#48 Easy Solutions, Poor Results (2000)

All Rights Reserved © 2000 Thomas W. Day

In the year-aftermath of the country's many kid-killings, but especially the Loveland, Colorado school massacre, lots of people seem to have identified simple solutions to the problems that cause our kids to hate each other enough to want to kill. A real news reporter and columnist (the kind who don't seem to exist these days), H.L. Menken, said " There is always an easy solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong." 

I highlighted the word "wrong" because a big reason  we don't have many real news reporters is that we don't have many real news readers.  So, in case this rant manages to fall into the hands of non-Rat's Eye subscribers (all of whom are brilliant intellects and above average in all respects), I want to be sure that Mr. Menken wasn't misunderstood. 

Popular solutions haven't become any less simple or less wrong since his time, but we have a lot more simply wrong solutions to sort through.  This is based on the honestly simple fact that humans don't seem to be able to figure out who should reproduce and who shouldn't..

For instance, one of the parents of a girl murdered in Colorado told the Colorado state legislature (also known as the "Colorado State Home for the Overpaid and Mentally Deficient") that the lack of organized religion's presence in public schools is the root of the breakdown in the country's morality.  During America's religious primetime, lynching innocent folks was pretty popular in many of the Bible Belt states; and in all of the states below the waist.  I could be wrong, but that doesn't seem like a big moral improvement over anything going on today.  When I was a kid, the country, practically, had universal organized Christian activity in school. All around the country, you couldn't tell public schools from secular schools, unless the teachers were all wearing habits.  Kids were a hazard to other kids back then, too.  Maybe more so than today.

Minnesota's often-goofy governor claimed that more kids need to have guns so that the nuttier kids with guns would be afraid to use their guns. Our oversized, under-thoughtful Governor may be out to lunch.  Or out to referee a WWF match.  Or promoting his latest ghost-written book about his wasted and fantastic youth.  Anyway.

Colorado's problem was that there were too few guns in school?  There was a gun in every pocket, in the U.S.A. of the 1850's, and people got shot for just about any brainless reason you can think of. I suppose, eventually, it could be true that "a well armed nation is a polite nation," but how many reasonably mannered folks would have to die to complete that evolutionary correction? It's an interesting argument that failed the test in a simpler time.  It probably won't improve with more people and more problems in the mix. On the other hand, I guess it's possible that getting the damage done quickly might be just as efficient as letting it go on for another 225 years.

Flipping the legislative coin, a significant number of the country's lawmakers think the authors of the Second Amendment were just kidding around.  There must be 3,700 gun control bills scattered around the House and Senate. And another 7,400 similar bills litter various state government buildings.  Personally, I suspect that anything short of yanking the guns out of the cold, dead hands of every individual in the country won't do anything to improve safety in schools, or post offices. It's just an easy answer to the wrong question.

The problems kids face are far messier than surface changes in law can alter. Kids, of all ages, are a lot smarter than parents, teachers, legislators, and cops allow. Kids see what we do, and put more weight on action than words. What kids are seeing adults do is . . . anything we feel like doing.  From any objective perspective, there are no "standards of behavior" in modern life.  From the President's office to life on the street, rational and moral behavior is something that rarely happens enough for anyone to notice.

Maybe one real difference between now and yesterday is that it's a lot easier for kids to see what's really going on. Cops and politicians have always been, by and large, crooked and self-serving and dangerous. Today, we get to watch that behavior every night on television. If you want to read about it, do an Internet search on "police brutality" or "political corruption," and be ready for a long, depressing evening. While political figures have always been, on average, crooks, in the past it was harder to have that rubbed in our faces. Today, electronic and traditional media bury us in Washington's muck and the slimy activities of our local governments. "Public service" is a phrase that is completely out of fashion.  We don't even bother to label "carpetbaggers," these days.  We just expect it from anyone who's corrupt enough to want to hold a public office.

Try to think of a group that hasn't looked awful, when the public's attention is in that direction: the clergy, medicine, United Way and a hundred other "non-profits" that are little more than corporate empires, the military, the police, and on it goes.  In fact, pretty much any place the media light gets shown, we find a selfish corruption being illuminated.  The easy solution is "censorship."  Repressing the information isn't going to work, or happen. That genie's out of the bottle. What needs to happen is a dramatic change in how we deal with abuse of the public trust. First, there has to be some public trust.

Kids don't have any problem seeing through cultural smoke screens. They, instantly and intuitively, understand what we're saying with our actions.  When we chew up the Earth's resources, thoughtlessly and recklessly, we're practically screaming at them, "We don't care what your lives will be like after we're dead, we want to party now!" While any damn idiot knows that there is an end to the world's resources, lots of damn idiots are in control of wasting those resources at rates that are becoming measurable in "days of life left on earth." A lot of things are going to come to a screeching halt, in not very many years, and, if we don't care about the lives of our children, why should be expect them to care?

Tom Hayden once said, "My country let me right the wrongs." (And what happened to Tom, after Jane left him for the easy life of a billionaire's trophy bimbo?) The list of things that need to be done, so our children will believe they are wanted and that they have a reason to hope for a future, is practically limitless. The time for doing those things may be very limited.  There are no easy answers for any of these questions.  The best we can hope for is that there are answers.

December 2000

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