STFU Parents: Gun-Toting Toddlers, The Colorado Shooting Edition

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After the horrific shooting rampage last week, I posted a few submissions on STFU, Parents that I’d received about the incident. The submissions illustrate what I believe to be a few lessons regarding how to post on Facebook without looking like a jerk, and they inspired some heavy conversation in the comments. One of the comments that stuck out to me read, “I can’t tell, is this website supposed to be funny?” Well, yes and no. Much like attending a blockbuster action movie is supposed to be fun, STFU, Parents is inherently a funny website. But, sometimes other stuff gets in the way. Sometimes I get a submission, or a bunch of submissions, that aren’t funny at all, but that doesn’t make them any less relevant. I determine what to post on the blog based on what people – strangers – send to me, and I’m fascinated with the ebb and flow of timely submissions that reflect what’s happening in our world in real time. After all, that’s what Facebook and social media are all about: posting in real time what is relevant to our lives or happening in our sphere of influence.

With that said, not everything posted on the blog or in this column is going to be funny, because life isn’t always an endless stream of good times. And I’m not going to lie, sometimes the submissions I receive strike a chord with me in a way that’s best described as discomfort. I’m not talking about pictures of diaper explosions or status updates about mucus plugs, which are their own brand of ick; I’m talking about submissions that illuminate things to me that I might not have wanted to know or think about. For instance, after posting the submissions related to the Colorado shooting, I received this:

The thing that makes me uncomfortable about this submission – aside from the fact that a small child is holding a rifle with her finger on the trigger just over her brother’s shoulder in the backyard – are the comments. “How adorable!” “Look at his muscles!” “Ha ha, she’s gotta learn when to scare off those boys sometime!” None of the people commenting is even acknowledging what I see when I look at this picture, which is a 3-year-old holding a deadly weapon in her swimsuit. The dichotomy between the seriousness of the weapon and the playfulness of the backyard pool bothers me deeply, but it doesn’t affect Amanda’s friends in the slightest. When I get a submission like this, I think it says something about where we’re at as a society. Yes, the little girl is being instructed, perhaps educated, by her brother, but her finger is still on the trigger. She is still three years old, holding a gun, and her mom feels comfortable posting the picture on Facebook. Eight people “liked” it. What does this mean? [tagbox tag=”colorado shooting”]

For a person like me, it means that our culture is more gun-obsessed than it should be. For Amanda and her friends, it’s just another summer day. And I’ll admit that I’m curious what other people have to say. I’m intrigued that a person would post this picture on Facebook, and even more intrigued that her friends think it’s totally appropriate. It may not be humorous, but to me, it’s worth discussing because it shows how some parents use Facebook to express their attitudes about gun ownership.

Not everything posted on STFU, Parents or in this column is funny, because not everything I receive is funny or gross or able to be classified in plain terms. When I get a submission like this the day after a man shoots up a room full of innocent people, it makes me think. People are asking why some parents brought their children to a midnight showing of a dark and violent movie. I’m not asking that question. I’m wondering why some parents post pictures on Facebook of their toddlers holding weapons. To me, that’s what’s alarming.