I've intentionally refrained from writing about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary here on the Radical. Stories about teachers sharing their final moments cradling dying children are just too heartbreaking to really wrap my head around.
But as the "arm-'em-all" attitudes continue to break loose in legislatures around the country, I'm finding it harder and harder to stay silent.
And like so many other moments in the past two decades, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona -- the same guy that dressed convicts in pink underpants, forced them to live in tent cities in the middle of the desert and bragged about feeding them green bologna -- has elevated the lunacy to new levels.
"The self-proclaimed "America's Toughest Sheriff" joined forces this weekend with action movie star Steven Seagal to train volunteer armed posse members to defend Phoenix-area schools against gunmen.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced the controversial plan in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left 27 people dead, including the gunman and 20 first-graders.The exercise took place Saturday at a closed school site in suburban Fountain Hills, outside Phoenix, where sheriff's SWAT members acted as shooters and teenagers played the part of students during mock scenarios involving up to three gunmen.
Makes you feel safer already, doesn't it?
After all, what could POSSIBLY go wrong with a bunch of armed volunteers who trained with a washed-up movie star hanging around our buildings?
I think what bugs me the most about the trend in legislatures to find enough money to arm everyone even remotely connected to schools is that we've simultaneously spent the past two decades stripping our buildings of nurses, couselors, psychologists and social workers.
As Regan Mensch Brown explains in a recent letter to our local newspaper:
A nurse and counselor could have a far greater and more positive impact on children’s lives, identifying physical, mental and emotional problems that, if dealt with early in childhood, could change the future for the better of so many children.
These healthier children would become more successful adults, with less chance of mental and emotional illness – the real root of our mass shooting.
Regan is right, y'all: The simple truth is that we've GOT to protect our students -- but "protecting students" is going to depend on more than just our willingness to flood schools with pistol-toting practitioners or police officers.
"Protecting students" means making just as many concerted efforts to address the social, mental and emotional health of both the kids in our classrooms and the people living in our communities.