A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

The day after the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, NY, became the location of another mass shooting, I reached for A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold, a book that has been on my TBR for quite some time, but never before had I felt impelled to pick it up.

You see, when you live in the United States, gun violence is always, always close to home in some way. Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine High School. The first major school shooting, Columbine happened in 1999, just a few months before I was to start high school, for which I was very excited. After Columbine, Americans were hyper aware that “the kids aren’t alright,” so to speak. Bullying was normal in school. It’s easy to get a gun. The internet was new, and so parents didn’t know how easy it was for teens to create hateful websites like the other shooter, Eric Harris did. I knew of one such website at my high school, dedicated specifically to tearing down a girl named Alyssa.

While parents and the media wondered about children becoming monsters, authorities speculated on what went wrong — why did it take so long to stop Eric and Dylan? Remember I said shootings are always close to home? At one point in elementary school, Eric Harris, whose father was in the military and had to move his family frequently, went to school with my husband in Michigan. Eric was just one grade above.

Since Columbine, we’ve had active shooter training drills in Kindergarten through 12th grade and colleges. I’ve been part of one myself, and since I was alone in my office with no exit, I closed and locked the door and hid in the corner. Later, I was chastised because I did not run out and alert other people that I have an office, to gather potential victims and protect them. I felt deeply ashamed and angry; am I responsible for saving people for adjunct pay?

I’ve also learned about active shooting in lectures at colleges and was told that the students and I should have a discussion in my class to figure out a plan — where we would run, where we would hide, which exits have an advantage, whether our door has a floor bolt — for if an active shooter were on campus. On the first day of school. With nervous 18-year-old, maybe away from home for the first time, students from other states and countries.

At a local public school, they ran an active shooter drill that involved a police officer pretending to be an active shooter, firing blanks that sound like live rounds. Teachers and students “hit” pretended to be dead on the floor. Every time this story was replayed on the local news station, I cried and cried, living children’s vicarious trauma from my couch. According to data for my city of South Bend, we have had 101 shootings from January 2022 to May 2022. 14 of them were fatal. Of those, 8 shootings happened on streets I travel frequently.

One of the problems with talking to family members and friends about gun violence is the laws are not the same from state to state. For example, in Michigan, you cannot take a gun into a bar. In Indiana, it’s perfectly legal to do so. Somehow, we in Indiana are not thinking about the unwise choice to mix alcohol and weapons. I’ve walked into a gas station and stood in line behind someone with a handgun stuffed in the back of his jeans and stood there frozen, knowing that given the deeply conservative nature of my state, it was probably within his right to do so.

All of this is what I was thinking about as I read A Mother’s Reckoning. And about halfway through my reading, 19 children and 2 teachers were murdered at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. There I was, reading about a school shooting that happened 23 years ago and watching one that just happened on the news. And just like Columbine, police did not coordinate themselves to enter the school, instead letting time pass and people die. Except this time, the police in Texas decided not to follow the training that all police go through, to enter and stop the threat immediately no matter what.

Let’s just say that reading A Mother’s Reckoning was hard because although Sue Klebold’s son was one of the shooters at Columbine, her son was still dead at the end. Just like the other parents, she was without a child, except in her case, she was viewed as the mother of a monster and unable to attend any grief groups due to issues around all the lawsuits filed against her family.

I learned a few things from Klebold’s truly honest, challenging memoir. Teaching your children morals and being an outstanding parent is not enough. Dylan knew about right and wrong, including the time his mother made him return one piece of candy he took from the store as a little boy. The family always ate around the table together every night. There were no guns in the home, and the Klebold’s were staunchly anti-gun. Dylan was told often how loved he was. Both parents were active in Dylan’s life; together, they rebuilt a car, folded origami, and watched Western movies. Neither parents drank or used drugs. Sue Klebold even used some parenting tactics my own mom used: throwing herself under the bus when her son was nervous about another kid:

We developed an internal shorthand: If Eric called to ask Dylan to do something, he’d say, “Let me ask my mom,” and shake his head at me. I’d say, loudly enough to be heard on the other end of the line, “I’m sorry, but you can’t go out tonight, Dylan. You promised you’d clean your room/do your homework/join us for dinner.”

