As a word lover, I occasionally mention to any friends willing to listen that the adverb is the most powerful of the eight parts of speech. AGAIN is an adverb, one that pulsated its way into my consciousness weekend before last.
During a headline check on Saturday afternoon, I saw disturbingly-familiar pictures filling my TV screen. The setting this time was El Paso, but I had viewed these scenes before: at Columbine…and AGAIN at Sandy Hook…and AGAIN in Charleston…and AGAIN at Pulse…and AGAIN in Las Vegas…and AGAIN at Parkland. It has all become so horrifically predictable.
Hours later it happened AGAIN, in our own backyard. I simply could not watch the national coverage of the Dayton shooting, but I did follow the local stations as they struggled to make sense of the nonsensical so soon after the Memorial Day tornadoes.
In less than 24 hours, 31 lives had been snuffed out and the day-to-day for some 50 others altered forever. In the aftermath, I observed reactions appearing AGAIN, almost as traditions: the vigils, the memorials, the press conferences.
And AGAIN from the politicians: condolences to victims and their families and words of praise for heroic first responders, before hustling to their well-established corners to blame all the other turfs in order to protect their own turf. AGAIN too many elected officials namby-pambyed around, trying to tiptoe through the minefields they created for themselves by accepting campaign contributions. There were also legislators who remained uncharacteristically silent.
There is – and has been for too long – a table waiting with places for all to meet in searching for solutions to the 250 mass shootings that have already occurred just this year. AGAIN, however, the table remained unoccupied – with corners still full of people yelling across the room.
But it was not only the politicians. There were numerous Facebook posts wishing for peace in Dayton and El Paso – and as many posts blaming guns, not mental health issues as well as those blaming mental health issues, not guns, with a few video game concerns tossed in for good measure. AGAIN. Too many voters want exactly what they want, ignoring the desperate need for action in terms of the greater good. So AGAIN, nothing has been accomplished during this continuing stalemate that allows the problem to fester further – as we all wait for shooting #251.
Enough! It is time to face reality. It is everything: an assault rifle in the hands of a shooter who, at least for that moment, is suffering from enough mental instability to allow him to vent his violent hate and anger, perhaps feeling supported in part by the divisive rhetoric of some elected officials and the narrow-mindedness of too many fellow citizens. It is everything. AGAIN and AGAIN.
I thought we had turned the corner at Sandy Hook when all those tiny school children were slaughtered in their classrooms. Six deadly years later, I thought the kids at Parkland, with their passion and probing, might have sounded the right call-to-action alarm after shooting #29 on Valentine’s Day. But AGAIN the powers-that-be remained committed to their finger pointing through the 294 more shootings that crowded the calendar of 2018.
I hesitate to entertain even a glimmer of hope that we could perhaps reduce the use of the adverb AGAIN. But I have seen in the past few days just that: a few glimmers that could possibly chip away at this national nightmare, perhaps coming to a city even nearer to you.
– There was the lady at the vigil in the Oregon District who shouted, “Do something,” that morphed into a crowd chant drowning out the words of Governor DeWine.
– There was the subsequent 17-point plan outlined by the governor a couple of days later. Of course, not everyone will agree with all or any of the points, but the proposal is table-worthy, a place to start. And I felt particularly hopeful when Lieutenant-Governor Husted stated that representatives of gun owners had come to the table during the plan formulation. People were at the table!
– There was the lady in Dayton who described herself as a Second Amendment supporter who nonetheless believes assault weapons should be banned.
– There was another Dayton lady, interviewed on the day of the President’s visit, who urged good words and works be sent into the universe to counter and dilute the attitudes of hate already hanging there.
I must find some glimmers of hope when I remember all those killed and wounded in these senseless shootings. I must find some glimmers of hope when I visualize our youngest students adding “active shooter” and “shelter in place” to their young vocabularies, even as bulletproof backpacks are available for back-to-school purchase.
We all need to emulate our Founding Fathers who came to the table to establish the blueprint for this wonderful country in which we have the good fortune to live. We all need to evoke the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln who invited people to the table to find a way to unify our broken nation.
We all need to come to the table: our elected leaders without question. But we citizens need to do some real soul-searching to arrive at a balance between partisan issues and the greater good.
And we need to head toward better times when the adverb AGAIN will have lost its power.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.