Today at school, we had an emergency evacuation drill. This one was for STRANGER DANGER.
The scenario was that a strange person had entered school grounds. The principal made an announcement over the speakers, and even though everyone knew it was about to happen, all of the students in my class SUDDENLY stood up, looking very scared, all at once. It spooked me. I was like, “WHAT? WHAT IS IT? …Oh, right, the drill.”
Some of the students ran to close the door and began to shove desks and chairs in front of it, while other students opened the doors onto the balcony, which struck me as strange. If they stood on the balcony, weren’t they in plain sight? Couldn’t the stranger see them, and thus—I dunno—get them?
The principal made another announcement—something about the stranger being caught, I think—and the students cleared the door and filed out onto the grounds. On our way down the hall, I saw that one of the teachers had dressed up in a hygiene mask and science goggles, and two other teachers were holding him in place with long poles that forked at the end to go around his torso. It looked really ridiculous, but when I started to laugh and ask “What are they doing?” my JTE shushed me. I guess it was serious business. Oops.
I couldn’t understand much of the speech given to the students out on the grass, but I think they were just warning them to be aware of their surroundings and recognize the signs of someone up to no good.
While they lectured the students, I kept thinking about the differences between the way we do this drill in Japan and the U.S. In the U.S., our version of this drill is to lock all the doors and windows, close the curtains and turn off the lights, and hide under the desks until the all-clear bell. It never occurred to me why we do this. In middle school, the last time I remember doing one of those drills, I always wondered what the point was. In my mind, the stranger was just walking around the apparently dark school, looking menacing. But he obviously knew we were there. Why didn’t someone just stop him, like the teachers with the poles at my Japanese junior high school?
As we walked back to class, I asked Kawana-sensei about the poles, and he explained it to me. Then he said, “We can use these to catch the stranger because he doesn’t have a gun like in America.”
That’s the reason that the students could run to the balcony for safety. That’s why the teachers could act against the bad guy.
Because Japan doesn’t have a school shooting problem.
2012 ended with a school shooting, and 2013 saw quite a lot—28, according to the Wire. In January alone so far this year, there have been 11.
No matter was anyone says, the U.S. has a gun problem.
A lot of the conversation last year surrounding gun control laws revolved around the Second Amendment and arguments that we need better mental healthcare, not harsher gun laws. And while I’m always in support of better mental healthcare and think that would be a good step, I’m here to argue that we need to throw out our guns.
BUT FREEDOM! people will say. You guys, guns are killing our children and making us live in fear. Fear isn’t freedom—though it’s an excellent way to control people and take freedom away from them.
So, Why I’m Not Going Back to the U.S., Reason #2
Reason #1 was Healthcare, which I posted about on Facebook.
The school shootings and gun problems are really just one part of this complex reason, but if I ever decide that I want kids after all, I don’t want to raise them in the U.S. We have shit healthcare, shit gun control laws, and a shit education system.
I don’t mean to offend people who do raise their kids in the U.S. I mean, you live where you live, and home is where home is.
You might be calling me silly and reactionary, but have we really been so desensitized to children dying in a very preventable way that we’re willing to just accept that it happens sometimes, “but it’s not happening where I am, so we’re fine”? Why has the U.S. not fixed this problem? (Why haven’t we accepted socialized healthcare like so many other countries? Why is the U.S. looking more and more like the worst place I could possibly live?)
I mean to write a more in-depth entry about this later, but it comes down to this: Now that I’ve lived in another country and seen that there are other ways to live, I’ve realized that I can choose where I live. I’m at a crossroads.
Being an ex-pat is hard.