Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hallowe'en Week: Maddness

Photo courtesy Flickr user Kaptain Kobold

Gun violence is a housekeeping issue: blood stains hardwood flooring. Bullet holes are an unsightly reminder of distressing events. A dear friend went ballistic when the school shootings happened at Sandy Hook. I happened to Email her about the subsequent memorial playgrounds shortly before the recent event in Tulalip brought the issue far too close to home.

Margaret had worked in the office of a suburban high school, taking the well-being of every student deeply to heart. She’s a maiasaurus in every good sense of the word. My hope is that the same energies that generated Mothers Against Drunk Driving can be brought to bear on gun violence in the schools. It may be sexist to say so, but we’re fortunate to have female representation in the congressional district where the shootings occurred and to have two female senators. I can’t think of a better ear for school concerns than The Honorable Patty Murray.

The Indian tribe that was affected by the violence might be able to make an original contribution to ensuring that our children feel safe to open their minds to learning. The tribe’s recent history of asserting self-governance and their willingness to share their prosperity with surrounding communities have given them a vigorous, effective, and independent perspective on social problems. Clearly, efforts to control gun violence in the schools are not working. The issues are too polarized.

Tribal governance relates to the nation on a State Department level. The treaties that regulate behavior are entered between sovereign entities. Tribal economy is founded on the longest-surviving hunting and gathering culture in the world. Local matrons of European descent, like my friend Margaret, grew up grounded in the same traditional hunting and berrying culture-who can turn down homemade wild blackberry jam or elk burger?

I hope it’s not too much of a reach to suggest that a conference sponsored by a tribe might find common ground between gun rights advocates and peace-loving educators. Fortunately, much of the research behind Don Kates’ Great American Gun Debate was sponsored by the University of Washington and is locally relevant. Mr. Kates is an Oakland constitutional lawyer specializing in the second amendment. His book has telling comments about intellectual honesty, class issues, and the media.

Another matter underlies concerns about school safety. Military experts define the future of modern warfare as “low-intensity urban combat”. Think Beirut, if you’re old enough to remember. The idea that each of us might be mortally challenged at nearly any time is daunting, but should hardly intimidate someone who grew up in the shadow of a Cold War missile, the threat of which limited one’s realistic perception of the future to twelve minutes. It’s all a matter of percentages, as anyone who commutes by personal vehicle knows.

Military science, aka medicine in reverse, looks realistically at threats and counter-measures. The Israeli martial art I learned to call Klav Naga uses simple mobbing to control aggression. The heroes of Flight 93 defined mobbing on 9/11, when they neutralized the cheap human-guided missile aimed at the White House. I understand two things about military science: mobbing is the fundamental behavior and drawing one’s sword is an admission of failure. That’s a curriculum I can look straight in the eye.

Women are now, and finally, invested in military service. A recent broadcast news story about formal recognition of women in combat featured an official question of a female helicopter pilot. The man sitting at the head table asked her if she felt discriminated against. She answered that she had ferried too many wounded women out of harm’s way to ignore the issue any longer.

An uncle by marriage was a career Marine. Uncle Jack referred to the Viet Nam era upper right front page listing of casualties as “the box score”. The box score dropped by nearly two powers of ten from ‘Nam to Afghanistan. Sunday’s Meet the Press covered recent lone actor attacks in Ottawa and other cities. There is such a thing as an acceptable loss. The freedom to learn is not an acceptable loss. I suggest that military educators participate in a dialogue about school safety, paying particular attention to the cognitive effects of computer games, that I understand were developed as military training curricula. The games aren’t going to go away, but I think design standards should be considered as carefully as the ten commandments.

The famed English public schools, which is to say private names like Eaton and Harrow, were founded to shelter sons of privilege during their civil war. Those schools were the model of the American academies that were set up in the nineteenth century. I can’t see sheltering every student in a bastion of privilege, but I can see liberating bastions of privilege to protect the back of every child.


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