Welcome to Generation V

Domestic terrorists have shot a hole in our American way of life

Brooke Ramey Nelson
Apr 30 · 6 min read
Our school’s SRO, circa the mid-2000s. Photo c/o The Oracle. Used with permission.

Ten days ago we marked 22 years since two seniors invaded their Colorado high school, murdering 12 students and one teacher. Columbine, as it’s now known, also began the process of blurring lines across multiple generations.

No, Millennials — you’re not who you think you are. And neither are the Boomers, nor the classically (or uncreatively) named Generations X, Y and Z.

We’re all part of Generation V now

The Columbine High School mass shooting unfortunately acclimated us to the idea of the media as a violent messenger. I don’t know about you, but the images of a student dangling from the school library window and parades of terrified kids marching single-file out of their high school with their hands raised above their heads will forever have a disquieting home seared into my psyche. The bar went up alarmingly 13 years later when the ages of the victims plummeted in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. I still can’t fathom the 20 children, ages 6 and 7 — babies, really — and their six adult protectors being gunned down inside the safety of the cocoon where they learned to read, write and share with one another.

And when shootings started spreading beyond campuses to entertainment venues; then everyday places where people congregate; then continued in workplaces, more than a few of us expressed concern. But even after recent murders at three Atlanta spas, a Boulder grocery store and an Indianapolis FedEx — we probably won’t see the politicians taking much action. I maintain they, too, are afraid. Not of gun violence, per se, but of the gun lobby, for a fact.

Violence has found a home here, and we won’t be evicting it anytime soon

I prefer to call all of us — from my fellow Baby Boomers on down to the so-called Generation Alpha — which includes children born after 2013 — Generation V.

“V”, as in violence, is the inevitable result of doing nothing

It’s not just violence perpetrated by the lax regulation of guns that brings us to the realization that things aren’t as safe as they could be here. It’s the fact that most our children have grown up in a society where violence is the norm.

Every person who has trudged up the schoolhouse steps — students, teachers, support staff, administrators, even parents — since Columbine’s sad, unfolding saga in April 1999 has lived with school shootings as a concrete reality. In a sad statement of congruent verisimilitude, every student who was born after 9–11 has not known an America that was not at war. And all of the rest of us, who work for the safety of our students and staff, or pine for loved ones serving overseas, are continually plagued by a mutual concern that It. Could. Happen. Here. Because it has, again and again.

So the politicians sing the same ol’ song and tell us by their stomach-turning inaction that this state of affairs is OK.

Violence hides in plain sight

My student reporters published their findings, but nothing happened—at least not right away. The biggest takeaway from their investigation—for my students, at least—was the fact that someone could steal their intellectual property and it would go viral on the Internet. The snap above—of our School Resource Officer patrolling the high school’s Senior Hall— was shot by one of my journalism students sometime in the mid-2000s. Now, anyone Googling “cops in schools” or “school police officers” will find that this iconic photo pops up, with no original attribution at all to the high school student newspaper staff that captured the moment.

If anyone had wanted to debate the issue at the time, they probably would acknowledge that one police officer, no matter how vigilant, couldn’t defend the safety of a sprawling campus like that, containing so many human beings and so many manners of egress. Our SRO looks tough in the photo. He was, in reality, both firm and friendly. We trusted him to do his job. But he was only one man, in a sea of thousands of unknowns.

Violence never attacked my school, but it could have

The school’s administration also installed “panic buttons” in all of the classrooms and large public areas such the gym and the cafeteria, buzzers hooked up to the public address system so anyone could call for help right away. Of course, we were working with teenagers—and more than once on my watch a 15- or 16-year-old considered it pretty funny to “buzz” the main office for no reason. Yeah, kid, a real laugh riot.

The year after I retired, the Spartans — my home for 23 years — unveiled a brand spanking new building renovation. Essentially a whole new school, with all the bells and whistles that entails. The last time I visited, I noted the convoluted process set up in the new building for visitors to gain entrance. But my former colleagues also told me they were having a problem with students exiting through “secondary” entrances and, being the polite kids that they were, holding the doors open for those who wanted at short-cut to get in.

Violence will always be a given — politicians can do something about it

Maybe the politicians, who ultimately are in charge of our safety, can do something to limit the armaments flowing so freely to our citizens. They’ve tried before and were successful; but they’ve also attempted to get a hold of the problem and have failed spectacularly.

I get it that some of us like to hunt, but I’ve said this before and it bears repeating: Do we really need semi-automatic rifles to kill Bambi? Don’t be stupid. Those personal weapons of mass destruction, however, do a good job killing our fellow Americans.

I can hear some of you right now: “OK, Boomer”

Politically Speaking

We all view the world through a unique lens.

Brooke Ramey Nelson

Written by

A Native Texan and Mizzou Journalism grad, Nelson has worked in newspapers, politics, PR and as a high school publications adviser and AP English teacher.

Politically Speaking

We all view the world through a unique lens. Politics is in literally everything from our churches to our social organizations to news events and crime to our governments. This is the place to share your view, regardless of your political leanings: all are welcome.

Brooke Ramey Nelson

Written by

A Native Texan and Mizzou Journalism grad, Nelson has worked in newspapers, politics, PR and as a high school publications adviser and AP English teacher.

Politically Speaking

We all view the world through a unique lens. Politics is in literally everything from our churches to our social organizations to news events and crime to our governments. This is the place to share your view, regardless of your political leanings: all are welcome.

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