Commentary by Fred Kroner: Words in today’s society can mean everything


Words can hurt. They can destroy families, faith, friendships.

They might be ones spoken in the heat of a family squabble.

They might be well-intentioned, but misguided, such as when a mourner passes through a funeral line and tells the grieving family, “it will be alright.”

But, you no longer need to be present and within a group to use words that can be harmful and agitating.

With the marvels of modern technology, a general comment posted on a social media outlet can reach millions within minutes, if not seconds.

When the post gets shared and commented upon multiple times, situations can escalate and spiral out of control faster than a person can walk to their car and drive to the store.

Those who have children in the Mahomet-Seymour school district — especially at the high school — probably know of a possible threat of violence directed against unspecified targets at an undisclosed time and location.

Pretty vague. Very alarming.

The first post went onto Facebook Thursday afternoon and another — purportedly from the same juvenile’s account —  was posted in the evening.

It’s imperative to be mindful and not dismiss it as a prank or by someone with no intention of following through.

These words are not to be ignored. Not in any instance.

The police department and  M-S school personnel worked together and determined that the words which could seem threatening did not actually constitute a credible threat.

This time.

Some parents, out of concern, kept their children at home on Friday.

What steps are necessary to protect loved ones? Does the passage of time make Monday any safer? Next Wednesday? A month from Thursday?

If these particular instigators — police interviewed at least two individuals — are dealt with, does that mean there are not others who are like-minded thinkers and perhaps could act out without first speaking out?

A police presence at the high school on Friday was comforting. Is it realistic or reasonable to expect that every day?  Every hour? Is it even possible?

How can you protect against the unknown? How can logical thinkers predict the actions and reactions of those who are illogical?

Should we be directing our community conversation to install metal detectors at the schools in lieu of purchasing scoreboards for an elementary school?

So, we protect the inside of our buildings. What about the exterior? Do we need a fortress to keep school children safe anytime they are on the grounds?

A common theme, based on television coverage when acts of violence happen at random locations nationally, is “we didn’t think it could happen here.”

Believe it.

That’s not being alarmist. That’s being realistic.

All of us would like to think our community is immune and that our region is secure.

But, thinking it and hoping it doesn’t make it occur.

We live in a world of upheaval, where actions from what now must be described as a bygone era would no longer be accepted without question.

I remember a high school classmate walking into school with a guitar case. We were seniors.  No one I know of wondered what was inside.

We found out in English class when this teenager played his guitar.

I remember students walking into the high school building in the spring carrying baseball bats.

There was no ulterior motive other than to try them out at practice that afternoon.

As a grade-schooler, when I was caught passing a note that I hadn’t started, I looked at the person who I perceived got me in trouble and said, “I’ll get you.”

As in, “I’ll get even,” not that I am going to physically assault the person.

Would that be considered a threat or bullying now that would get me expelled?

In retrospect, we smile and make light of those incidents from our past, knowing the outcome was good.

That’s no longer the way of the world, not the big-picture world that encompasses millions or even our small-picture world that includes our neighborhood.

We are forced to be diligent and wary.

This is not an issue simply for our schools. Violence — and the threat of it — has reached the workplace, our buildings of worship, our nightspots, our recreation areas, rest stops along interstates. Our homes. Everywhere.

Actions can not always be prevented, but when they are preceded by words, then that should be a talking point not only between families, but within communities.

We know where to begin.

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