I’m thoroughly enjoying a stimulating book called “The Coddling of the American Mind.” It’s calling us to task for our obsession with “Safetyism,” our good intention to protect children from harm backfiring because we are compromising their resilience and weakening their immune system by over-protecting them. Take away all peanuts from a school if one child has an allergy and a few years later, there is a rise in peanut allergies. Put hand sanitizer every ten feet and we get sick more often. Shield children from the realities of life’s hard truths— sickness, old age, death as if they were royal Buddhas (see Buddha’s story)— and they have no strength to face life’s sorrows. A good-hearted person might see a butterfly struggling to leave the cocoon and assist it, but in so doing takes away precisely what the butterfly needs to survive. Kids who eat dirt, get scraped knees, weep mightily when their pet dies are doing precisely what they need to to build strong bodies, immune systems and emotional health.
But here’s the rub. While we’ve weirdly agreed that one kid falling from a rope swing over the lake means taking down the swing so no children will ever enjoy it, we seem just fine continuing to manufacture and casually sell deadly assault weapons while cutting medical coverage to get help with mental health issues and cutting school programs that might help kids feel valuable and that they belong—like Orff music programs, for example. The things that seriously protect children from assaults that they will never recover from— death by random terrorism—are the things we’re not willing to insist on. And yes, peanut allergies are a real danger to those who have them and we should know what dishes contain them if they ask and train those folks to take care of themselves. But assault weapons are proving to be a real danger to all of us who dare decide to go to a Festival, a movie, a church, a synagogue or a shopping mall. Might we pay just a little bit more attention to this?
There have been three mass shootings in the last 8 days in America. One in Gilroy close to where I’m teaching at the moment, one in Texas close to where another teacher lives and one in Dayton close to the college I attended. It doesn’t really matter whether I have a personal connection with these places, because all shootings are the responsibility of all American citizens to grieve and take action ten thousand times beyond those hypocritical “thoughts and prayers.” Three incidents in 8 days. And the NRA goes merrily on its way and the politicians keep moving gun control that has proven to make a huge difference in actual civilized countries to the back of the line and people get their panties all twisted up about a peanut found in school while blithely excusing the next assault weapon terrorist attack.
We are all now card-carrying members of the Hall of Shame. Relax about peanuts and get to work on guns. All of us.