Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Of Bees and Men

Today I've been thinking about bees. And people.

At lunch, my three-year-old son started talking about bees, and when they sting. So, we had a little conversation about bees, and when and why they sting. Honeybees rarely sting when they're away from the hive. (Unless you step on them. Trust me.) Some bees are more aggressive than others. For example, most of the kids* I know up here in the north have a healthy fear of bald-faced hornets; and nobody needs to ask why. Africanized honeybees, anyone?

*The adults feel the same way, but they call it "healthy respect" instead of fear.

Then I remembered, long ago, seeing some of the hostages walk across the tarmac, and asking my mother: "Why Americans?" I'll never forget her answer: "If they had chosen a building full of Palestinians, the people would have risen up and torn them limb from limb. Americans just don't fight back."

Columbine. Santana High School. Twenty seven school shootings since 1959. Twenty-two of those since 1983. Twenty of those since 1991. Ten of those since 2000. For Pete's sake, we even have a slang phrase for this kind of thing: "Going postal." Hasn't anyone noticed a theme here?

So what is the difference between bees and men? Why do people take proven precautions when handling bees, and yet go about their lives acting as though shootings just don't happen?

In 2002, there was a similar scenario at the Appalachian Law School in Virginia. It began much as the Virginia Tech Massacre did--but upon hearing gunfire, two students (unbeknownst to one another) ran to their cars and retrieved their own firearms. They subdued Peter Odighizuwa without firing a shot, and the total death toll that day was three. Less than one tenth of the Virginia Tech shooting. The death toll that day could have been down to two, had those students been carrying their "hardware" on their persons instead of locked in their cars. Angela Denise Dales could still be alive.

In the animal kingdom, few will dispute that survival of the fittest is the supreme law. As human beings, we hope for better than that. We strive for things like reason, kindness, respect, compassion, understanding, forgiveness and love. But there always have been, and always will be, human beings who choose to go back to animal status when they prey on their fellow man.
Homo homini lupus est.*

As responsible adults, especially when we are responsible for children, it behooves us to consider these kinds of things. Deciding beforehand how you'll act in a given situation is the key to success. Instead of turning into a deer in the headlights, you can take action that can save your own life, and the lives of those around you. I remember learning of the Genealogical Library shooting in Salt Lake City, Utah, and wondering why nobody grabbed any one of the heavy or sharp objects in the library and went for the 70-year-old man who was wielding death that day.

I find the cries for lockdown policies cruel and cowardly. By locking down the building when a shooting begins, a death sentence is passed on those in the building with the madman. Sure, he can't shoot anybody outside the building, but those in the building have a very low chance of survival.
Besides, having publicly announced lockdown policies is clearly an advantage to a shooter--and we don't want to give them advantages. We want to discourage them. Giving the criminal such a clear advantage is barbaric.

I'm not trying to say that everyone should walk around armed to the teeth. My message today is simply that we need to stop hiding our faces and pretending that nothing like this will ever happen again. As a society, we're following the path of victimization when we could be changing the way we think about violence, and our reaction to it. We need to rethink our panic response to the idea that good people can decide to take steps to protect themselves and those around them. If you're not one who feels comfortable with that, you are completely within your rights to abdicate that responsibility. But turning every single American into a helpless target only aids and encourages further violence. (I'm not going to go into how absurd it is to give
Seung-Hui Cho air time on prime time for his video--c'mon, how much incentive do we want to give to budding lunatics? "Massacre a bunch of people and you, too, can be famous!")

I find it interesting that the schools handle misbehaving children in first grade by calling the police, who then arrest and book the child. The police told an interviewer that a six-year-old girl kicking a teacher is the same as an adult assaulting another adult. A frightening trend toward a zero tolerance policy with children, who are still learning what it means to be a good person, while showing compassion and leniency toward legal adults who have done horrific damage to so many lives, is outrageous. (C'mon . . . little Desre’e Watson's kick gets her put in jail for the day, and
Seung-Hui Cho's massacre of 33, (with 29 injured), gets him time on TV. Who should be getting the sympathy here?)

Please, let's not let this insanity continue. If a child kicks a teacher, call her mother. Arrange for counseling. Give her a big hug and some quiet time one on one and talk the whole thing over. As a mother of small children, love is what truly works the best with little ones. If they love you, they'll trust you and try to do as you ask. If an adult uses deadly force, let us defend ourselves. These types have a trend of killing themselves in the end, so let's save some lives in the process, shall we?

Leniency and understanding for children.

Zero tolerance for adults.

*"Man is a wolf to man." Thomas Hobbes

Note: I have taken a lot of time and care in composing this. I welcome questions, comments and discussion. But please keep it respectful and free of foul language. This is a family-friendly blog. Thank you.