It may be just my interpretation, but life in these United States is becoming stranger than fiction, especially since the Patriot Act. I can now move my mouth in sync with the nightly news, “The terrorism alert has been elevated to ‘high’.” I speak aloud to the newscaster, “We think that the central government has ordered you to lie to us!! The Russians didn’t come, either! — only Peter Sellers and a boatload of fools! How stupid do you think we are?” (Then I get this sinking feeling that yes, they do think that we are pretty stupid.)
However, “Perceived threat” is wearing very thin. Although such warnings are successful for awhile — intimidating people into holing up; running scared; agreeing to support an interventionist’s war; allowing a police state; handing over their rights and freedoms — at some point — and really soon, I would hope — Americans should begin to realize that the dreaded bogeymen just are not standing outside their doors. At some point — and really soon, I would hope — Americans will wake up the fact that while freedom is nearly a thing of the past; a police state has become the reality of the present.
Since I am a believer in the old adage, “The first step toward solving a problem is to find some humor in it,” my mind has been racing, trying to find a humorous angle from which to assess this strange situation in which we currently find ourselves. Low and behold, I recalled an old Bill Cosby routine! In the story, Bill’s parents could not pay for a babysitter so they could go out in the evenings. They solved their problem — for a while, at least — by confining young Bill to his baby crib and informing him that they had covered the floor with poisonous snakes. Repeatedly, they reminded him to stay in the crib — because of the snakes.
For a while the “Snakes!” threat worked, and Bill stayed safely in his crib until the parents’ return. Eventually, however, curiosity and confinement got the better of him, and he began to ask, “Snakes? Are you out there, snakes?” Getting no response, Bill decided to test the situation, “Snakes? I’m just going to put my foot out of the crib. Don’t bite it! Only give it a little licky-lick.” The courageous young Bill discovered that there were no snakes at all! Only lies had been put in place; lies that frightened him into allowing his freedoms to be stolen. With relief, he left the crib; immediately turned on the TV to watch the late, late scary movie; handled the more realistic monsters on the television screen with his own resources for personal defense — Jello spread on the floor in front of the door.
I feel very much confined to a crib by a snake pit of lies, and never more so than when I am teaching in the public school. At first (and prior to 9-11, even) our school was assigned a deputy sheriff who would be in our building a few hours a week. We were told that he would help if we had any problems. I immediately turned to him for help, explaining that my young teen had successfully completed the Snowmobile Safety course, but that he had been denied the Certificate of Completion because his parents (me, to be precise) refused to release his social security number. I told the officer that the Michigan Secretary of State had confirmed that her office did not even require the SS number for a driver’s license, so there was certainly no need for a child to provide it for a short course in handling a snowmobile. I asked the officer to collect the document, which was being held at the sheriff’s office — being held until such time as ‘mother’ could be brought into line to dutifully do as she was told and provide the SS number. Looking very uncomfortable, the ‘helpful’ deputy said that he would get back to me — which, of course never, ever, happened. (I never, ever released the number, and the certificate can yellow, age and rot, for all that I care. The snowmobiles get ridden, with or without it.)
This year, however, the side of the crib is being raised ever higher — for our own safety, of course. Part time police ‘help’ has become full time police presence. Somehow (wink, wink) our tiny, rural school district, was awarded a ‘wonderful’ grant to pay for a police officer to be in our building at all times. The officer does not discipline misbehaving children; does not do hall duty. He spends his time as ‘Officer Friendly,’ standing/walking around chatting with the children.
He is nice enough, but not the presence that I believe is conducive to a setting where the focus should be on education. His presence encourages people to believe that trouble is to be expected. That goes against my grain, for I proceed through my days with the expectation that my students will behave nicely and learn much. I believe that “What you expect is what you get.” (My thanks to Jack Kelly of Iowa, for teaching me such an important lesson, and for doing it early in my teaching career.)
Well…now, in addition to Officer Friendly, we have Lock-down instructions, should the worst happen and the building need to be on ‘lock-in’ or ‘lock-out’ status. We were recently provided with a thick sheaf of papers — fancy, color-coded, covering any emergency or danger that could befall a school; eagerly provided by our county government. At least the county is taking the credit. Frankly, I suspect that the Homeland Security office put together this ‘Emergency Response’ kit. I suspect that eventually these reams of paper will be handed out at all schools, hospitals, VFW halls, movie theaters, day care centers, beauty shops…
I used to fret about the all-night lock-ins; now I chafe under all-day lock-outs. All doors into the building, but one, are now kept locked. Keep those terrorists, bogeymen and snakes outside of the school! If it were not so inconvenient, it would be funny. In all truth, the intrusions about which I am most concerned, considering our particular area, are a hunter’s stray rifle bullet, and the arrival of a deer seeking refuge from that very hunter.
We have been encouraged to keep our classroom doors locked, but since we already have more than enough interruptions during instructional time, I certainly do not need to walk back and open the door each of the fifty-eleven times that someone comes to my room during any given day. We already get five or more intercom interruptions just during Academic Enhancement time — class periods when we are supposed to keep students focused on better achievement! Focus on achievement? Raise competency levels? Teach reading? Right!
We have been assured that we will be given additional training, including the use of ‘Green card/Red card’ and how to put the cards in our windows to signal, to emergency response personnel, the gravity of any situation within our classrooms. Since my room is on a courtyard, I’ll just have to signal to the flowers and the Indian totem pole. We have been informed that we will even be practicing mass evacuations — teaching will come to a halt as we load all children on school buses and cart them to camps unknown. My heart misses a few beats, knowing, as I do from experience, that “What you expect is what you get.”
I, for one, do believe that the ‘snakes’ are really out there, even if the terrorists are not. If the people would look closely, they would recognize them as our own citizens — Americans working as agents for the too-powerful central government; foolish Americans who have been convinced that they have a right — a duty, actually — to be our jailers.
Justin Raimondo, author of the excellent biography of Murray Rothbard, An Enemy of the State, discusses this ‘snake’ problem, saying “The last war had deprived us of our liberties, economic and civil, and ushered in the postwar national security-welfare state” then he quotes Frank Chodorov:
All this the “isolationists” of 1940 foresaw. Not because they were endowed with any gift of prevision, but because they knew history and would not deny its lesson: that during war the state acquires power at the expense of freedom, and that because of its insatiable lust for power the state is incapable of giving up any of it. The state never abdicates. (Pg 80)
The state will never return our lost freedoms; it will only continue to take more. It will be up to us to demand, and take back, our God-given rights. God help America if we all sit, fearful of snakes, each in our personal ‘crib’ — until the only ammunition left to us is…Jello.
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.