Blast the beast, not the children

Apologies to one of my favorite singers The Carpenters for mangling the title of their song for this post, but sometimes, that’s just how the world is — mangled, in thoughts, and feelings, especially if you hear of yet another horrific crime that happened miles away from where you are yet its aftermath resonates with you in more ways than one.

If you haven’t tuned in to your TV sets lately, I’m talking about the latest school shooting that happened in the US. This time, unlike Columbine in 1999 where the victims were high school kids or Virginia Tech in 2007 where the victims were college students, it was  Sandy Hook in a sleepy town in Connecticut and the school is an elementary school. Yes, the victims were children. All 20 of them. And some teachers and school officials. About 6 of them.

connecticut shooting2connecticut shooting

[Teachers courageously guide kids to safety while townsfolk mourn with everyone else in their own way. Photos from this Huffington Post news item.] If you’ve been to the US and seen these kinds of “sleepy towns” then you’d probably understand more why such events are horrific to the nth levels for them. It’s horrific enough as it is — kids who can’t even spell “terrorism” correctly yet, yet they are victims of it — and then add to that the circumstances of the before, during and after things. My heart bleeds for these people.

Now I’m not going to talk about gun control or psychiatric profiles of perpetrators. Let the other “experts” weigh in on that. I am a media practitioner and a teacher so my focus is on those things: how the media will cover this event and my reaction as a teacher in terms of a what if. I know it’s far-fetched but ever since I started teaching – and ever since these kinds of news reach our shores easily — I can’t help but wonder what will I do if this thing happened in our shores, in our midst, in our school, in our building.

It’s a scary thought but that is how media works us sometimes — it scares us. It presents ideas and stories but sometimes, they don’t know that they scare us, too. So no, I really don’t believe that media is “factual and objective” anymore unlike what I learned in journalism and communication classes before.

It’s the era of the 24/7 live news feed, what can we do? Well, we can do much but there’s one thing they neglect in these circumstances: respect. They sometimes forget to respect. That is why that town’s police chief had to emphasize that when he gave a press conference the day after the gruesome event. But please, we’re talking about children here, little people whose ages haven’t even reached the double digit — and it never will. Imagine the grief these parents and the teachers’ co-workers must be undergoing right now. A human life is a human life, after all, no matter how sometimes we take it for granted until our own lives are affected or at stake. Yes, the world has become that callous and detached, too, already. We are all guilty of that sometimes.

And then the second concern, my what if: what if that happened here? Well, will it, here, in the Philippines? Maybe not to that Rambo-esque extent, but it has happened in bits and pieces. Incidents of frat wars maybe, some personal thing crossing the line, or even a parent alleged to have pointed a gun at a student, things like that. Sure, these things happen, but not in that grand scale that the 24/7 international (or US-originated) news feeds show us.

But it still gets us thinking sometimes, and we can’t help it. Sometimes, when I am sitting there in my faculty office, I also think of scenarios as to what I’ll do in case this Columbine-like thing happened in our premises. When we were still in this small and cramped space in our old building, there was nowhere to run. So everyone will be dead by then, so I decided to just “arm” myself in case an attacker surfaces. Since I was into arnis that time, I decided to keep my sticks in the office, just in case. Yes, I teach film and hey, we are scriptwriters in our mind this way. But since we transferred to a newer and bigger building, no need for those sticks already since there’s more room to run to in this new space. Yes, again, that movie in my mind is already plotted out, just in case.

Yeah, in a way, it’s sad that we have to think of other ways to prepare ourselves in certain times in these “modern times,” like you have earthquake drills or fire drills and students occasionally get to experience those drills. I was just amazed to hear that in the US, they already have lockdown drills where they also have drills in case there’s a criminal act or a similar threat. Imagine that. I don’t know if I’ll envy/admire that or if I’ll get worried about it. Yes, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore if Dorothy has to arm herself against bigger things than the Wizard’s wrath.

Hay… Welcome to the new millennium, I suppose. The culture is different now. But the feelings are still the same. We are still human, after all. How do we evolve from grief?

I teach in a film school structured like this. Nowhere to hide to dodge bullets, just in case. I'm just saying, man, you know...

I teach in a film school structured like this. Nowhere to hide to dodge bullets, just in case. I’m just saying, man, you know…

But seriously, in order for students to also see and analyze why these types of things also exist, sometimes I insert it in our lessons. This is why the first film I always showed in class ever since I started teaching was this 2003 Cannes film festival winner by Gus Van Sant:

elephant1

It’s a good film, an unsuspecting chiller, inspired by the Columbine events. It gets the students thinking and talking. And I’m glad they do process it in a “what if this happened to us here” kind of angle, and I’m also glad to read their insights about such a what-if scenario. I do hope they get to absorb the lessons well, too, after the class.

elephant2elephant3

The storylines of these real-life events are chillingly the same. Usually, the gunmen know the school or were from there before or during, comes back for a shooting spree, and then kills themselves. Yes, inescapably you’d inquire why such people do such things.

We can talk all day and debate all night as to why these things happen. We can analyze to death. We can process it like we are the “experts.” But the sad fact still remains: kids are dead, and sometimes the media doesn’t respect that, because this is news. I certainly hope that the media out there will be sensitive enough to know when to leave things alone. Yes, this beast we call the media, sometimes, you know, it’s hard to handle. Responsible reporting gets thrown out the window, all in the name of exclusives and scoops. This is why sometimes, I just turn the TV off and offer my own moment of silence for the fallen. Taken too soon, I am saddened that these things happen.

Let’s just hope that it never happens again. And hope that the victims’ families do get the respect that they should be afforded.

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~ by leaflens on December 16, 2012.

2 Responses to “Blast the beast, not the children”

  1. I agree. The media handled this with insensitivity, should’ve not put the kids who survived on tv and interviewed the stressed children who got out safely that day.

    • There should be no interviews of kids at all, di ba? NKKLK siya. I pity the kids. Pinagkakakitaan pa ang grief.

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