Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Emperor's New Clothes

American kids are less familiar with Andersen's classic The Emperor's New Clothes than their European counterparts. They spend more time watching educational video cartoons that teach colors, numbers, letters and other things deemed useful, such as the ultimate potty humor  (The Unflushables, available in ebook, hardcover and audio). But kids are kids everywhere and American kids are no different than the kids in Anderson's story - they can be brutally frank.

Today, I got an assignment of the kind I hate the most: to cover the latest U.S. shooting of interest, and I say "of interest" because there are too many to cover all, so we choose only those that attract attention with their weirdness or degree of awfulness. 

In this case, the shooter was mentally ill (aren't they all?) and he ran out of his vehicle naked from waist down to fire at presumably sane people. A background search shows that he has claimed to have been stalked by celebrity Taylor Swift and that last year he tried to approach the White House with four firearms on him. 

The only redeeming aspect of the story, the one that was worth writing about, was the bravery of a young man who in a crucial moment decided that if he was going to die, he would die fighting. The man was hailed as a hero because he had disarmed the killer and prevented more bloodshed. He declined the accolades, saying he had reacted instinctively to save his own life and not the lives of others. The honesty of the young black man, named James Shaw jr., is refreshing to say the least.

I have not checked the statistics lately, but in my estimate, based on the news reports that I was not allowed to miss, most of the mass shooters in this country are young white men. The Las Vegas shooter was not young, but he made up for it by killing a bigger number of people than his younger counterparts.

Reactions to the shootings have been entirely predictable (pro-gun vs. anti-gun, the sanctity of the 2nd amendment, etc.) until the Valentine Day shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. For the first time we have heard Americans, mostly young Americans, question if the right to own a firearm is more important than the right to live. That question was almost unthinkable in the past.

In Anderson's fairy tale, the courtiers fawn over a foolish king, "admiring" his invisible clothes, because to admit they can't see them would make them appear uninformed and unworthy of the king's company. Our courtiers fawn over the 2nd amendment even when privately question its effects on today's society. 

Kids in Anderson's tale ridicule the naked king, making the adults finally acknowledge the obvious. Our kids today are shouting out what is clear for all to see: we are being massacred so that people who like powerful gadgets can obtain them, be they too young or insane. American youngsters may have to shout a lot louder before the most powerful of our courtiers acknowledge the truth.

Meanwhile, Friday's report from Florida: One student was wounded at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. The incident occurred shortly before students were to walk out as part of a national protest against gun violence. A resource officer, Deputy Jimmy Long, heard a loud bang at 8:39 a.m. and rushed to the scene........ One student was wounded ..... 19-year-old suspect was apprehended.

The news is neither weird nor horrible enough to earn anything more than local media attention.


P.S. Worth noting: 

The National Rifle Association has announced that weapons will not be allowed when Vice President Mike Pence delivers keynote address at the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action's leadership forum in Dallas on Friday. The NRA says the ban was ordered by the U.S. Secret Service.

Matt Deitsch, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who helped organize the "March for Our Lives" protest, wrote on Twitter.

"Wait wait wait wait wait wait you're telling me to make the VP safe there aren't any weapons around but when it comes to children they want guns everywhere? Can someone explain this to me? Because it sounds like the NRA wants to protect people who help them sell guns, not kids."


Anonymous said...

I needed to thank you for this good read!! I certainly loved every bit of
it. I have you book marked to look at new stuff you post…

Zlatica Hoke said...

Thank you!