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Among schoolchildren

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Schoolchildren stand in a line outside near the STEM School during a shooting incident in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S. in this May 7, 2019 image obtained via social media. SHREYA NALLAPATI/VIA REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MUST ON SCREEN COURTESY SHREYA NALLAPATI

This interview with a 12-year-old boy who hid in a closet while several of his schoolmates were shot by another student on Tuesday captures the depravity of a culture in which “active shooter drills” and the like are such a normal part of the child’s life that he clearly had already anticipated what he would do when an “active shooter” came to school on an otherwise nice spring day.

A statistician might point out that school shootings pose a very small risk, comparatively speaking, to schoolchildren. On average, an American child or teenager is more than one hundred times more likely to be shot to death outside of his or her school than while attending it. In 2017, 2,462 school-age children in the US were killed by firearms. Over the past decade, an average of about twenty people a year, not all of them children, have been killed in school shootings.

Of course your friendly Republican worshiper of automatic weapons and free market Jesus will be eager to point out that a good portion of these children were black teenagers, so those deaths don’t exactly count if you know what I mean and I think you do.

As horrific as the shooting death of any child, in or out of school, undoubtedly is, I’d like to focus here on the incalculable psychic damage that’s done by uncounted numbers of “active shooter drills,” etc., in which children as young as five are taught to hide under desks and in closets in case your local Second Amendment supporter should show up to exercise his constitutional rights in a particularly florid manner.

A few years ago a relative of mine, who was all of six years old at the time, was “trained” by her elementary school to stay in the bathroom if she should happen to be there when somebody started shooting up her school. “We are going to lock the classroom doors, so stand on the toilet with the stall door closed,” she was advised. Naturally she became terrified at the prospect of going to the bathroom while at school. (Last month, the entire school system in the three-million person Denver Metro area was shut down for an entire day because a mentally unbalanced teenager decided to fly from Florida to Denver, where she immediately exercised her Second Amendment right to buy a rifle suitable for carrying out the Columbine-style massacre she had clearly been fantasizing about).

The photo at the top of this post is, culturally and politically speaking, an obscenity. But that photo is an inevitable result of a political and cultural system in which gun fetishists make it impossible to do anything to stop 2,500 American children from being slaughtered every year by the weapons the right wing in this country caresses with such patriotic fervor.

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