I asked my Facebook friends that I grew up with in Chicago if they remember having fears about mass shootings when we were at school in the 60s and 70s. Like me, they didn’t. Mass shootings at schools were unimaginable.
These friends did however remind me that there were a couple of bomb threats at our grammar school. This was around the time of the Vietnam War and soon after, when radical social movements were placing bombs in busy public places and government buildings. These bomb threats were taken seriously and we all responded to the fire alarm, forming pairs as we hurried out to the playground and baseball diamonds. No bombs were ever found – another hoax inspired by stories in the news.
Aside from the bomb threats, school for my classmates and me was a place of safety – though perhaps more so for the girls than the boys. I’ve learned through this little Facebook chatter that in highschool the boys had to deal with other boys acting tough and gangs picking fights at school sports events.
Our fears of crime and violence came from the world outside of school. We couldn’t go out by ourselves at night. Even a pairing of females felt their lives were at risk after sunset. During my childhood I knew of three teenage girls who were raped on the streets by strangers. A couple of others were attacked at knifepoint, but managed to escape thanks to the help of passers-by. I too had an incident of being followed by a man who had first approached me with his dick hanging out. (Another #metoo.) I hurried passed him and turned the corner. As I neared our building, I saw an apartment with a light on and waved and yelled out as if I saw someone I knew. The creep ran off.
It may not have been halcyon days, but it didn’t include mass shootings. We were, after all, before Columbine. That seems to have been the first. There’s an excellent article on this chain reaction written by the always brilliant Malcom Gladwell.
I don’t think this problem is going to go away in the current mind-set that is sweeping America – especially with its NRA-funded think tanks and politicians. I am, once again, grateful that I’ve emigrated away from the US. Britain and France have their problems, but they don’t allow them to have assault weapons. I’m also grateful at times like these, on the back draft of a recent shooting, not to be in America, embroiled in the polemic. From Europe, I’ll stick to the occasional Twitter and Facebook postings – thumbs up to anyone who points out that this is utter madness – and the reminiscences of my former classmates – thanks for sharing, guys.