Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece are not a reflection of the views of Paw Prints as a whole. They are the sole views of the author. Paw Prints Weekly celebrates a diverse audience and staff, and it supports the declaration of duties and rights of a Journalist per the U.S. Constitution. *Trigger Warning: sensitive material*
Thirty minutes after I arrive at second period on Friday, my teacher suddenly turns off the lights and locks the door. “We are on lockdown,” he says. My mind goes to the worst case scenario: what American students fear the most.
On Mar. 24, the entirety of Glen A. Wilson High School went on lockdown shortly after 10 a.m. and was swatted on suspicion that a student was in possession of a gun. Not long after, I watched as my teacher took the fire extinguisher off the wall, setting the device beside him.
But swatting calls are not even a rare occurrence. Hundreds of them falsely alert law enforcement annually to report to schools. On edge between what is a hoax call and what is a real shooter threat, students can feel unsafe and constantly wary about their safety in school. If a false lockdown was scary but not real, and now we are safe, then we can laugh about it. Right?
Under an Instagram post from the handle @generic_user(not actual handle) asking how students were doing during the lockdown, Wilson students lined up a string of jokes in the comments. Some comments appear rather harmless like “boring AF I need to pee so bad” or “Had to pee in a bucket 6/5 experience”. Then, other comments descend into dark humor. “I got shot,” one student comments, while another jokes, “I actually dodged [seven] bullets with ease.”
While these seem extreme, Gen Z is not different in the sense that every generation uses humor to cope with tragedy in some way or another. And it was a difficult time, with the school promptly offering counseling services the following Monday.
Continuing under the post, an alleged user responds to an “I got shot [three] times” comment with “then karma got you”. Though the joke was tasteless, karma is not what brings shooters to a campus. Mentally unstable individuals in possession of a firearm who idiotically want to continue the trend of school shootings are how they happen. There is no purpose in saying “karma” is the reason you should not joke, which inappropriately wishes ill will on young peoples’ lives. In another reply, the user comments, “…Parents need to raise their children better. Some jokes are not jokes. People need to be careful what they say. It could come back to them and they [will not] be laughing. ‘Oh, but they are just kids’”.
There is a lack of maturity in the criticism that high school students’ ironic humor will lead to death. Gen Z humor is often tinged with nihilism, cynicism and a disregard for life, coupled with total absurdity. And absurdity fits into the picture, as it is often seen as the philosophy of despair. That does not change during a lockdown, when many bolt to the worst-case scenario. If more people put themselves into the shoes of Gen Z students, they could see there is a relief in making dark jokes—the possibility that the worst case scenario could have happened, but did not.
At a time when it feels like there is a school shooting every other week and the state of the world seems so uncertain, Gen Z students should be given the courtesy to laugh about their misfortune, if that is the only thing they can do to make themselves feel better. Every generation has a unique generalized sense of humor, highly influenced by the time they live in. Amidst the actual irony, post-irony, meta-irony and heavy sarcasm shrouding what makes Gen Z laugh, it can be confusing to other generations why it sounds like we make light of serious situations.
“Guns on campus and joking about shootings [should not] be a joke,” the same user claimed on Instagram, piping up to every student who responds. And maybe they are right. But none of the students in the comments ever joked about another school’s shooting or guns in general; rather, they were about the possibility of something happening during a false alarm. Yet even in the aftermath, certain people intrusively dictate how students cope and choose to view the situation.
A couple days after the lockdown, I watched a graphic video (YouTube showed me three trigger warning windows) of the Mar. 27 Nashville shooting, imagining if that happened to us. And in that moment, I could only sit helplessly and laugh.
There are so many things that could have gone wrong if Friday was real—the thought irrational, but there.
While mocking or joking about other school shootings is not okay, laughing about your own past-lived experiences should be up to you. Who has the right to tell high school students how to cope with gun-related lockdowns? It is much easier to find everything funny than embroil yourself in a panic, especially when it feels like a school shooting happens every other week.