Friday, December 21, 2012

Arming like it's 1999

In the past few days, there's been a lot of talk about arming teachers as a defense against school shooters. It's a dumb idea for all sorts of moral, ethical and logistical reasons (not to mention how most people calling for it otherwise claim teachers are corrupt union minions who practically saturate their Charles Darwin books over the thought of indoctrinating our youth). That we're even having a serious conversation about arming teachers shows just how far we've eroded in just a few years.

In 1999, Esquire magazine ran this item in its year-end Dubious Achievements compilation:

For those of you unfamiliar with this feature, Esquire's Dubious Achievements issue highlighted all of the craziest, dumbest and most bizarre public moments of the past year. And 13 years ago, a proposal to arm teachers merited a choice entry on that list. It was crazy, dumb and bizarre, and the near-exclusive province of the nation's most famous gun nut. 

So much has changed since 1999. So much. And yet, it doesn't really seem like that long ago.

I have a longstanding habit of keeping old magazines. In going through them, I'm often grateful I never did the sensible thing and threw them out. And it's because of things like this. Shifts in national attitude often work like weight gain — you see yourself all the time and you know on some level you're changing, but you're too close to see the day-to-day effect. But then one day, you see a picture of yourself from 13 years ago and say, "Damn." The picture reminds you that change happens. And it reminds you that you can always change again if you don't like what you see.

Over the past decade, our collective fear of everything has blown off the charts. It's almost quaint to recall a time when we were supposedly innocent. But for all we've learned and come to appreciate in that time, I think we've also lost some degree of sanity. Maybe our first instinct shouldn't be to default toward more aggression. What was ridiculous in 1999 is still ridiculous today. Unfortunately, we're a little more ridiculous too.

Our problems deserve better solutions than past punchlines.

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