The acrimony of politics continues to get in the way of looking at public safety and mental health issues. That's not surprising. Christmas spirit -- yes I insist on calling it by its offensive religious overtone name -- seems to have deserted the United States this year giving way to a permanent siege of political angst.
So I have to laugh at the irony of the reaction to the NRA's call for more police in schools because it's exactly the recommendation that Bill Clinton made about the "Cops in Schools" initiative in the aftermath of Columbine. The more things change, the more things stay the same.
Here at last we have a net sum bipartisan recommendation and of course we reject it utterly. The United States proves once again that we are not so much interested in solutions as we are interested in soothing our need to express ourselves. Trumped by the love of snark yet again.
Let's explore the hyperbole though. Where does it take us?
My first reaction to the proposal was actually somewhat negative. Call me a traditionalist but I'm one of those people that just doesn't like living in a country where moving about in daily life is the equivalent of passing though a series of TSA checkpoints. May I see your papers please? Combine that with Internet technology, RFID chips and eventually retina scans and we're living in a patchwork of green zones and outside the wire badlands in America. Not to mention -- since we are talking a about a federal level instant check future -- entire classes of people who will avoid the green grass on the other side of the FLOT. That's "forward line of troops" for those of you that did not learn military speak. Think this is nuts? Go for a walkabout in Afghanistan. We've already put that "tech" into action there and after the fiscal cliff the companies that make that stuff will be looking for a "new market" opportunity to peace dividend said technology. Look in the nice machine before turning in your homework please.
Ok so having gotten my deepest "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" yearnings out of the way, onto the mechanics of the proposal.
Today's rhetoric -- like all myopic American arguments -- is about guarding the gates of schools; make that all schools, all the time. That's a lot of schools. But wait! Violent mass killing events have occurred outside of schools. They've occurred in movie theaters. They've occurred in parking lots. They've occurred on vacation islands; this last example admittedly did happen in Norway. So multiply the size of the job by all the green zones, aka all the gun-free zones, that would need to be guarded in this new safety starts at the wire version of America.
Bear in mind that mass killers -- while mad as hatters -- are also resourceful when it comes to the predator vs. prey game that plays out in their heads as they emerge from obscurity to shock our senses with the unthinkable. Going down this path means closing more and more holes in the perimeter as time goes on. It just is.
A bigger government solution -- even an uncomfortable bed fellows bipartisan one -- is expensive. In a typical police department there'd be many officers assigned to a School Resource Officer bureau -- SRO is code for "cop on campus" -- as there are assigned to patrol, traffic or detectives. They'd get bored just sitting there so they'd likely be flitting between campuses. That sets up a false defensive posture because -- as any well-heeled threat knows -- you attack when the guards aren't on station.
It's helicopter warfare all over again. The U.S. track record isn't so good at this. We lost the one we tried in the '60s and the issue remains in doubt with regards to our latest attempt. So naturally, let's try it on ourselves and maybe we get it right this time.
Well you can't very well leave the no guard at the post security holes open; well maybe we can deny it until the first, second or third proof by death that a determined mad dog can still wreak carnage. This of course causes the old "village defense force" plan to activate. So we'll wind up arming the locals. We'll send them to powers of arrest and use of force classes. We'll issue them CCW licenses. We'll insist they practice their marksmanship and take "active shooter" scenario combat training classes. We'll breed and raise to the stature of respected citizen a new group of well-armed Americans.
And that's pretty much how the stoichiometry tends to go. Been that way on this planet since the Mayan calendar was first printed. Ok so now big government is happy. The NRA is happy. The "green zones" are safe.
But what, if anything, have we improved about life outside the wire? About the plight of the mentally ill still ignored. About the people who dare not approach the ramparts lest they be revealed as social undesirables and swept away in an Internet enabled checkpoint instant. They will still be there. They will still be suffering. We will not have done that much to reduce the probability or even the rate of people falling into the cracks of our utopia as we wait and dare the sick to come across the wire.
Somewhere in this discussion of how to make America a safer place for all, we still need to turn our attention to the fact that the world outside our comfort zone is still part of the United States; that these at-risk individuals and their families are still and always will be Americans.
I'm not against the line of thinking that Mr. LaPierre and President Clinton have espoused. The strategy has utility even given some inherent limitations. I just don't think it's a comprehensive enough investment in the future of a safer America.