In the end, Sue Klebold realized that while she lectured and instructed her children about morals and ethics, she did not listen like she (now) feels she should have.

A Mother’s Reckoning was written 16 years after Columbine, giving Sue Klebold space to think and learn. She’s since become an active advocate and spokesperson in what she calls “brain health” (a brain is more tangible than “mental health,” which sounds a bit abstract, she says) and suicide prevention. After all the analysis from pretty much everyone from every corner of the country, Klebold has come to realize her son committed murder-suicide. That while Eric Harris wanted to kill people and knew he would likely die, Dylan wanted to die and would likely kill people. To be frighteningly honest, I learned a lot about murder-suicide from the book No Visible Bruises, which is about domestic violence and how authorities can actually track and map the point at which a man is almost certainly going to murder his family and then commit suicide — in time to stop it.

But what about the stigma around claiming people with mental health and illnesses are dangerous? Klebold learns from a neuroscientist that “The best way to eliminate the belief that people with mental health issues are violent is to help them so that they’re not violent.” So, while Dylan was suicidal (his hidden diary proves that he was for at least two years before Columbine), he could have been helped had anyone known what to look for and what to do. The morning before I wrote this post I watched a news story about a push to have every student evaluated for brain health, specifically anxiety. Abnormal anxiety can appear in children as young as 6. It may manifest as separation anxiety that is not normal (missing mommy and maybe crying on the first day of school is normal vs. the parent can’t even get the child out of the car because they are having a “melt down”).

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which is what I have, is more pervasive and affects daily life. Looking back, I realize I’ve had abnormal anxiety my entire life. Except no one knew what that meant back when I was little, so what were we all to do? Here’s an example that stands out: I went to a music camp several hours from home for two weeks. For about ten days I spent my time crying, not eating, and sleeping in the nurse’s station. I got special permission to call my mom. When I got home after two weeks, my weight had decreased so much that that was the first thing my neighbor and grandparents commented on (in a happy, praising way) when they saw me. I was deemed “homesick.” But homesick children tend to feel sad and then are cheered up as they are integrated into a group and play games or do crafts. That was not me. There are so many smaller examples that I don’t want to get into, but I promise you it was always there.

I’m so grateful things have changed. This past weekend I watched as my thirteen-year-old niece randomly started doing yoga poses, which I knew my brother’s kids learned during the pandemic as a stress relief technique. Thanks to cell phones, it’s easy to ask my oldest nieces how they are doing, and how they are feeling. That’s about all I can do as an aunt: be honest and try to listen, and I feel good about my role.

In A Mother’s Reckoning, Sue Klebold describes what she thought was average teen boy grumpiness, but now she realizes it was not. I do wonder where we got this idea that A) a teen has to be an a-hole and B) why we aren’t more compassionate during that time period, remembering our own struggles with hormones and social groups and self-esteem instead of sitting back and saying, “Yeah, all teenagers are nightmares. I just expect it.”

I’m happy that methods for dealing with bullying have changed since Columbine. I think in my parents’ generation people were told to stand up and fight for themselves, physically. In my generation, we were told to just ignore bullies, or that if someone bullies us it means they have a crush on us. My spouse and I lived through the era of “zero tolerance,” which was stupid and lazy. Basically, if a group of people were beating on you, and you tried to defend yourself physically to get away, everyone who did anything physical was immediately expelled. This is the same generation Dylan Klebold grew up in, and his mother later saw videos of people bullying Dylan and his friends in school. In fact, after the Columbine shooting, Sue Klebold received more mail than she could process, and much of it reflected the feelings of people who were being or had been bullied:

Dylan and Eric had already been, in certain quarters, heralded as champions for a cause. Tom and I had received chilling letters from alienated kids expressing admiration for Dylan and what he’d done. Adults who had been bullied as children wrote to tell us they could relate to the boys and their actions. Girls flooded us with love letters. Young men left messages on our answering machine calling Dylan a god, a hero. An acquaintance working at a youth correctional facility told me some of the imprisoned boys cheered as they watched television coverage of the destruction at the school.

