Children, Risk and #Newtown: don’t let Fear win
I have 3 kids, aged 5, 7 and 9. I cannot even pretend to relate to those who lost their kids, but I can picture what an obliterated classroom would do to them and me.
After the shooting news broke out I was like many people consumed by a mix of physical pain, sorrow and anger. Anger soon took over for a simple reason : events like these are predictable and systemic in American society today.
The question for all of us is what we do about it. As a parent in particular, how do you react to this event when next week comes ?
Here are a few tweets from my stream yesterday:
I get where Shervin and Saikat are coming from : how can you not want to protect the kids ? I think they are wrong though, playing in the hands of those who have been successful at making sure guns are everywhere and available to anyone.
Here is what I believe, with an absolute and consuming passion: I have no interest in living in a world where the rational answer to irrational acts is to curtail my freedom with yet more guns and yet more controls.
Let me make two points:
- There will always be crazy people like Anders Breivik or Adam Lanza who will plan devastating attacks that will succeed. There will always be criminals with guns. There will always be the risk of a crazy crackhead coming into your house late at night. That's just life. You cannot eliminate risk altogether; what you can do, however, is meaningfully move the probability curve and reduce the likelihood that this ever happens. However, more security is not the answer for obvious reasons.
- Indeed, there is no end to a cycle of increased security. First we can store two guns at school and make sure we have a security guard on staff. When that fails, we can get every teacher trained and packing a concealed weapon. When that fails, we can add security to daytrips too or have a marshall in every class. When that fails, we can ban daytrips altogether. Maybe we can sue summer camps for not having trained and armed security personnel on staff ? Where does this end ? It ends with everyone armed and packing all the time.
Don't let Fear win you over
Terrorists win when they instill fear. We did not let them win after Sep 11; in fact look at New York : it became a more open, friendlier, better city.
Gun violence does exactly the same : it instills fear. Have a gun at home, have a gun at work, have a gun at school. Live behind bars. Have metal detectors at school. Feeling safer now ?
Let's not let fear win the day. The NRA is sitting pretty right not commenting and waiting for the logical conclusion : if we had a security guard or a teacher packing he could have stopped the attack. Is that the society you want ?
Our kids deserve a world where they can take risks
So my response to Newtown is: it is a terrible random act of violence that highlights the needs for our kids to live in a society where the sanctity of human life is paramount, where the sanctity of human life is taught at school, where the sanctity of human life permeates everything that we do.
It is not to say that our kids deserve more security. Our kids rarely walk anywhere, they get driven. They don't get lost in the forest anymore, they play in a small gated playground.
What we need to give our kids is an environment where they are free to take MORE risks without thinking about the consequences. Not guards at the gate.