This Time, It Was Saugus

By Susan Estrich

November 16, 2019 4 min read

In California, every kid over the age of 3 knows how to duck and cover, and has an earthquake kit in their locker, emergency phone numbers and the like. Pretty terrifying the first time you pack that little kit for school.

Fires, earthquakes ... back east it was hurricanes. In my day, we also knew to head downstairs when the air raid sirens blared (they never did) to warn us that the Russians were trying to nuke us. Safety was only one floor away.

I suppose all of this terrorized us in a way. Dried milk and emergency supplies to fight a nuclear attack? But I never walked in a school door feeling even an ounce of fear. What's worth stealing in a school? Who hates kids they don't even know?

Other kids who do know them.

This week, it appeared once again. The guy from AP Bio unloads. The students build barricades against the shooter in the next room, as they have been trained.

The pictures of Saugus High School make it look like pretty much every high school in America. The devil was neither Mother Nature nor Mother Russia but a boy turning 16.

And he did what angry and aggressive and totally messed up young men have gotten used to doing these days, to great fanfare. Killing two at a convenience store would never lead the news.

Only one person is responsible in this shooting, and that is the boy who pulled the trigger. But that just means we should name names.

It doesn't tell you who these kids are.

Who made shooting up a school so "cool," or whatever it is?

The psychologists will say what they usually do about anger and maladjustment and drugs and personality disorders. The defense will dig into childhood trauma and mental disease to try to come up with their reasons. The president is being impeached, and at least in Los Angeles, he shares the lead with a kid who was unknown yesterday.

In service of political correctness, kids breeze through a system incapable of teaching them or disciplining them. High school was always mean; today, with social media and the rest, to be ostracized, unpopular and alone must be utterly intolerable. The ways in which kids can and do hurt one another are endless. And we are surprised when we see it explode in violence.

We praise the students who acted so quickly, cut off their classrooms, protected their classmates. And they deserve that praise. But barricades may be only slightly better than bomb shelters. Barricades are a Band-Aid. Kids don't wake up one morning at 16 as a psychopath. There are signs and signals. People are embarrassed. They look the other way. It's easier to focus on the threats posed by Mother Nature and One Armed Man. But it doesn't work. The enemy is one of us. The enemy is the kid in AP Bio.

Yesterday, you said hi to him.

Will he try to kill you tomorrow?

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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