My little brother didn’t have school yesterday because they shut down the school for a security threat. Apparently, one teacher made a threat against another teacher, and after he was asked to leave the building returned the next day for work. Third or fourth hand knowledge of the event (because the gossip mill in suburbia is surprisingly rapid) says that what he said was this: “If you [believe that? argue that? say that?] I may as well shoot everyone and then kill myself.”
This particular teacher (if you know the school district, you can google and find a name — it’s made the national news) was a mentor of mine, especially as a newly transplanted freshman who hated all the “dumb people” she had to deal with day in and day out. He challenged me, encouraged me, and most of all was there for me — as any good teacher would be.
He is prone to hyperbole, and I know he had some frustrations with school bureaucracy. With the budget cuts, with the political climate, with some of the pedagogy, I can imagine him uttering the phrase that was interpreted as a threat as a way of expressing his extreme frustration. However, I can’t imagine him actually perpetrating that violence. He once kept my freshman history class on lockdown because of rumored threats — not even ones that the administration was taking seriously. He was one of the teachers who told us what he would do to protect us in the case of school violence. He was also the kind of guy who would blithely tell anyone who would listen how he could kill a guy with a wrapped twinkie.
I can’t say for certain what happened. But as I was doing dishes I couldn’t help but think that it’s sad that most of our analogies for extreme disappointment and hopelessness are violent. “I felt like a little part of me died.” “I am dead inside.” “This institution is dying!” “You’re going to destroy everything we stand for!”
It reminds me that violence is the language of the voiceless — it is their last resort, as democracy or the lack there of, as bureaucracy, as the mental health care system, as the economy, as international relations and international trade have failed them.
I trusted my mentor to be wiser than that, to find other discourses and other ways. Be wiser than violence.