In 2022, some things are different, including the way bullying is handled. Even since the Uvalde, Texas, shooting two weeks ago, several people have been reported to police for posting vaguely threatening comments online along with a picture of them and their guns.

And what’s frustrating is the more societal issues we tackle, the more stupidly obvious it is that guns are the problem. As people point out across social media platforms, the United States is the only country with rampant gun violence, so blaming mental health, video games, music, and bullying alone implies other countries that do not have gun violence also do not have people with mental health issues, violent video games, music with explicit lyrics, and bullies.

If you, like me, turn to books to understand what’s going on around you, A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold provides invaluable insight into parenting, grieving, gun violence, how the media responds to mass shootings, and the constant, pulsing meditation around how Klebold can love her son who died by murder-suicide and still hate the violence he committed, all while respecting Dylan’s victims, both those who died and those permanently disabled.

33 comments

  1. This is a great review. I appreciate how balanced your perspective is and sharing your personal experience. Watching the footage of Columbine on TV is one of those things I don’t think I’ll ever forget. There was a threat made at my school about a month later and while it turned out to be nothing they took it very seriously because Columbine had just happened and I remember being locked down in gym class and hearing the police in the hallways. Now my kids are learning to hide from shooters at school and I think about the fact that my husband, as a teacher, is expected to protect his students from violence like this. I don’t even know how I’d handle all that if we lived in the US where guns were more easily available.

    I really appreciate the point on anxiety and how we need to help teens through that better. I recall the response to my own anxiety often being, Oh well, everyone feels that way. So when I grew up and learned that everyone did not in fact feel that way, I was actually pretty angry! I don’t know why we brush off teen emotions. I see a lot more conversation around emotions and reactions being had at school for Pearl than I ever had and she already has been given more language to discuss these things than many adults have.

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    • Karissa, I hadn’t realized that Canada was doing active shooter drills, too. Are they calling for arming teachers? With the most recent shooting in Uvalade, they’re asking how arming teachers could help when 19 officers with gear and guns stood outside and were too afraid to come in. I do hope something comes of this latest tragedy. It’s not going away as fast as some have in the past, especially with victims sharing more testimony, personal footage, and talking to the press, etc.

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      • Yes, they do active shooter drills though they started after I finished school. No, I’ve never heard any talk of arming teachers here. I can’t really imagine that ever being an idea here. Right now the conversation is around limiting things like magazine rounds so someone could only shoot say 5 times before reloading. You already can’t get something like an AR-15 in Canada and you certainly can’t walk around with a gun. The government is also working to introduce a gun buy back program. There was a major shooting in Nova Scotia about two years ago (not in a school) and that’s been the impetus for some change but it’s obviously in the news here a lot now too. It’s good to see it stay in the media and at the forefront of people’s minds. I really hope it means real change this time. I was reading some of the statements and those poor kids who will carry this with them the rest of their lives. They deserve better.

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  2. We here on the other side of the world look on Americans with astonishment – though I doubt we’re alone in that! How did the right manage to fixate on guns (and abortion) as the issues they were going to die on a hill for? How is it they can’t see, or don’t care, how self-destructive that is?

    Australia of course adopts all things American sooner or later. Unfortunately the police here as in the US tend to the right so thought up all sorts of reasons why they should carry guns – but I’m still disappointed when I have to share space with armed police, and they are always armed now. And Indigenous people, rightly, are terrified, as police are never convicted over Indigenous deaths.

