The other night while having Pandora on in the background the Foster The People song, “Pumped up Kicks” came on. As I was in a contemplative mood and with the nation’s response to the latest school shooting at Santa Fe High school on my mind, hearing this song brought up a memory from my junior year of high school.
It was in my religion class where each day my teacher had the routine of putting on a song while we journaled on a prompt for the day. One day “Pumped Up Kicks” came on and in the middle of our journaling period something prompted my teacher to matter-a-factly make the comment, “Did you guys know this song is about a school shooting?”
There was a brief pause and no one really knew how to react to this comment so we just kept on journaling. I have kept this comment tucked away in my memory though because now each time I hear this song I pull out that memory and the connection between the lyrics and the topic becomes clearer.
Before this comment, I had just thought of this song as a catchy one with a very repetitive chorus of, “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks” that continues, “You’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.” In my opinion, it is easy to miss the detail of “Outrun my gun” due to the repetition in the song.
But once you listen more closely, the school shooting theme is apparent from the start of the first stanza, “Yeah found a six-shooter gun/In his dad’s closet hidden oh in a box of fun things, I don’t even know what/But he’s coming for you, yeah he is coming for you.” Then in the second half of the chorus, “You’d better run, better run, outrun my gun” is interchanged with, “You’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.”
This song became popular shortly after its release in 2010 and before the school shootings that occurred at Sandy Hook, Parkland, and now Santa Fe, these being the most recent and significant among many others that have happened between 2010 and today.
Thinking about this song and my memory from high school made me realize how truly fortunate I am to have not had to be a first-hand witness to any school shooting or tragedy but other memories came to the front of my mind about how on edge we have had to become at schools in recent years.
In my sophomore year of high school, I had English on the second floor of our school which is where all visitors to the building had to sign in at our receptionist desk. Our classroom was a bit unique in that it is the only classroom that is on that floor amongst various administrative offices. One morning we were going about as usual when we heard the receptionist call out, “Come back! Come back here! You need to come back here and sign in.”
Our class discussion came to a pause as our teacher went to the door to look out at the situation with the receptionist trying to chase after this individual who didn’t quite understand the rules of our school. Thankfully this individual realized their error and came back to sign-in, but for a brief moment, none of us in our class knew what could have been next.
Once things settled down our teacher turned her attention back to us with the “comforting” remark, “Don’t worry girls, I have my fighting boots on today,” gesturing to the heeled boots she had on.
If the situation had been something more dangerous, who knows how effective those “fighting boots” would have been in warding off danger, but at least we knew our teacher would have put her life on the line to protect us.
Safely getting through high school, I moved on to college where I found myself in my freshman writing seminar. A class of 20 people, taking place in a building and at a time of day where not many other classes if any were taking place, and our class was meeting in one of the basements of the building.
One afternoon, as we were in the last half of the class for the day, a middle-aged man with a crumpled up sweatshirt in his hand came into the room where our professor greeted him and he introduced himself as a supposed admitted student. Our professor allowed the man to sit in our classroom but the rest of us exchanged nervous glances, not sure what was going on with this stranger entering our classroom. Admittedly, I was not comfortable with this situation so I excused myself to the bathroom.
As I left I wished I had brought my phone with me so if I needed to, I could call for help. I used the bathroom and returned to class where we wrapped up for the day and us students began to pack up and leave while our professor continued to talk with our “guest.” She was telling him about what we would be doing in our next class and when that would be. I was a bit taken aback by this offering of information fearing that this gentleman could return and with vengeance.
A few of us from the class decided it would be best for us to linger a bit to make sure our professor would be okay and not need any help in getting out of this odd situation. Once the conversation ended, she thanked us for staying and we all commented on how strange this encounter had been- an encounter that thankfully was nothing significant. But it was still significant in the fact that upon this stranger entering our classroom, several of us feared the worst.
Call me paranoid, but it is sickening to think that given recent school shootings, for many of us our first instinct is to jump to thinking about what to do in the worst possible situation.
Schools are supposed to be places of safety and learning and they need to be kept this way. I think most students and parents start the school day without a hesitation that everything will go as it should. But are we going to be able to keep this feeling of ease, familiarity, and comfort? We need to and we can, but we need to make changes.
These changes are not putting armed resource guides in schools or extra levels of security. Schools should feel like schools, not like airports or prisons. We need to change our country’s attitudes about the proper ownership of guns and providing adequate counseling services.
What America is dealing with right in terms of having more school children than service members die thus far in 2018 is a moment of history that is forcing us to make some major changes to our policies and actions. None have been taken yet, but something needs to happen. If no action is going to formally take place by our country’s leaders, it needs to happen on a grassroots level by parents, teachers, students, gun owners, and other community leaders.
Something so innocent such as a catchy song, can have deadly ramifications and hidden meanings upon closer examination that everyone should be aware of.