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Holy Hell, This 'Back To School' Ad For The NRA Era
Trigger warnings, in all senses of the term.
The massacre-prevention group Sandy Hook Promise, founded by parents of some of the kids murdered in Newtown, rolled out an absolutely horrifying public service announcement today. The online ad, titled "Back-To-School Essentials," is a dark twist on back-to-school supplies, featuring kids enjoying the nice things their parents got them for school. In the midst of a school shooting.
Content warning: This one is not something you want to watch if the subject is difficult for you. It's not explicitly gory, but includes sounds and visuals of a dramatized school shooting. You might want to skip the next three paragraphs, too. In fact, those of us who do watch it may decide to have a nice big glass of bourbon and lie down on this nice kitchen floor for an hour or two or all day.
Back-To-School Essentials | Sandy Hook Promise youtu.be
The script starts out like any other back to school ad, with kids saying how helpful their new backpack or Trapper Keepers will be, but as a third kid puts on his new headphones and says they'll help him study, other students around him start to scream and run. A boy running down a hall as other kids scream and panic says his new sneakers are just what he needs; a girl tries to use her nice new jacket to tie shut a gym door; and a boy thanks his parents for his new skateboard, which he uses to break a window so he and his classmates can flee.
As gunshots ring out, two girls mention how helpful their scissors and colored pencils will be in art class -- after all, helpful experts have been urging kids to learn they can use anything at hand to fight off shooters carrying semiautomatic weapons. In the only scene to feature fake blood, a girl says her new socks "can be a real life-saver," as she uses them to make a tourniquet for a friend with a leg wound. (Rick Santorum, who thinks school kids just need to learn how to do CPR for sucking chest wounds, might nitpick the girl's technique, since tourniquets should be tied above the bleed. Stupid liberals, trying to get kids killed with medically inaccurate anti-violence ads! What those kids need is a DHS program to learn them proper emergency technique. Yes, that's real. )
The spot ends with a terrified girl perched on the back of a toilet in a darkened restroom, texting "I love you, Mom" and saying her phone is perfect for keeping in touch. She freezes at the sound of the door opening, followed by footsteps, and the screen goes black, with the message: "It's back to school time, and you know what that means. School shootings are preventable when you know the signs."
The spot is simply gut-wrenching, contrasting the happy blather of back-to-school ads with the horrors of school shootings; it's the latest in a series of ads promoting Sandy Hook Promise's "Know the Signs" campaign, which seeks to educate parents, students, and educators, to recognize signs that someone may be out to do bad things, and to get appropriate help. SHP isn't a group that seeks to pass firearms regulation like Moms Demand Action; its goals are increasing awareness and violence prevention.
Regardless, the ad -- perhaps unintentionally? -- underscores that as long as guns are everywhere, all we have left are thoughts and prayers -- plus improvisations like designing schools with fewer straight lines of sight or telling teachers to make their own classroom blackout curtains . If you D-I-Y, you might not D-I-E. (And let's also not forget that kids are far more likely to be shot at home than at school -- which doesn't mean school shootings should be ignored).
And as long as it's easier to get a gun than to vote in some states, trying to fight mass shootings by telling people to be aware of behavior warning signs of a possible mass shooter may be only be about as effective as barricading a door with your new windbreaker.
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