For the Children!

Little Green Footballs asks: Were there plans in the works for a Beslan-like massacre in San Diego?

It doesn't matter whether plans actually existed, or whether a threat was truly posed---they didn't, as the article to which LGF links clearly states. It does not matter. The mere discovery of materials discussing public school security, in the abstract, in the possession of a person engaged in armed conflict against Coalition forces in the Middle East, is enough to contemplate for the moment. It crossed their minds.

Incidentally, a few weeks ago I posted a prediction on this sort of thing happening at StrategyPage's prediction market, though I thought Europe a more likely place for it to occur.

I'm not a particularly bright or well-spoken or uniquely malicious person, and it crossed my mind.

Now take a deep breath and one looong step backward to see the bigger picture.

Public schools are not the only vulnerable public spaces in America. They represent a tiny fraction of them all. Add day care centers, nursing homes, and churches. Then add shopping malls. Then keep on adding.

We can't put armed guards and concertina wire around them all. We can't put automatically locked doors and ID card swipers at all the entrances to them.

My day job is on a military base. I know what it's like to work in facilities that protect themselves like that, 24/7. It is incredibly expensive, incredibly slow, and it brings out the worst in people who think they are smarter than you. I can work like that but I will not live like that, and I won't ask my neighbors or teach my kids to live like that either. Our economy cannot survive it and our national character will not tolerate it.

Still, the threat exists to my neighbors and my kids, even though the most evidence for that threat is a CD-ROM found in Iraq, burnt with a pdf pulled from an open web page. What measures we take to counter that threat must be consistent with the national character we have chosen for ourselves, and otherwise be within our reach.

My Googling skills are failing me in seeking one politician's exhortations that we must not change the way we live, but to change the way the other bastards live. We are indeed doing the latter, at great expense and sacrifice, but it will not be enough. In some way we will have to change how we live, but it will not be in the direction of C-wire and ID badges. These measures simply wrap defensive layers around what remains a vulnerability.

I would rather deny any adversary his ultimate goal, by erasing that vulnerability and giving up some or all of the layers of defense surrounding it. This will have to be a change in attitudes first, then laws second, but little or no money need be spent publicly to bring it about.

I assert this without apology. We will remain vulnerable as long as it is not commonplace for people in public to be armed, able to protect themselves and the innocent among them.

As I have argued in other spaces, the present conflict will not be over until our servicemen begin to bring home Persian wives. That represents the "change how the other bastards live" aspect of the solution.

But it is only half of the solution. The other half will be signaled by, for instance:

  • being able to buy targets at Target, and a brick of .22LR while you're at it;
  • turning on TLC to see Paige Davis or Bob Vila advise a young couple on renovating a rifle on This Old Mauser;
  • the high school yearbook photos show a larger trap shooting team than basketball team;
  • an adult showing anxiety around firearms will earn the same contempt we express today for a man who beats his wife, or the same pity we express to one who lacks the capacity to wipe one's own bottom.

Deny our philosophical enemies their ultimate goal by encouraging their victims to fight back. Celebrate the armed virtue.

The objection will be raised that we would be changing how we live. I concede that. But we would be changing toward a lifestyle of fewer fences and alarms and locked doors, fewer face-commparing cameras and identity badges, more economic prosperity, more confidence in oneself. We would be transferring our uncertainties to those who have taken advantage of our uncertainty.

Those who view human life through the lens of class should welcome the erasure of boundaries between the protected, protecting, and unprotected classes. Increasingly, this is the only stratification that matters, if we are to regard one another as equals before the law.

I do not present this as a complete solution, for no solution can be complete. It does not speak to concerns that jihadis will obtain a nuclear explosive, or smallpox, for example. But those contingencies are best addressed by military force over the course of weeks, months, and years.

The seizure of a school or a church by jihadis, on our own soil, which surely has been contemplated by our enemies, can be thwarted only in seconds, by the spontaneous and violent reaction of the people who were in that school or church at the moment it occurs.

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