.” So, that Tuesday morning I called in sick to work and drove west towards East Lansing to be with him for a bit. See, a month before we had talked – and I don’t remember the entire conversation, but he said something to the effect, “The older generation doesn’t understand. They don’t know how much despair we have with everything happening around us.”
Wow, living with the complete loss or absence of hope.
As parents, we really must suck. How did we let this happen to our children, where did we go wrong.
At the last Oxford School Board meeting – which was the day after the shooting – School Board President Dan D’Alessandro ended the board meeting with this parting comment in regards to bullying, “I think it is very, very important that people understand one thing: Parents provide the basis for their students. What I mean is, when you send a student to school and they don’t treat others the way they expect to be treated, that is a reflection. It’s a reflection from the home and from the district. We must work together so we don’t have these kinds of things happening. It shocks me and saddens me that in 2023 we’re in this place where I may not agree with you, but I am not going to threaten you. I am not going to take action against you. I believe what I will believe, you believe what you believe, shake each other’s hands and go separate our ways. Parents need to get on board and they need to do it real fast.”
I think what he was driving at is, parents, it is our job to teach empathy and compassion. Today it seems everyone is “passionate” about what they “feel.” They’re zealots and fanatics in their own “truths.” They teach passion versus compassion. They teach to double down when their beliefs are challenged, versus teaching the value of admitting, learning and growing from being wrong.
I also hear a lot of “I hate” these days. I can actually say, “I hate” when people say “I hate.” Do they really hate, or are they just disgusted by so-and-so, or despise so-and-so? Since I was a very young man I always thought and kind of live by to hate something you first had to love that something (or someone). I’ve tried to keep the word “hate” out of my sons’ lexicon, too. (I am not sure how well it worked, I tried to keep them from cussing, too . . . and well, they cuss.)
We have lost teaching “respect.” We, and therefore our children, don’t respect ourselves and therefore don’t respect anybody else, let alone respect the sanctity of life. Life is cheap and can be tossed aside.
I am no priest (though the thought – very fleetingly – passed through my brain once to be one), but I think we – Americans – have let hate into our lives and that has led to the point where some feel nothing. No hope. No other means of love. No way out save to hurt others.
It is a confusing and scary world and I think it’s time to start thinking about our kids versus just coddling them. We need to look in the mirror and start setting things straight.
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Many years ago, when I was a young man of 55 or 60, I said I hated Clarkston after the Village council had done something even more foolish than normal. I don’t recall what they did, but I’m sure it was the wrong thing to do. Being young and naïve, I made the comment in front of a Clarkston News reporter who promptly included it an article. I said it, I took responsibility for it, and others have tried to use it against me ever since. Such is the nature of hate.