    It is unimaginable that Americans didn’t ban guns immediately after Columbine, and to accept routine school killings and race killings (eg. Tops grocery) as the price of ‘freedom’, as Republicans and too many Democrats do, is just obscene.

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    • I think the hunting folks easily become misinformed and worry that the government wants to “take” your average hunting rifle, which is not even what this is about. I also think that there is a big debate about how to read the Constitution: as it was written or as it can be interpreted in modern times. Jeremiah’s musket isn’t that same as Brandon’s AK-47. The part that blows my mind is when you compare all the things for which we must have a background check and accept. For example, in order to sit in a little store where the library keeps discarded books, which are then sold anywhere from 25 cents to a couple dollars, I had to have a background check. To get a military weapon, I need money and a private owner to sell it to me.

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  3. In Australia in the nine years to 1996, there had been nine mass shootings with a total of 49 victims. Since the gun buyback of that year we have had one, involving four deaths.

    In Australia in 2019-20, there were 35 gunshot murder victims, a total exceeded in the US every 15 hours.

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    • You have more victims in all of Australia than we do in South Bend. I know you subscribe to the South Bend Tribune; you must get tired of the murder headlines, including the one in which a young woman was shot in her vehicle and her baby was in the backseat, and someone found them a few days later (baby was still alive).

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  4. I’m not sure if you remember my review of this book (maybe I didn’t even review it on my blog, i can’t remember now, it may have just been on the radio) but I distinctly remember crying while I read it, and finding it one of the hardest things I have ever had to read. There is so much of it I don’t remember, but I do recall a) being thankful I live in Canada and not the US and b) making a mental note of how important it is to be open with my kids, so they feel open to tell me things whenever they want to.

    I also remember being in a sub shop in Arizona and the man in front of carrying a gun on his belt, a handgun, and being SO FREAKED OUT by it. Like—why? in a sandwich shop? It drives me nuts.

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    • I don’t remember reading any reviews of this book, so I wonder if it was on your radio segment.

      I do think it’s interesting that Klebold describes how “lecturing,” which I would even interpret as instructing, her children wasn’t enough. I’ve also wondered (as a non-parent) if lecturing basically lets your kids know in which ways their parents would be disappointed in them, so now they know what to be secretive about.

      I was under the impression that Canadians have lots of guns, but ya’ll keep them for hunting and scaring away bobcats and whatnot (and I mean that seriously, even though it sounds flippant!). I believe Karissa said you can’t just have them out in public.

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      • haha yes, you aren’t really wrong, we definitely do have guns here, but they are much harder to get. And I would say the majority of homes don’t have guns, whereas I get the impression that many more Americans have guns – but that’s just my impression obviously I have no idea lol

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  5. One of our patients came to us from another independent pharmacy in town because one day she walked in, and the pharmacist/owner had handguns spread out across the counter with his other gun-toting patients daring someone to try robbing his pharmacy again. Obviously, this is stupid for a variety of reasons. The biggest one being you are insured (or should be) for this exact scenario as a pharmacy. My boss is adamant about teaching new people to just hand the shit over, it’s not worth your life. (Something I have had to remind coworkers about recently because the CVS down the road from us was just robbed.) The other reason being that pharmacies are mostly robbed after hours so you’re not stopping shit anyway. The gun wielding pharmacist probably thought he was making his patients feel safer but in reality, no one wants a warrior pharmacist. It’s not expected in the job description.
    Sitting here thinking about it, it feels like I have a million gun stories which is crazy.

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    • I feel like you get where I’m coming from, more so than many of my readers, because you are from Michigan and understand that there are pretty much two kinds of gun cultures: the Rambo types like that pharmacist, and the people who eventually got it so we don’t have school on opening day for deer season because so many kids were skipping school anyhoo.

      I hope you feel safe at your store; that’s scary that there are robberies around you. I know when I worked in a group home there were stories about people who would find out that a house was actually a group home and then break in to steal the medicine (there’s usually a lot, depending on the number of folks living there). And guess who was 18, lack self-confidence, and worked the midnight shift!

