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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
March 19, 2018

3/6/2018 9:46:00 AM
One solution for school violence may be close to home
For the Daily News

I like people with guns. I also like some people who don't have guns. I shouldn't have to choose who I like and who I don't because of whether they have a gun or not. It seems we've lost the ability to be reasonable. It's immaterial whether it was done to us or we did it to ourselves, neither of those considerations will make it any better.

In the law we have a fictional ideal called the "reasonable man" standard by which we measure human behavior in a particular instance. The analysis goes like this: "So and so happened, ladies and gentlemen of the jury; you have heard testimony and considered the evidence, and now are asked to weigh the facts and decide whether the conduct of the defendant was what a reasonable man would have done under the circumstances."

There isn't really a "reasonable man," but we pretend we can agree on what he might do in a particular setting while knowing that it would not take much of an investigation into what any of us believe to discover differences among ourselves. That doesn't bother me.

I lived on the South Side of Chicago while in law school and rode the buses early in the morning and late at night to get downtown to class and home again, and had to sit with strangers nearly every day and night. I stood out a good bit, as you might imagine - maybe my Native American heritage was obvious enough to engender fears that I might go on the warpath. Or it may have been something else.

Of course that's not true. It doesn't show on the outside what I'm feeling on the inside, ordinarily. I didn't think they were plotting to rob or murder me just because they were mostly black, either, so it wasn't fair of me to think the opposite of them. In the end, we got along peacefully with one another. Jessie, the bus driver, did start to speak to me once the fritters appeared.

I found a bakery open early near where I boarded the bus each day and discovered that for less than $5 I could get a large box of edible day-old donuts and started to pass them out now and then to anyone who wanted one on our ride downtown. Jessie preferred apple fritters, I noticed, so I handed him one with its napkin as I deposited my fare. He said once it wasn't necessary, and I said I wouldn't do it if I couldn't afford it, so he took it. Some wanted one, some didn't; I was fine with it either way because I put the leftovers out in the lobby at school on the little table next to the elevators for anyone who was hungry.

What does this have to do with school shootings, you may be wondering? Everything, and nothing, is the answer. School shootings are a symptom of a problem, not the problem. Guns by themselves are not the problem, shooting children with them is the problem, and while there are many ways to stop that, putting more guns in our schools is not one of them.

Intimidation is the least effective device we have to modify deviant human behavior. As we polarize ourselves and become more strident in our opposition to one another, we lose sight of how effective our united collective action could be. Our ability to work together for the common good is what we're losing, and recognizing that as the real problem is a first step to make things better.

Continued on Page 5

The blame game is unproductive in the long run in making social changes that yield a peaceful society. While I am concerned about things that happen elsewhere, and my heart goes out to the parents who have suffered the greatest loss that could ever have happened to them, I look around me and think what we need isn't more gun-control regulations or armed deputies in our schools or more religious training or stricter discipline in our homes, but rather something to show the children, all of the children, that we love them.

We love them when they're hyperactive and difficult and we love them when they're tired and cranky. We love them all, all of the time, because children are important to us.  I won't go into how important; you know the answer to that. The surprising part is how many of us feel this way, and that's the surprise we need to share.

I'm going to join the call for the building of a Crawford County rec center for the children. (Children of all ages of course; none of us age out of the need to feel loved by our community). There is a proposal out there to build a modern facility open 24 hours a day to everyone. It would tell everyone, children and adults included, that this is a community that cares about its people.

There are details that need to be worked out, but the important thing we can all contribute for the moment is our support for the idea itself. The funding is largely already pledged, and Lincoln Trail College, which is as centrally located as possible in terms of highway access, has offered to accommodate its construction.

Let's get behind this idea and say "yes" to anyone who asks if we know what can be done to reduce gun violence in our schools. You may not have thought of this as the answer, but then, that's why you read the Daily News - so you can say, "I'd never have thought of that!" when you see something like this.

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