Following Breadcrumbs of Hate to Heaven
Like millions who are grieving the loss of little ones across this country and angry about gun violence, I don’t have all the answers. Just lots of questions. Upon receiving word that seven people were dead resulting from gun photo by Suzy Hazelwood violence at Covenant School in Nashville the other day, I was gut punched. The flurry of early news reports hijacked all thoughts away from what felt important that day. Why innocent children? Why teachers and staff? Who would do such a thing? Why indeed. As updates funneled in about the shooter and it was reported they were female, I was stunned. In our American gun slinging history--rarely if ever--has a mass shooter been female. And moments after hearing it was a woman, an uneasy feeling ensued remembering events of over a decade ago involving the same Church. Not long ago, a notorious suit was filed at Covenant Presbyterian. A young girl was allegedly abused by a senior staff member. The case is public and been documented in publications and asserting the family was mercilessly pummeled by the Church for making the allegations public. The father was portrayed as ‘unhinged’ by Senior members who did their best to ostracize him from the Church family and doubted by the larger community. According to a recent article published in Anglican Watch -- it was alleged that Covenant Presbyterian was perhaps more concerned about the publicity and protecting the alleged molester than the damage done to the child. For the entire afternoon I held my breath with every update hoping there was no correlation. Within a few hours it was reported the shooter was identified as ‘trans’ and my heart sank even further. Why? Since TN Legislators have been on a full offensive lately, busily stripping women of reproductive rights, banning books, eradicating race education and most recently, making drag shows illegal for being a danger to children, it feels that the draconian policies aimed at anyone not white, male and heterosexual are at a tipping point. To complete the circle of hate bills, TN Legislature also recently decided to gut healthcare funding for trans teens--even though studies reveal 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide. Why is the suicide rate so high? Is it because being trans makes you want to end your life? Or could it be that living in communities that judge being trans as an abomination and a pathway to hell (for some) is intolerable. If you are a trans youth, surrounded by authority figures who view you as different (at best) and sinful at worst, what chances are there for you to feel you belong in this world? And as you struggle with societal unworthiness, which is exacerbated by laws that confirm you are not a valued member of society, what are your options? It has been reported that the young shooter who struggled mentally, confided in a friend shortly before the shooting that all would be explained in the manifesto--which was retrieved by (and is still in the possession of) the police. No one knows--and may never know-- whether or not the motive of these murders are related to events that happened previously at this school. The murders of these six children and adults are abhorrent and inexcusable and the grief in our community will reverberate for years and probably generations. And we must wrestle with the deeper questions hovering around this and all other gun tragedies. When will we connect the dots between bigotry, alienation, isolation and mental illness? When will we admit that refusing to provide mental health support to those in desperate need, repeatedly refusing federal dollars to fund Medicaid expansion that covers mental health care services and refusing to ban semi-automatic weapons and restricting access to guns are all related? When will policy makers accept responsibility for the continuing tragedies that occur unabated, daily? And when will we follow the breadcrumbs of hate back to the current hell we are living? Molly Secours is a Nashville filmmaker/writer who is exhausted by the loss of innocent lives.