My son, who is hopelessly addicted to electronics–just like everyone else these days–asked me if we had the book Shiloh at home. I told him we did, and asked him if he remembered when I read it to him a few years ago. He did not, which was a shame, since I did all different voices with the characters and everything.
I found the book and gave it to him and to his delight, it didn’t have “tape” on the words.
I asked him what he meant by that. My thoughts went immediately to how schools are underfunded and have beaten up old books that have to be cobbled together. We take care of our books in my house.
No, he told me, the school had gone through every copy of Shiloh and used white out tape to cover up any mention of the words “gun,” “rifle,” or any other firearms related term in the book.
This fucking country, man.
I get that there is a crisis going on, with kids getting a wild hair up their ass and deciding to go to school and shoot a bunch of people. My son has regular lock-down drills. He’s a third grader. The way that these drills are handled is horrifying. The teachers basically just start yelling to get down or lock the doors or whatever. This usually results in some kids bawling their eyes out because they are terrified.
Some schools are giving kids their own baseball to throw at an attacker. Which to me is ludicrous. Oftentimes the gun debate leans towards the prospect of arming teachers, which many reject outright. “We aren’t trained Law Enforcement who can deal with an active shooter!” No, but apparently, arming a bunch of 4th graders with sports gear is an acceptable solution when using deadly force. I’m gonna go on a limb here and say that getting pummeled with 30+ baseballs would suck, but I doubt we have any Nolan Ryans in the classroom who would do much more than put a bruise on someone’s leg. And besides, do we really want to encourage what is essentially stoning in our schools?
I mean, these are the same kids who can’t throw rocks at each other at recess without expulsion. Do they have the training or wherewithal to even direct a projectile at another human being in this way? Remember how badly Dodgeball is treated in schools?
I remember when I was a kid, we had fire drills. The alarm would go off. We would feel that rush of adrenaline in our stomachs, and in spite of our first reaction to scream “Yay! The school’s on fire!” we would just stand up, line up at the front door and calmly walk down the hall and then spend the next ten to twenty minutes milling around outside until the alarms were shut off in the building.
My son informs me that active shooter drills are the students huddling together in a corner of the room in absolute silence, other than the occasional child weeping uncontrollably in the reading nook, shielded by volumes of Dr. Seuss books and censored paperbacks of Shiloh. This can go on for upwards of half an hour. Of course nobody acknowledges the fact that drywall is not anything more than “light cover.” My son is split between two schools of thought. The side that they tell kids to fight off the attacker, and the other that says to hide like little mice and not to make a sound.
He asked me why adults won’t answer his questions about any of this. I told him, “Son, it’s because they are scared and they don’t know.” My suggestion to him was if there is an active shooter and he can get far, far away safely. Do that.
But the adults aren’t talking.
Here’s the thing that made me mad. At recess, my son and his buddies love to play combat. The resort to finger guns and sound effects to play exactly the same way kids have been playing in schools and playgrounds for hundreds of years. They are sneaky about it too. They also fill their brains with just about every damned thing they can about the military and are absolutely fascinated by it. A big reason they are fascinated by it is because the schools have made it a taboo subject. They have completely mystified gun violence.
They have removed firearms from the discussion completely. Which worked wonders with Prohibition, the War on Drugs, Rock and Roll, cigarettes, sex, witchcraft, and just about anything else the establishment has deemed as “forbidden.” It has gotten to the point that kids can’t even ask questions about Why something is happening or Why this is being done. Kids love to ask Why. They never accept “Because I said so” as an answer.
Which is why we have had people walk on the moon.
People absolutely SUCK at taking “because I said so” as gospel. Which is why we have so many religious denominations as well, because people kept looking for answers to their questions. This is also encouraged in analytical thought, or should have been, since Plato. When people stop asking questions is when things get dangerous. Questions such as “Why is it okay to buy and sell those people whose skin is darker than mine?” Questions such as “Why are we all getting on these boxcars again?” Questions like that.
Here’s my question: How does this make any sense at all? For the last 20 years, America has been in a “forever war” in the Middle East. In some cases there are active duty military personnel who are fighting alongside one or both parents. That is how long this war has been going on. The military is also a viable option for many people to find a career, or at the very least get training for a vocation or college funding. In case you didn’t know, the military is part of the Government. You know, the same government that runs schools, law enforcement, firefighting, roads and bridges, and everything else we pay taxes for. It’s the same government staffed by figureheads we argue about on facebook every day, plaster their faces on posters and lunchboxes, and demonize when our guy loses and theirs wins.
But guns are bad. So evil that the word needs to be removed from a middle-reader book. Even though when that kid is 18, they could enlist in the military or a police academy, and be turned out on the world with a totally evil and awful gun in their hands. Or you know, hunt for their food if the government fails them, much like what the poor white trash kid from Shiloh has been doing to help feed his family.
I guess it’s okay if Katniss Everdeen does it with a bow. But you have to white out “.22” when it comes to Shiloh.
But, kids who have an interest would already be considered social pariahs and at risk because of their interests. At some point, we start looking at things like classism. Aptitude testing. Psychological profiling. Filling the ranks of our police and military with kids who show a disposition for “Violence” and “Psychopathy.” Because that always ends well too. Let’s just profile people due to a perceived disposition for violence and put them into facilities or vocations.
Maybe what should be considered in censoring Shiloh is that a kid with nothing but a gun never considers using that gun on a man he considers vile, who has abused the only friend he has in the world, which he loves more than anything. At the heart of this story, there is love. Never once does the kid decide to go on a rampage. Instead, he works off his debt to earn his dog, and in the process, he earns the respect of others.
What the kid, and the cranky-ass old man learn, is compassion. Grace. Patience. Tolerance.
Removing guns from the discussion won’t solve anything. Removing discussions from the discussion is even worse. This is why people have championed against censorship throughout the history of this nation. Why it is the FIRST Amendment in our Bill of Rights.
It just pisses me off that the same schools that have “Banned Books Week” have the balls to ban words in those books. When you censor the individual words, you leave a blank space that is open for anything else to get in. Because nature abhors a vacuum. And when you can’t supply children with answers to their questions, they come up with their own.