Part I: Evolution
Seventeen more lives have been taken, this time by Nikolas Cruz at a high school in Parkland, Florida. I am not sad about this. But that, in itself, makes me sad. I’m actually sad about not being sad. Have I been desensitized by the history of these things – Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Charleston, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, countless other needless deaths that never make the news, and now Parkland – to the point I am incapable of tears for the families? I don’t know. But I do know the first emotions that arise every time I hear about an incident like this: Anger and befuddlement. I’m angry that our ‘leaders’ wring their hands but do nothing and befuddlement that we even have to have these conversations every few weeks.
The day after Parkland, I started reflecting on evolution of weapons. I would guess that the first thing that could be called a weapon, back in prehistoric times, would probably be a rock that fit nicely into a hand. Whether to kill the rabbit for food, or to throw at the neighboring clan when they inevitably tried to come usurp their territory, they needed something to have a projection of power. Then they figured out how to sharpen those rocks into points. And make them smaller. And attach them to sticks for spears. And then attach smaller versions of those to bows. Ooh…then catapults and trebuchets. We had had fire for a long time, but then we figured out how to make fire do more than cook and keep us warm. We figured out how to make things go boom, which brought about the first guns, leading to better guns, and bombs and rockets and grenades.
But why did we need that pile of rocks in the first place? The easy answer is for protection, and I do not discount that. Does deterrence work? If you have a big enough pile of rocks, will that keep a motivated rival clan from trying to take your land? I remember the years of ‘mutually assured destruction’, so I suppose that was a form of deterrence. But I believe it goes beyond simple protection.
At its most visceral, weapons are for inflicting harm. The evolution of weapons – from rocks, to arrows to guns – has been about projecting the power to be better at inflicting harm. I understand the folks that get true enjoyment from shooting targets and the people that legitimately hunt to put food on their table. But to say weapons are made for anything other than inflicting harm – and death – is dishonest.
Part II: Tweeter in Chief
On February 14, Trump tweeted twice in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, once offering his ‘prayers and condolences’ and once to say ‘we are working closely with law enforcement’. Both of those were stand-alone tweets – not part of any sort of thread. The Press Secretary cancelled the daily briefing that afternoon and called a lid fairly early in the evening, with the President choosing to not make an on camera appearance.
On the morning of February 15, after more details of Nikolas Cruz were known, Trump tweeted “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” Beyond that fact that Cruz was reported, again and again, and despite the tone sounding a little too close to blaming the victims, it would not even rank in the top half of outrageous tweets he’s written.
That is until you see that it was not a stand-alone tweet. Trump put that tweet as a reply to his own tweet (from two days before) about DACA. Even if you are not familiar with Twitter, that does not happen by accident – it was clearly intentional. Here is a screenshot:
My question to you is this: Would Trump had made the effort to attach the tweet about the Parkland shooter to a previous tweet about DACA had the shooter’s last name been Johnson or Stein or Henderson instead of Cruz? I think we all know the answer to that.
Our President is, among other things, a xenophobe. It is, and frankly has been, undeniable.
Part III: When more is not better
I have had many people ask me – even some of my students – what I think about having teachers be trained and be armed in a classroom. Here’s my answer:
If there were to be some kind of mandate for teachers to do that, I would submit my resignation that day. Even if it were optional, I would not even feel comfortable working on a campus where I knew some of the teachers were armed.
My reasoning? We are a country of over 320 million people. We have to have people that can figure out an answer better than ‘more guns’. We have to be better than that. In one discussion where I made that statement, the implication in the reply was that while there might be better solutions, keeping kids safe was the priority and, since I happen to be single with no children of my own, I might not really understand that. I chose to not respond to that, because rarely have I felt that level of fury.
The 178 students that I am lucky enough to teach every day ARE my kids. While we do not share DNA, there is nothing I would not sacrifice to ensure their safety.
Imagine someone making this statement: “There sure are a lot of deaths caused by heroin. WAIT, I have an idea! Let’s roll back restrictions on heroin and make it even EASIER to get! Let teachers have a heroin supply on hand in case of emergency.”
Ridiculous, right? Now replace heroin with guns and you have the crux of this argument from many on the political right.
I repeat, we have to be better than that.
Part IV: Final thoughts
You will notice there is not a whole lot of policy ideas here, and that was on purpose. My stance is well known – and you can scroll back through this blog for two posts in particular: “Thoughts and Prayers” and “My View on Gun Control”.
I also know that guns, themselves, do not kill people, people kill people. So, if you don’t stop posting that ridiculous missive, I hope you are vocal in your support of a universal health care system that includes mental health services.
I also know that Chicago has one of the most restrictive gun laws in the country coupled with one of the highest murder rates. But I also know a person can eat dinner in Chicago, drive to Indiana, which has no licensing or permit requirements (other than needing a permit to conceal carry a handgun), buy a firearm, drive back and be home in plenty of time to kill his/her enemy before the 10pm news. Did you know that Hawaii also has very restrictive gun laws but they also have the 49th lowest rate of deaths due to firearms? So please stop posting that bullshit Chicago stat.
We have to get money out of politics, and that doesn’t just go for the gun debate and the NRA. Close down K Street and reverse Citizens United. Let’s return our country to a true Republic where our elected officials are forced to listen to their constituents, instead of which lobbying firm has checks with the most zeroes.