Note: I had written this on April 5, 2007, and planned to submit it on the 20th of April. In light of recent events, I have decided to submit it now, as it is applicable to the latest tragedy as well. I have elected not to make any changes or updates to this essay. The reader, therefore, might be struck by the fact that it still answers charges made in the days to come.
Eight years ago, suburbanites became aware of their own mortality. The experience of gun violence, which was supposed to be confined to the underclasses in the ghetto, shattered their own worlds. That, though, isn’t all that happened eight years ago.
Eight years ago, the government convinced the middle class that children killing children was a symptom of having too many guns, not of a problem with the children. It is only natural, they said, that children will seek to harm and kill other children if their parents own guns. This has gone on throughout human history — except it hasn’t, not within a society, within a neighborhood. Children play war, they don’t slaughter each other. For a child to so sadistically stalk and kill his prey is uniquely terrifying, and reducing it to the gun is completely absurd. That, though, isn’t all that happened eight years ago.
Eight years ago, they convinced us that the horror in a government institution, shaped by governmental forces, under the eye of state administrators, justified ever-growing governmental control over our lives. The logic may not seem to hold, but such is the logic of the state, every crisis an opportunity to create fear, each ounce of fear an invitation to seize more control. Still, that isn’t all that happened eight years ago.
Eight years ago, Americans utterly failed to ask just why it is that SWAT teams move efficiently and quickly when attacking citizens, when making raids on those who peaceably provide to people chemicals that they desire, but that SWAT seems utterly incapable of acting when called upon to protect our citizens. Their cars may say "to serve and to protect," but one never sees a policeman serve another, nor did they seem particularly anxious that day to protect. For hour upon hour, we watched and waited while the police discussed whether or not they should enter the building and stop two teenagers who were slaughtering innocent children. Perhaps if we saw this type of deliberation before drug raids, at least they would stop entering the houses of, and killing, completely innocent people — they might at least check the address. Perhaps that was what they were doing for all those hours eight years ago — making sure they didn’t enter the wrong school.
They must, we are told, protect themselves, and had to wait for their own safety. This, of course, is what any of us would do — after monopolizing the power to protect, and swearing to protect these hundreds of children, not do so until we were completely assured of our own safety. Such bravery these men showed.
Just what are the children of this country being taught? For public school children, let us consider. They spend at least 6 hours a day, 5 days a week being educated by the government. The government teaches them our current national mythology. There is no real right and wrong; morality is best viewed in terms of logical positivism. Rights are granted by men with guns, and only insofar as they benefit the men with guns; those men can take them away at any time. Appropriate heroes for them to admire are policemen — the heroes who failed to save them, soldiers, Presidents, and, well, teachers. Are we naïve enough to suggest that these kinds of lessons do not have an effect? When you destroy a child’s moral intuition, tell him that theft and murder are alright sometimes, as long as they are done with good intentions, tell him that the most noble figure is the soldier invading foreign lands, are you surprised that he solves his problems with violence, or at the point of a gun?
It is easy enough to dismiss the killers’ stated reason for the attack — their lack of popularity and having been bullied. Granted, these are not good reasons to launch a murderous assault on innocents. But, then, are Saudi hijackings good excuses to kill innocent Iraqis? When the much-to-be admired Bush expresses his dislike of other’s actions with blood, why cannot our children do likewise?
Let us ask the question — just how much does a child have to be bullied, how cruel do his classmates have to be, for him to ever consider such an act? Just what has happened when it is considered acceptable for children to bully one another until they reach this point? Where were the adults?
Not helping, that’s for sure. The state compels children to attend their schools, and once there, the children are thrown together into forced association. The adult supervision is limited, it seems at times, to forcing this integration, not to monitoring the way the children behave towards one another. Forced into this artificial community, where children face punishment for separating themselves from the group, the children are left to fend for themselves, after all, it isn’t the school’s fault if the children just won’t get along. Segregation, even self-segregation, is anathema — the quiet, sensitive boy must be kept in constant contact with the wise-assed athlete, despite the fact that every time he draws near he is the subject of abuse, verbal or otherwise. In the absence of government coercion, these two would never be near each other, and as the school forces them together, so does their desire to separate grow. The school is happy so long as they associate, even if that association is the athlete belittling, insulting, and perhaps even striking the other boy. After years and years of such behavior — of being pushed by irresistible forces towards a hurtful actor — is it a wonder that frustration grows, that violence may even result? This is not to excuse murderous rampages, but rather to understand them. If we can find the cause, we can prevent future rampages.
Give up your guns and your freedoms to prevent disaster? What greater folly can you imagine? We have been told for eight years that disasters in a government-run building, pressurized and pushed towards explosion by government-imposed rules, and unable to be stopped by government-sanctioned heroes, are reasons to cede ever-greater portions of our lives to the wise oversight of the government. Have we gone so far that we cannot recognize obvious scams like this when we see them?
Joshua Katz, NREMT-P [send him mail], is Chief of EMS at the Town of Hempstead Department of Parks and Recreation. He has studied philosophy of mind, logic, and epistemology of economics from an Austrian perspective, and is a former graduate student in philosophy at Texas A&M, as well as holding a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He presentlyworks in EMS atLegacy EMS and Harris County Emergency Services. He enjoys a glass of port and a wedge of Brie, but has discontinued this practice on a regular basis, due to the sugar content of the port.