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      • That would be terrible having robberies around you, which of course we have in Australia too, though nowhere where I am thank goodness, and our druggies mostly aren’t armed.
        The reason I don’t get gun culture is that I don’t think killing living things is a sport. As far as I’m concerned deer hunters and ‘rambos’ are just two ends of the same continuum.

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        • Deer, though majestic looking, are like the rats of Michigan. They spread deadly diseases, breed way too fast, and cause loads of car accidents. They also destroy crops, so farmers are actually permitted more hunting licenses than other folks. I know you’re vegetarian, but there are a lot of people who rely on deer meat to feed their families, as the license is cheaper than food in stores. The number of licenses permitted each year depends on how invasive the deer population is each year,

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      • I think you’re right. Plus, there is the other side of the spectrum that happened during the height of the pandemic at the Meijer I frequently shop at. A mentally ill young man grabbed an elderly man and just started stabbing him. A woman with a concealed carry permit held young man at gun point until police arrived. Unfortunately, the elderly man did not survive. I had planned to go shopping at the exact time it happened and Rob had randomly convinced me to wait another day.
        Funny story to lighten the mood, I accidently pushed the silent alarm at work last year. The police had the building surrounded in 3 minutes. D: (I think the guy who robbed CVS got away with it though. Maybe the cops don’t like CVS in our area.)
        Our store was robbed twice in the first couple years we were open and always at night when no one was there. The hope is that if it happens again, it continues to be at night.
        What did you do?!

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        • OMG, what the hell is happening in your quaint little town?? Then again, I should have learned from Beauty and The Beast that a “quaint” little town can be full of torch-wielding beast-haters, so there’s that.

          Okay, as for being a scared 18-year-old direct care worker: well, I was just scared all the time. My uncle was married to the owners daughter, so the manager of the house told everyone before my first day that they were sending me in as a spy to check on everyone. LOL, I was not a spy, but everyone hated me and kept information from me. I struggled so hard. The house was down the road from an industrial factory that had a third shift, and every night this one man would pull off the side of the road in front of the home I worked in and just sit there with the dome light on. This is the country, so the road was just far enough away that we couldn’t tell if he was doing anything or just sitting there like a weird-o. One night, the car was there, the dome light was on, and the driver’s side door was open, BUT THE DUDE WAS GONE. After that, I had my brother come hang around the house for one night, and he brought a baseball bat. Then, the manager talked to me and asked if I was afraid to work at the home, and had this smug, stupid face, like she was trying to shame me, so I said NO even though I WAS. I eventually moved to another home closer to town (this one was out in the boonies) with the same company.

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  6. I agree with Bill about some things, but I don’t agree that we follow America in all things. In other words, I don’t think we will ever follow America into the same attitude regarding guns, and this is because I think there are some deep fundamental differences in our nations that will prevent that (though I could be proven wrong).

    You have written this so well Melanie, that I don’t know where to start. I know about shooter drills in schools but your description of them is just terrifying. My kids went to school in California in the early 1990s, before any of this started, though some LA schools were just starting to have drive-by shooting drills. I thought that was bad enough.

    I was interested in your discussion of bullying. My son, about the same age as you – a year older I think – was bullied at high school. The school had an active anti-bullying program – that did not involve punching back (though I had some friends who told their kids to do that) but did not involve ignoring it either. It involved getting the bullied and the bully together and talking about the problem, and jointly discussing a solution. That sometimes worked, though of course the bullied had to be willing to tell the school it was happening. It took some time for our son to be brave enough to do that, but when he did it made a big difference. On one occasion my son was punched in the face out of the blue, when he was in a local shopping centre with friends from school. The person who punched him had been a(nother) school bully but had moved to a neighbouring school. I called our son’s school psychologist to talk about what we might do – including whether we should go to the police, it being an assault. The psychologist said, “I wouldn’t. What you see in the son, is worse in the father”! In the end we did nothing. The boy was not at our son’s school so our son was at low risk for a recurrence, but I felt guilty about whether we could have done anything to prevent this (or worse)happening to others. Bullying is such a big problem. There’s no perfect answer, but the best schools I think have multiple strategies from preventative education, to conciliation processes, to punishment as a last resort if necessary.

