On Sandy Hook and the Perils of a ‘Man’s World’By Tanya Willow
My neighbor said she hadn’t stopped crying all weekend. A shooting at an elementary school? Another friend and mother of elementary aged children felt “apathetic” that weekend — that there is nothing that can’t be senselessly taken from her.
While this man’s world argues about their guns, explains the definition of an assault weapon, talks about organ-damaging bullets, of lining guns up next to crayons; while the president creates task forces and congressmen say they are “shocked” and wait for their next cue from the NRA, brokenhearted mothers read about 52-year-old Anne Marie Murphy, whose dead body was removed from on top of her classroom’s children in a failed effort to shield her babies from bullet spray.
Only in a man’s world do we imagine movie-like intruders breaking their way into a school. Average Clark Kent teachers, with the reach of a gun, transform into a well-regulated militia and take out the intruder while rolling on the floor of the school hall and firing precision shots into the team of invaders. Citizen children spring out the windows to safety and the world is once again made secure through guns.
If teachers resist taking on this additional responsibility, this man’s world suggests the “mall cop” alternative. Cheap security, paid for by taxpayers and mandated in some way so some private security firm rakes in a nice federal contract while your kids go without art or poor kids without food stamps, but we all agree to this trade-off because the “safety of children” will become politically untouchable and no one will dare question the need for armed amateurs in the schools.
In this man’s world tragedy is instantly transformed into political expediency. It’s not hard to imagine the end of assault weapons. Obama will claim a political victory over the NRA and the NRA will wait, as they did under Clinton, for the ban to expire. Twenty children and six women killed at the possible firing rate of six bullets a second is simply not enough to permanently take “semi-automatics” out of the cold dead hands of the NRA. Meanwhile, assault weapons fly off the shelves with gun stores unable to keep them in stock.
This man’s world equates guns and freedom, but when the Black Panthers tried to emancipate their race through the showing of arms at the California State House, Governor Ronald Reagan said individuals should not have guns and California soon passed a series of gun control laws, with strong Republican backing. Forty-one years later in Arizona, an AR-15 semi-automatic was the most dramatic of open arms brought to intimidate the first black president who was there for a speech, but there was no passage of gun control laws. Clearly the NRA-funded congressional support for the right to bear arms is dependent on who it is that’s carrying the weapon. Today blacks are far more in favor of gun control than whites. Women more than men.
In this man’s world violent death becomes the path to war, to the consolidation of power, to the repression of individual freedom and expression and to the expansion of the police state — all in the name of domestic safety and national security. It will not matter how costly or ineffectual or unconstitutional these reactions are. Government will give grants for schools to purchase “safety” technology. We’ll see more mandatory use of RF identifications — invented for cattle and already used in some Texas schools — that can monitor the wearer’s exact location. Whatever the specific form it takes, schools will function like prisons and we will acclimate to it as we did to the post 9/11 stripping of our privacy and constitutional rights.
Lanza shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School. A buzzing system didn’t help that. Cameras wouldn’t have stopped him. Lanza used his mother’s assault weapons so a background check wouldn’t have helped. He never got the chance to use all his bullets, so a bullet quota system seems more political than practical. He killed himself, as they often do, so the usual call for the death penalty has gone unheard. And having Rambo in every school as a practical solution is pure male fantasy.
Through a softer lens violence is much simpler and tragic. Senseless things happen. Rationally considering our policies around not just guns, but mental illness lacks glory. Using more federal dollars to arm teachers with the educational resources they need doesn’t have the drama of arming them with guns or installing cameras or guards, but would help the nation’s children far more.
Softer solutions that look at the larger consequences of our actions take time to develop but don’t carry the impact of “deploying’’ retired police officers in flack jackets with semi’s on their shoulders. Regardless of what the NRA thinks, our schools are not war zones. Our children are not inmates in protective custody. Yet we know that whatever the reaction to Sandy Hook, it will be intrusive and disproportionate and expand through time. Meanwhile women are holding their children close and wondering how, in this man’s world, to keep their babies safe.
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