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In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, when US Citizens seemed united in their revulsion of the devastating turn of events,  there appeared what could have been interpreted as a silver lining:  the at-long-last awakening to our every-day violent culture.  Thousands of people die every year by bullets in our world.  Perhaps we Americans would unite and stop the bleeding.

But this diary is not to advocate gun control.  Those wheels are already set in motion; I have nothing to add.  I wish Joe Biden and his project team well.

Rather I have been observing a response to this tragedy by a friend, a teacher that fears a repeat in our own city by another gun-wielding madman in her own elementary school.  Though I love her and support her right to speak out and advocate as she wishes on her position, I deeply disagree with her reaction because it is fear cloaked in the disguise of pragmatism; and it is as fine a real life example of how fear leads us down the path of disunity and division in the long run.

She wants doors.  It sounds so simple, so pragmatic.  The teaching environment is an open room school, where classes and some grades intermingle in the day to day learning.  So at certain times a day a hundred kids may be in the same room.  So, she wants doors to segment the classes, the theory being that a wacko would have a tougher time killing children with rapid fire automatic weaponry.  She's a woman of action; and has already presented her proposal to the PTA; and is poised to go in front of the school board to make her case.

I was saddened upon hearing of her determination to advocate for such a cause.  I learned for two years (4th-5th) in an elementary school in this type of teaching environment.  It was the most memorable - and happy - time from my elementary schools days.  I had been in a more traditional school environment K-3, and during these two next years, I advanced in my knowledge-absorption and social-maturity more so than perhaps any other time in my primary education. (I made a point to mention this to her, but it fell on deaf ears.  I have since kept my peace at social events.)

And there is a good chance she will prevail.  And this is the crux of my position.  She could be successful because no one wants to be on the six o'clock news as the administrator that once said "no" to doors that could have saved lives in the latest American shooting tragedy.  The fear of worst possible outcome is propelling this advocacy; and the fear of repercussions - no matter how remote - if the classrooms are not equipped with new barriers to entry may lead to acquiescence.

So a loving, healthy, positive teaching environment may be partly dismantled because we need to prepare the worst possible scenario "seen" in a smoked filled crystal ball darkened by terror.  

I reject it.  Imagine a world where we all rejected it.

Imagine a country that had rejected the idea that a few terrorists could with one hideous act successfully weaken our rights to privacy - the right to be able to board a plane without suffering the humiliation of a body Xray machine or an invasive personal body-search conducted by suspicious, empowered officials; or the right to know that our private phone conversations are not legally subject to a tap without a warrant.

Imagine a world where we rejected the idea that some small country is allegedly determined to go on a mass-suicide mission of building a nuclear bomb to attack a country with the largest stock-pile of weapons in modern history.

Imagine a county where we stopped shouting at each other over the internet over our fear of what "they" could do to us.  

Imagine a country where we stopped visualizing the worst that could happen, and instead stared fear itself in the eyes to watch that monster blink first.

We have massive problems in the country that need resolution, that I will not deny (the ease of buying war-weaponry combined with a weak mental health care system are just two of them).  

The biggest problem though is letting the harbingers-of-doom use fear itself to manipulate us into a more divided, paranoid state of mind.  This is where it starts - that dread of the worst unknown; the fear of what could happen if we resolutely said "no" to actions based on a hypothetical nightmare.

Yes, evil things happen.  They will always happen.  However, we must stop mistaking self-imprisonment for mitigation.

A cordoned off society has the illusion of being safer.  But who wants to live in a society of locks, gates, street-cameras, warrant-less wire taps, and perpetual war?  I don't.

Love and empathy:  it is the only way to a better world.  Let's tear down those walls. Unhinge those doors.  Shake the hands of our neighbors.


"...let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
 - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Originally posted to MaryAEnglish on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 11:57 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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