    All this says nothing about the book, which sounds like a really brave, and useful one. It may not change much in actuality, but the more we understand rather than resort to black-and-white assumptions the better. Why is it, though, that most Americans know that guns are the fundamental problem and yet nothing changes. That’s the thing that astonishes us in the rest of the world the most. If 80+% Americans want more gun control why doesn’t it happen? (That’s a rhetorical question because if anyone knew the answer I guess it would happen?)

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    • Hi, Sue. When I wrote this post I knew that we wouldn’t be talking about the book much. A Mother’s Reckoning served more as a vehicle to talk about current events. I didn’t realize that your children went to school in the U.S. My spouse also faced bullying of the kind you describe your son experienced. I’m glad your son had any kind of support system, from the conciliation process to preventative education to a psychologist. Now that schools have websites, students can report bullying anonymously on a form on the website, and that just makes me so happy that they don’t have to sit in front of a person and talk about what happened as the first step. Because that first step is the hardest.

      The thing that surprised me most about A Mother’s Reckoning is how much I nodded along, thinking the Klebolds were amazing parents, only to learn more about how her style of parenting, though excellent on the surface, misses the point a bit when applied to a real, live human — her son.

      Americans, even active duty and veterans of the military, do not want military weapons in the hands of the public. The problem is we are “held hostage,” so to speak by 50 senators. There is a connection to the NRA, which makes it lucrative for politicians to support the NRA. We had a ban on military weapons for a time in the 90s under Clinton, but it expired. And can you believe it, mass shootings went down during that time period. Basically, it comes down to voting. I’ve always thought it was silly to be a single-issue voter (i.e. voting for someone because they support just one thing that I support), but when it comes to gun control, I’m hoping some Republicans DO become single-issue voters and vote out politicians who do not support logical gun control measures.

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      • Yes, our daughter just did Kindy really, while our son did grades 2-4. I was on the PTA as Environmental Awareness Chairperson around 1991/3. I introduced things like bring your own mug to the meeting rather than use styrofoam cups.

        Oh, anonymous reporting of bullying sounds excellent. Getting our son to take the first step was certainly the hardest. I was talking to the school so they were aware and keeping an eye out, but he had to take that step, which he did. I don’t like to criticise other parents, but I had a feeling of unawareness from what you wrote. Dylan was less than 3 years older than my son, so similar times. It’s very hard, though, to really know how much to worry when your child seems miserable, but there are things to look for that would suggest you need to be more proactive rather than wait and see. All easier to see after the event, though. A story I tell is that the best psychologist my son ever had was his guitar teacher. Our son didn’t practise much, but I let that slide because I could see the value he was getting from this older-but-cooler-than-his-parents man!! It was cheap therapy!!

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        • Totally! Sometimes having a trust adult who doesn’t come with the label of Person Who Could Punish You (even though a child doesn’t always know if a parent would punish him) can be helpful. Or, maybe he was worried about what his parents would think of him or felt shy, regardless of what kindnesses you had told him. That’s how it sounds in Sue Klebold’s situation. I’m so glad you recognized what was going on with the guitar teacher.

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          • I think it was partly that the guitar teacher, though similar age to us, was “cool” so his responses and advice could be trusted! Also I think he could feel he was talking man-to-man rather than child-to-parent, which was important in those early to mid teen years. I guess I feel very strongly that it takes a village to raise a child. He had a great cricket coach then to who was more about the people and the team than winning. They didn’t win a lot but they were the team with the most parent involvement.

