Trauma Informed Response

I feel the need to say something, both as a parent and as a teacher. The latest personal news from DC involves the sharing of lived trauma. This sharing has drawn both support and ire, as is usual within the American political landscape.

I feel for what those people lived through, AOC in particular. She’s illustrated her bravery by coming forward. She has made a practice of speaking truth to power and it is serving her well. I wish that we all could do so with the expectation that we would be supported. In my experience, though, speaking out often has repercussions. I can only hope that she weathers this particular storm with style and it doesn’t harm her or her peers further.

I don’t wish any harm to anyone, most of the time. And when I do, I feel guilty about it. I think this might be a normal emotional arc; it certainly is my normal.

I have to say though: where has the righteous indignation and emotional support been for the children our nation has traumatized since Columbine?

It’s national news when these things happen, and it should be. It’s right for us to question why we allow these kinds of things to occur. In broad daylight, in a country whose most noble ideal is freedom. From tyranny. From oppression.

What else would you call this kind of trauma?

I remember vividly when my twins were in second grade. They came home one day, and breathlessly related their schoolwide lockdown drill. They told my wife and I that they “would be ready WHEN [emphasis mine] it was [their] turn.” Not IF. WHEN.

Please explain to me in rational argument how this is a normal expectation for a child to have. That there would be a time when a shooter would break into their school and quite possibly take their lives for no reason whatsoever. I’ll wait.

And I will keep waiting because you can have no answer to this. It is unacceptable.

Some things are more valuable than money.

So yes, this angers me. The way that her revelations and personal reflections from January 6th have inspired raw hatred from so many. But mostly, the fact that it took lawmakers’ and representatives’ lives being at stake to raise the issue again.

We need a reality check. We need a priority check.

There is a phrase thrown around in educational circles a lot these days, and it’s the title of this piece of writing. I would like to put forth the notion that our trauma informed response should be to eliminate or mitigate as best we can the environmental factors that produce said trauma. We need to start helping those with mental illness in a way that is substantive and comes from a place of genuine care. We need to have character education back in schools, alongside appropriate levels of emotional support. It’s not normal to be traumatized. You don’t need to grow a thicker skin. The burden is solely on the shoulders of those who cause the harm, whether they be individuals in need of care, or systems in need of serious revision and revitalization. Trauma cannot be normalized. Not anymore.

I want to live in a place where I don’t have to worry about a job loss destroying my life, or a serious illness dragging my family into bankruptcy or worse. I want to live in a place that values the individual as an individual, not as a cog in a money making machine. I want to not be afraid of this rapacious appetite for death, money, and sensationalism.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

So, yes. I do respect AOC for coming forward. But I think the conversation is wrongly focused on that one experience. Pull back and see the whole picture. Hold our governmental structures accountable. Demand change. As the saying goes, one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Let’s do something different.

Published by cbrannonwatts

teacher and writer

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