Dear reader, it was bound to happen. I have precious few words to offer you today. The literary “Sword of Damocles” that looms above my head each morning as I pen these missives has finally dropped, leaving me cut off from anything like a coherent line of thought. Despite this, I’ve made several attempts to connect to my creative centre and offer you some words of insight, edification or maybe amusement. However today I fear there will be no humour on offer.
The reason for my lack of words this day dear reader is simple fatigue. Not from the writing process itself, but from the events of the world. Many people seem to possess the ability to ignore what’s happening around them, to stick their heads in the sand, to coin a slightly unfriendly phrase. They shouldn’t be overtly criticized for this behaviour, partly because the events of the world are frankly terrifying, and also because the media plays an active role in providing coverage of these events that focuses more on titillation, drama and shock value than it does on facts or relevant context.
The – “horrific” seems like an entirely inadequate word here – mass shooting at a school in Florida brings the total number of similar events – how gruesome is it that we’re now keeping score? – to 30. We’re only 48 days into the year. It makes us question the sanity of not just the assailant, but of a society in which such madness can be carried out on a nearly daily basis. Beyond the initial fear and anger of such an event, comes the recriminations, the theories, the backlash against whichever individual/group/race/religion has been chosen as the target-du-jour. And of course there will angry shouts from people with a greater awareness (and grasp) of their “rights” than they do reality, claiming that guns don’t kill people.
Gun advocates have long argued that a gun is in fact a tool, and it should be viewed as such. The argument goes something like this: You can kill someone with hammer, but no one wants to ban hammers. A gun is essentially no different. It’s an interesting argument, but one that falls flat when a single question is asked:
What does a gun do besides kill efficiently?
Tools by their nature have specific uses. To return to the hammer analogy, a hammer can be used to connect two objects together, to build things. This logic can be used for any tool, from a chainsaw to a shovel, In every case, the tool has a specific, constructive (in many cases literally constructive) use. A gun has no such constructive use. It is a weapon, not a tool. Like all weapons, it was designed with one purpose – to kill efficiently. To those who would argue that hunting is a constructive use – the procurement of food – there are two issues there. First there’s the fact that very few people on the planet, and effectively no one in urban areas, needs to hunt for food. Secondly, the process still involves killing in the most efficient way possible.
There will be those who will call for the banning of all guns. Frankly I wouldn’t disagree with that idea in theory, though I’m not sure it would solve anything. Like trying to empty a bathtub while the water is still running, the best you can hope for is a tenuous equilibrium – a standoff if you will. What we need to look at is the source of this violent behaviour, not the equipment used to carry it out.
But let’s explore this from another angle.
Back in 2014, there were reports about a company in Oklahoma that had created a protective blanket to be used in schools called “The Bodyguard.” This blanket was far more than a piece of cloth used to hide from the boogeyman. Ostensibly created to protect children from debris tossed about in a tornado, the blanket (which no longer appears to exist online – curious that) was touted as being “bulletproof.” Some reports said that the blankets would provide protection in school shootings.
I assure you, this is not a joke, and it sure as hell is not a drill.
People at the time were understandably horrified by such a thing. “Imagine the message this sent to our kids,” they cried with indignation. “Sorry kids, we’re not going to try and make a safer world for you, the most vulnerable members of our society. You’ll just have to suck it up. Don’t forget your homework and chainmail backpack.”
People really shouldn’t be so surprised. In this environment we’ve created, it’s almost inevitable. It’s also interesting to note that this is not the first time schoolchildren have been forced to deal with the consequences of adult incompetence and apathy. In fact, if the education system continues its trend of teaching revisionist – and in many cases delusional – history, it won’t be the last either.
In the early 1950’s, the threat of imminent Soviet attack using atomic weapons was very real, and as such, children were taught what to do in case the unthinkable occurred. How? With this delightful little gem:
What fun! Imagine watching that between episodes of Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner. For children living in major cities such as New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, the cartoon and regular drilling exercises were only the beginning. In 1952, children across the US were issued dog tags. Yes, I said dog tags, like the ones worn by GIs, and designed to withstand extreme temperatures so that their bodies could be identified after an attack. So much for the innocence of youth.
The point of all this? Some of those children are now our elder statesmen and women. Looking at the world we now live in, it’s obvious we’ve learned nothing from history. Like a stage play with no end, the players and the setting may change, but the plot remains.
It’s been over 60 years since kids were given dog tags, and it seems… nothing has changed. Huddling under a blanket in a corridor is no different than huddling under a desk in your classroom. The tears and the terror are exactly the same.
Dear reader, I don’t have a simple solution to offer you, but I can say this: These horrific tragedies have become routine occurrences. We no longer have the right to be shocked. It’s simply another form of avoidance, another example of how little we’ve learned.
The wheel turns, does it not?