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            • Yes! Biscuit and I were talking about how in other cultures they embrace “it takes a village,” whereas in the U.S. (and Canada, I believe) people are so possessive of their children.

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              • I’m sure that attitude is around Australia too – the helicopter parenting – but in my circles there is and was certainly awareness of the idea. We saw the value to ourselves for a start of not being solely responsible all the time!

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      • PS yes my question was rhetorical because I do understand that it’s all to do with the hold of the NRA … it’s just unbelievable. I completely understand your excepting this re your opposition to one-issue voting.

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  7. This is a great review on a really difficult topic – thank you for sharing it.

    On bullying, I am also really glad that schools have moved along a bit, though I think there’s still progress to be made. I was bullied at school and my teachers’ attempts to help can basically be boiled down to them saying, with varying levels of kindness, “had you consider fitting in better? Only then you might not be bullied”. Which, you know. Probably not the most helpful thing. There were a few excellent teachers who did try to help, albeit unsuccessfully – but I remember that they tried and it means a lot to me. It has its advantages in adulthood, because I know how to help my students if they’re being bullied on placement. And I hope that teachers who say that type of thing are the exception rather than the rule now – rather than the kind teachers being the exception.

    On gun violence – as you say, every time a mass shooting happens, people from other countries come out to say that this only happens in the US. This time I saw a lot of people in the US saying “quit bragging, you’re making it hurt more”. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that – it’s certainly not bragging because it’s said with a lot of frustration and heartache. I think people say it every time because, from outside, it feels like a lot of people in the US have just accepted the shootings as inevitable and, from experience, we know they’re not, but there’s nothing else we can do except say “look, you don’t have to put up with this!” There have recently been some vague discussions in the UK media about imposing sanctions on the US until gun reform is passed – but we would never risk annoying such a powerful country and anyway the US is clearly rich enough to weather the storm.

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    • If I remember correctly, you weren’t diagnosed as autistic until you were an adult, yes? I wonder if not having all the tools you might need could have affected how well you fit in. On the other hand, some people just have interests that mean they don’t fit in. For instance, I knew a girl who, in high school, was working on making up her own language, and I thought that was the goofiest nonsense I had ever heard of. Of course, Tolkien made a living doing it, and I never told her I thought she was an oddball, but she definitely stood out (probably because she would occasionally talk to you in her language…). In the past, I may have been the person who judged TO my friends about others, or just kept it in my head how goofy and weird I thought other people could be, but now I have more of a “let your freak flag fly, and I would be honored if you’d include me” attitude about it. People just living their lives — that’s a much easier way to get along in the world that trying to organize folks into good/bad groups, like I did when I was in high school.

      I didn’t deal with a ton of bullying, other than this one guy who mildly bullied me, and then my brother had words with him. A few years later I heard from his friends, who were on the hockey team with him, that he was a strange person who tried to fit in like a dude-bro and didn’t always succeed.

      It does feel to me like we’ve given up in the U.S. when it comes to gun control. When someone mentions gun control, someone else brings up a person who was murdered by a bow and arrow, or something random, as if to say, “See? People are always going to get murdered, so don’t step on my freedom!” To me, it’s helpful that people in other countries point out that our situation is not normal, because I think a lot of people are convinced that it truly is.

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      • Re: your last point, my cousin’s son was posted to Texas for a couple of years. Her son told her that when he told people there about our gun statistics, they flat out didn’t believe him. They thought it was fake news. (This was around 2015 I think).

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      • Yes, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult, and I was definitely a weird kid, so in hindsight I do see why I was being bullied! My mum thought I was autistic from an early age but never asked for a referral because she thought it would be another thing for me to be bullied about as my school wouldn’t handle it very well (she was probably right). These days, I think it would all be much better handled, which is nice to know 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • One of my best friends when I was a girl was an autistic person, and no one knew. They just gave her Ritalin and put her in speech therapy and special education. This was in the mid-90s.

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