Fuck Your "Walk Up, Not Out"
In the aftermath of school shootings, Conservatives and gun nuts invariably come up with a bunch of bullshit “solutions” to gun violence that involve everything other than common sense gun control legislation.
The consistently, predictably moronic Rick Santorum has suggested that children and high schoolers learn CPR rather than agitate for legislation that would prevent future massacres from happening. Santorum later claimed he misspoke but his initial comments are revealing. On one hand, Conservatives seem enraged that kids, of all people, are looking up from their iPhones for once to work for vital change, when they’re obviously too dumb and young and inexperienced to know what they’re talking about. On the other, they seem to feel that it is the job of kids to either prevent these massacres from happening, or to deal with the aftermath because somehow that’s now their job and their responsibility rather than the often NRA-funded adults who actually hold power in society.
This brings me to another non-gun control-based theory on stopping school shootings, a concept called “Walk Up, Not Out” that has caught fire on social media. “Walk Up, Not Out” theorizes that students can prevent future massacres by seeking out students who are lonely, sad and alienated, and potential school shooters, and befriending them.
I have some expertise in this field because I was someone so filled with anger and rage as a high school student that I regularly fantasized about murder. I think all outcasts and loners probably fantasize about killing at some point. My anger was inextricably intertwined with my loneliness and desperate yearning for friendship, companionship and validation.
So I theoretically would have been the perfect subject for “Walk Up, Not Out”, even if I succeeded in graduating from high school without killing anyone, an accomplishment much greater than actually graduating from high school.
If I’d gone to high school in 2018, and, in the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, a jock were to awkwardly approach me as I sat by myself at the school lunchroom, sat down and earnestly volunteered, “So, uh, Nathan, you apparently like movies, I guess? I like movies too. What movies do you like?” I would immediately sniff out this suddenly gregarious popular kid as someone terrified of being murdered by me in a Columbine-style massacre and instantly feel deeply insulted.
I’d feel enraged. I’d feel judged. I’d feel like someone thought I fit the profile of a school shooter, that they saw me in the same light as folks like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. That is not company I want to keep, even in someone's fevered imagination.
Despite ample evidence to the contrary, kids are not stupid, particularly when it comes to emotions. If anything, they’re hyper-attuned to phoniness and fakery. Also, the thing about loners: they like being by themselves. They prefer it. It’s often a fundamental component of who they are and how they see the world. It would take a whole lot more than a few forced attempts at friendship from kids coerced into reaching out to change that. Only someone who does not understand children would think that a few pool party invitations could change an angry, defiant loner into a well-adjusted, happy and social creature.
The few times my classmates reached out to me in high school, I receded back into my shell, turtle-like, because I didn't know how to handle social interactions or attention. It wasn’t just that I didn’t have friends: I lacked the tools to make and keep friends. I suspect that’s true of a lot of high school outcasts. If classmates had walked up, and not out, to my 17 year old self I would have felt freaked out and stressed, not flattered and happy.
How ironic that the same people who rage against those fabled “Participation trophies” nevertheless feel that the answer to gun violence is not gun control but rather fake friends and fake friendships for kids with real issues and real problems.
Kindness insincerely and arbitrarily offered is not kindness at all, but rather the kind of cynical calculation that almost inevitably sets off teenager’s bullshit detectors. Despite its good, if muddled, intentions, “Walk Up, Not Out” is some straight up bullshit.
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