Vincent Schilling is the Associate Editor at Indian Country Today.
Once more, my heart aches as I have seen the latest horrible and terribly sad tragedy that has occurred last week at Santa Fe High School in Texas. A child with a shotgun entered into a school and killed a teacher and other children.
The arguments will now ensue over gun control and regulations while our children and their families will live with an increased sense of fear — and less reassurance that the place they send their children to learn — will remain a safe space.
The most agonizing aspect of these school shootings is tasking our brains and sense of rationale to pose the question, why are these school shootings continuing to happen?
Truth be told, I can never be sure what goes on in the minds of our children today. I am 51-years-old and those school days of mine are many decades faded into my memory. But I can be sure of one thing, though the visual memories of my school days might be forgotten, I can say that the emotional agonies I went through as a young person were real.
I can remember with striking clarity as to how terrible I felt. I felt alone, sad and victimized by students that were more physically dominating than I was. I never felt as if I could strike out, but that does not mean another victim could not.
So I think often of the students who were (and are) those students who more often than not feel victimized, bullied, pushed away, ignored or outright banned from participating socially from their peers because the ‘popular kids’ said so.
In as far as I can see with these children who strike out, they have almost always been labeled as the ‘outcast.’ They are the ones that have been shunned, turned away, or ignored.
Sadly, many of these children chose to use deadly weapons to retaliate. The results, a terrifying tragedy.
This is never ok. Such actions can never be condoned or accepted. I will try to address this terrible issue with some sort of tangible perspective, and please know this is my perspective only.
Why I think these things happen
Thursday, I was helping my nephew with his homework. It was something to do with writing algebraic formulas of a slope, x and y factors, and more. It has been way too long since I remember studying such things and admittedly wasn’t much help to my nephew at first, we did some research on our way to make better sense out of it. We made a bit of progress, then took a break. What he said to me made a lot of sense.
“You know, they teach us a lot of stuff at school that isn’t really needed in life,” he said. I completely agreed considering I hadn’t looked at an algebra problem in about 25 years.
“Yes, they teach us a lot,” he said and paused. “But with all the stuff that school teaches you, they never teach you how to love yourself.”
My nephew is 16, and his words blew my mind. He was right.
I remember being in school at about 16. There were no cell phones or school computers. Yet still I faced a barrage of insults, snickers, jabs and more. I was a very skinny, small brown kid in a school filled with wealthy and formidable fellow schoolmates.
Even the teachers made fun of me in front of the class. Even now, the thought of being taught to respect, love and honor myself at an institution of learning raises my eyebrow as some sort of non-existent farce.
What are we supposed to do?
There is certainly the movements to regulate guns in this country. But I think the issue is also much more systemic in the confines of the school system.
We are a society ruled on the concept of patriarchy. The colonial ‘founding fathers’ are historically known to have consulted and watched the leaders and people of the Iroquois Confederacy in order to create the U.S. governmental system of checks and balances with the Congress, Senate and the office of the President.
But these colonial ‘founding fathers’ left out one critical ingredient to their formula. They left out the council of women. In the Iroquois Confederacy, the council of women could remove a leader of a tribe if they disagreed with his ability to lead his people.
I was once asked ‘then what is the point of being chief?’ That is exactly the point. Any chief should strive to be a leader of the tribe that the woman would approve of.
So if we go back to the beginning of this country’s creation, we can see that many of this country’s accomplishments were built on domination. Things have always been taken by force. Human beings have been forced to build this country for hundreds of years. If they resisted, they were killed, brutally punished, separated from their families, sexually assaulted and/or sent to prison.
This same institution that created our country, also built our schools. This mindset of doing everything to dominate to succeed has given the bigger, the stronger, the charismatic person an edge over those that cannot defend themselves so readily.
Now, in 2018, our children are a byproduct of this systemic patriarchal domination.
Let’s throw in the dizzyingly fast-moving world of social media, viral video and more where a one unknown person can be thrust into the spotlight of fame, and you have victimized, bullied and angry young kids who feel they have nothing in life else to lose.
Frustrated, angered and driven to the point of madness, they are fighting back, with horrible and disastrous results.
Our world is suffering from a lack of women council. As an Iroquois man, a Mohawk man, my heart aches for the guidance of my ancestors. Most notably, the council of women elders who guided our people alongside the men. All parts were equal.
Now our world sits in a terrible state of imbalance.
What I feel we can do in some ways is to do the best we can to honor all people. We must listen to our wife, our aunts, our mothers, our grandmothers, our sisters, our friends, and more. We must recognize the ill effects of dominating patriarchal principles.
To those families who are suffering now, I cannot imagine the pain, the sadness, the agony you must feel. I am so terribly sorry for this horrible loss. I send prayers, and thoughts to you in this terrible time.