Opinion Columns

The following are a sample of some columns written in response to events that occurred during the course of my MEJO 358: Opinion Writing class at UNC-Chapel Hill in the spring of 2018.

Not Even if You’re the Last Male Rhino on Earth

I cried when I saw ‘Wonder Woman’ in theaters last year. If I believed in a god, I’d probably worship her.

Even having grown up with more strong female role models in the surrounding media than any generation before me, something about Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince and her island of warrior women was more deeply impactful than I ever imagined it would be.

Unfortunately, in much the same way that in my eyes it debunked the existence of God, modern science has smudged some of the sheen from Wonder Woman’s golden armor.

One of the most quoted lines in the movie is when Diana tells her male companion that “men are essential for procreation, but when it comes to pleasure, unnecessary.” As it turns out, we don’t even need them for that.

Last week, National Geographic, among others, reported that the last male northern white rhino had died at the age of 45. He was ancient by rhino standards, and is survived by a middle-aged daughter and young granddaughter, the only two members of the species left living.

Yet all is not lost for these creatures who roamed the earth for millions of years before humans hunted them to near extinction. International reproduction specialists have plans to use preserved sperm and extracted eggs from northern white rhinos, living and dead, to perform in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and impregnate female southern white rhinos to re-stimulate the northern population. In short, even if there are no males left to breed, the females may yet save the day.

So what I’m hearing at the end of it all is that the next time a man thinks he’s clever and insists that I would have to sleep with him if he were the very last man on Earth, the answer, in fact, is still “no”.

On the off chance that the apocalypse catches me in a good mood and I decide that mankind deserves a second chance to kill the whole planet, I need only cite the iconic lyrics of singer-songwriter P!nk’s hit song, “U + Ur Hand”: it’s just you and your hand tonight, and after you die, as long as I pull those tissues out of the trash, I can save the world by myself. Wonder Woman would be proud.

 

For the Kids

I really thought that the worst heartbreak I’d have to watch my high school boyfriend suffer would be the time I PMS’d too hard and refused to go to prom with him. I fixed that with a rooftop kiss at a Luke Bryan concert, but I can’t fix this. I can’t pull the bullets out of his 16 -year old cousin and breathe the life back into her lungs.

When we were 16, on February 14th, 2014, Joey Schentrup gave me a framed computer chip superglued to a piece of printer paper, on which he had scrawled (and misspelled): “Smart, but not as smart as you. Happy Valentine’s Day.” It was such a simple sentence that I can’t even remember how he managed to misspell something, but it was such a sweet sentiment from such a devoted computer nerd that I never had the heart to point it out.

When Carmen Schentrup was 16, on February 14th, 2018, Nikolas Cruz gave her a death warrant. Signed, sealed, delivered with an AR-15. My heart is sick, but my pain can’t hold a solitary spark to the pain Joey and his family are feeling right now.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, some of us have hardly had time to sink into that loss between grasping at people and institutions to blame for one sick boy’s bloody unraveling. Now is not the time to spiral into despair, but neither is it appropriate to dive so hastily into outrage that we forget to feel the depth of this grief. We can’t throw ourselves into overdrive in the name of preventing future tragedies, without first pausing to ensure that we’re acting for the right reasons.

Critics are right to balk at the immediate twisting of tombstones into fuel for what is already a smoking, screeching, ready-to-explode political machine. The reality is that the epidemic of mass shootings and violent crime in this country is infuriatingly complex. There is no question that our mental health treatment system is broken, and the correlation between the prevalence of firearms and the use of them cannot be rationally denied.

There is no question that the people in Nikolas Cruz’s life, as in the lives of all other mass shooters, failed him. In doing so, they certainly failed Carmen Schentrup, his 16 other victims, and all of their friends and families. It is true that he needed more psychiatric help than he received, and true that he displayed violent tendencies that should have been caught by law enforcement much earlier; but it is also true that there have been mass shootings by mentally ill people who had been receiving treatment for years, as well as by people who hadn’t done anything previously to put themselves on the law enforcement radar. There is unlikely to be any one perfect solution to keep our kids from dying at their desks–but there are solutions, and we must seek them out together.

A person intent on shooting up a school does not care who they kill, as long as they get the job done. If we have to take a page out of a mass murderer’s book, that ought to be it. It doesn’t matter how we solve the problem, it doesn’t matter which political parties have to sacrifice which ideals, because the only thing that matters is protecting our children. Protect our children and we preserve our future. Act now, even though it hurts, because our children are at stake every day until we fill the cracks in this system.

In the grand scheme of things, my mistakes with junior prom don’t feel so grave, and in hindsight, I’m glad Joey and I eventually chose to just be friends. But we have to act now, because all 16 year olds deserve the chance to learn that junior prom is not that important, and to actually live long enough to have “hindsight” about “the grand scheme of things”.