Friday morning I came across an article about a school in America which had an active shooter drill. This is not an unusual thing in 21st Century America, as school shootings have become happening with far too much regularity 1. What’s different in this case is the officers running the drill had some teachers line up against a wall, and then shot them in the back of their heads with plastic pellets. The goal was to make the drill feel “more real,” but really, that’s the problem.
No one thinks that schools shouldn’t be prepared for the possibility that they might face an active shooter situation. The odds are tiny, but they are real and so it needs to be addressed. It’s disgusting that this is so, and more disgusting that our government is incapable of even attempting the address the issue in any meaningful way, but it’s where we live. But what this action showed wasn’t a desire to for these teachers to be prepared for a remote eventuality, it treated them like they were in basic training for a war.
I fear the long-term psychological effects the attitudes behind this training are going to have on people. Intentionally or not, we are teaching folks to have a fortress mentality – to see folks who live outside our mental and physical fortresses as the enemy. People want to feel safe, and I get that. Parents of children want to be assured that their kids are safe at school, and I get that 2. But when we inadvertently drag people into a fortress mentality, the ability to form actual community is weakened. A fortress isn’t about reaching out and welcoming, after all, it’s about surviving a siege. When our hearts become locked is a “defend the castle” mode the idea that communities should be living and breathing gets lost. There’s little room to breathe and welcome newcomers, after all, when the gates on our buildings and in our minds are locked tight.
We need a new narrative.