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The Article

In the movie Ghostbusters, an evil spirit is itching to tear up Manhattan. It asks our three intrepid scientists what form the spirit should take. Harold Ramis urges the others to keep their minds totally blank, so that the evil spirit can’t appear. And then they hear the rumblings. “Who thought of something!?!” he yells. And Dan Aykroyd admits sheepishly that he thought of the most peaceful, non-threatening thing he could: the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. And so a giant white puffball, with his saccharine smile, wreaked havoc in New York.

For some reason that scene came to mind when I heard about the Amish school shootings. In both cases there’s a major disconnect—how could something so evil occur to something so innocent? Little Amish schoolgirls. Six dead so far, two of them sisters. I guess the only silver lining is that it sounds like the guy planned to do unspeakable things to them before they died, and he was prevented by the arrival of the authorities. At least the girls were saved that indignity.

Just a week before those shootings, girls in a Colorado high school were not. I feel such empathy for the sheriff of that small town, who made the agonizing decision to burst in, knowing the guy would go on a shooting spree. Only one girl was murdered there. Unfortunately, the sheriff was a family friend. I would hate to have to live with that decision, even if, as I believe, it was probably the right one.

I’m big on opinions, but I have no major insights on any of these things, except to say that the world is filled with too many evil people. Other than that, I just have some random thoughts.

I couldn’t help noticing that in all too many school shootings lately, the scumbag, for want of a better word, has ordered the boys out and kept the girls in. I know this may be asking too much of the boys in question, but I can’t help wonder why no boy stayed. In the Amish case, of course, there were no boys present over 13, though that was not the case in Colorado. It wasn’t the case in Montreal on December 6, 1989, either, and the males who fled in that case were mostly bona fide adults. 

In centuries past, males fought for females. That was the very definition of honour. I don’t mean to malign the survivors, but I do find the shift interesting, and a bit troubling. What would happen to me and my girls if we were in some bank, or mall, or church, or park, and a psychopath with a gun showed up? Would the men protect us, or are we on our own? If we’re on our own, as it seems increasingly that we are, then my girls and I better get some self-defense lessons.

My other thought is that just as 9/11 taught us that if anyone ever hijacks a plane, we have to jump them, I hope these school shootings teach us the same thing. The guys are there to kill people. You may as well jump them. If enough people do, he won’t be able to fight back.

In fact, that should be our strategy in many kidnapping situations, I would think. If someone tries to grab you and drag you somewhere, fight and kick and scream. Never allow yourself to be taken to a second location. And if they say “don’t run or I’ll shoot,” run. Chances are they won’t hit you, and if they do, chances are you won’t die. Whether I could take this advice when someone actually had a gun at me is another story. But going like a lamb to the slaughter isn’t really an option.

I also wonder whether or not the relentless media coverage encourages other shooters. Those who are pathological to begin with realize that they can gain instant fame by killing kids. Maybe if we stopped plastering their pictures everywhere we wouldn’t give them this kind of incentive.

Finally, these shootings brought home to me that you’re never safe. It doesn’t matter where you are, there are never any guarantees. If Amish schoolgirls, in a peaceful Amish community, aren’t safe, who is?

That’s not a very cheery thought. And I’m not feeling particularly cheery. So go hug someone you love, and be grateful for today. Don’t keep grudges. Don’t leave things unsaid. Make peace with the moment. Love those you have. Hopefully you will have them for many, many years yet. 

S. Wray Gregoire
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