Cooper: Paralysis

Not again; please … not again. We were having coffee the last morning before our return from what was a wonderfully relaxing and contemplative trip to the Oregon Coast when “breaking news” announced another school shooting in progress.

Bertha Cooper

Not again; please … not again.

We were having coffee the last morning before our return from what was a wonderfully relaxing and contemplative trip to the Oregon Coast when “breaking news” announced another school shooting in progress.

My mind looked grimly into the future of minute to minute coverage — counting the dead and injured, profiling the killer, discovering the heroes and heroines, counting the guns, talking to the witnesses, naming the dead, looking for motive, learning the killer had known mental problems expressed in hate and anger, honoring the dead, hearing every politician start a long sentence with “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and burying the dead.

The scene plays out as I write this and I am struck by how punishing it feels.

Remote and random

A local authority said the chance of “it,” that would be a school shooting in which kids die, happening here is “remote.” That’s what Roseburg, Ore., thought Wednesday, Sept. 30.

The sheer randomness of the madness of killing the young is terrifying because we know that buried in every community are the alienated and angry persons who could choose to take the innocent with them when they carry out their suicidal plan.

Solutions circle the deaths and, if the past is any indicator, will be buried or spread to the winds along with the lifeless remains of the victims. The ritualistic political positioning over the fate of wasted lives has begun and we are once again aware of the political paralysis of action, a term I use to describe the severe apathy of the political class of our country who can’t come together to even discuss the issue of preventing school shootings.

The statement formed as a question seems to be, “How can we stop a deranged person who decides to kill children?” The end of the sentence reads, “So, why do anything?”

Wouldn’t a better answer be to tap into American values of innovation in solving problems in the face of what seem to be insurmountable obstacles? Start somewhere! Please!

Are Sequim schools safe?

I trust in the best efforts of those that are concerned with public safety in our schools and community. Since Sequim schools were not mentioned in a PDN article about our community’s preparedness that followed the shooting, I called the district to learn its preparations.

“We’re doing the best we can (to prepare),” said Gary Neal, Sequim schools superintendent. Neal said the district has at least five “lock down” drills a school year in which alarms result in shutting and locking all accessible areas in order to contain the area of the shooter.

A larger concern is the 1960s openness of the main campus that has multiple access points making it difficult if not impossible to monitor and control entry. Controlling access increases by multiples the chance that someone would notice and report someone walking in carrying a bulky and heavy duffel bag. Having fewer points of entry increases the chance that an unfamiliar person acting suspiciously will be reported.

The fix has been in the last three bond issues, including the one on the Nov. 3 ballot. Sequim school officials never lost sight of the priority of safety among the upgrades and construction requests; neither should we. Insisting on basic safety measures for our schools by voting yes is one thing we can do.

Neal says it is the community that will make kids safe. Sequim students are told that it is better to over-report than miss something. Be alert, if you see something, say something. Seems easy enough but starts to get hard when the solutions go to requirements for gun ownership or providing mental health services.

One thing we can do is withhold our vote for any candidate who believes it is acceptable and/or necessary for America to be the most violent industrial country on earth; withhold our vote for any candidate who cannot imagine and propose solutions that begin to prevent the human carnage.

We can speak out to the candidates who send mixed messages when they fight for the rights of the unborn and passively accept murders of the young.

Sure, I support background checks for gun owners, I support vastly improved and compassionate mental health services that assure access and I support laws that prosecute the gun seller who sold the gun that killed the innocent and failed to check the killer’s background. Many of us agree with all or some; some with none; regardless, either way we are powerless until we crack the political paralysis. We must do it.

Our political leaders are as paralyzed in the face of guns as the shocked Roseburg students crowded in a circle waiting … just waiting. Sending thoughts and prayers is supportive but my guess is every person who has lost a loved one wants more.

Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at


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