School in a Safer Time

Going to School in a Safer Time

I grew up in  a safer time. I’m old enough to remember when the worst thing that could happen in elementary school was that Sister would smack my hand with a ruler. Then she would send a note home and my parents would smack me again. It all seemed pretty terrible at the time.

Nun with ruler, elementary school, corporal punishmentWe did not have police officers at St. Louis de France or metal detectors at the doors. As a Catholic parochial school, we didn’t even have duck-and-cover drills for a nuclear attack. God would protect us.

Later on, at Somerset High School, we girls had to manage the boys, who were allowed to get away with comments and harassment that would not be allowed today. Back then, “boys will be boys” meant that girls had to put up with it. And we had algebra: Yuk.

Changing for the Worse

Although things are different today, they have grown much worse.

America’s children have become the easy prey of angry young white men. These murderess arm themselves with military-grade weapons that would never have been allowed on the streets when I was a kid. In fact, “carrying a gun without authority” could get you arrested in Massachusetts back then.

No adult ever said that our Second Amendment rights were being violated because people couldn’t carry guns everywhere and anywhere. My uncle hunted and kept his rifles in a gun case. No problem. But if someone had shown up in a store packing a sidearm or a rifle, the proprietor would have called the police to have him removed.

In that sense, I grew up in a safer time. When we went off to school our parents didn’t have to worry about whether we would get off the bus in the afternoon or get sent to the morgue in a body bag. Barring a tragedy like a fire, they would have found that literally inconceivable. Nor would they have tolerated it.

What Scared Me Then

When the Salk polio vaccine came out, we got that, too. Literally everyone knew some family or person affected by polio; after all, President Roosevelt became the poster child for polio when it was revealed after the war that he could not walk.

Kids being vaccinated with the Salk Vaccine

Sure, some things scared me when I was a kid. Polio probably ranks at the top of the list. It haunted my thoughts until I was seven and the Salk vaccine was distributed to every school kid in America—in schools. I feared being hit by a hardball line drive (yes, we played hardball) and, of course, making Sister angry.

Never once, however, did I give a thought to a young man filled with rage, frustration, and inchoate thoughts of revenge pointing a gun at me. Guns only appeared in westerns and WWII movies.

Collateral Damage

NRA Our Blood Their Money, Gun Violence, campaign donationsI find it difficult to comprehend how our country can allow this, the true American carnage. But I have come to accept that one of our political parties defends the murder of thousands of children every year as collateral damage required by the Second Amendment. Why? As always, follow the money. Republicans rake in millions in donations from the National Rifle Association and they won’t take any action that might shut off the money spigot.

Gun Violence and Congress

On Twitter the day after the Nashville murders, I saw multiple photos of Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) wearing an AR-15 pin on his tie to demonstrate his fealty to the National Rifle Association. This not 24 hours after three small children and three adults were slaughtered with one. I have no doubt that he would prostrate himself and kiss an AR-15 if the NRA demanded it.

In the halls of the Capitol that same day, Republican members of Congress wouldn’t even talk about it. At least one of them thought it was a good time to make a joke.

What Gives Me Hope

Yet, I have hope for the future. I get it from the young people. I follow several of them on social media and I know they are furious about school shootings, about abortion restrictions, about the Republican war on women, and many other things. They are dedicated to removing politicians like Andrew Clyde from office.

Gen-Z, young people, motivatedAs I have written before, it sometimes takes an existential threat to motivate an entire generation. Ours was Vietnam. Theirs is school shootings and gun violence. And motivated they are.

Now, most of my friends are my age and they don’t have any visibility into Gen-Z. So, they are in despair about this country. I know things will change, and for the better, even if it takes a while, Even if I am no longer around to see it. Gen-Z and younger cohorts will get America back to the point where the most frightening thing about going to school is an algebra test.

May it happen sooner than later.

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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