Congratulations Parents: You Just Bought Your Child a Kevlar Suit of Fear


Parents are buying their children bulletproof backpacks. Military fathers are standing guard at their children’s schools.

military elementary school


A man went on the local news with a watch that looks like it’s from a Dick Tracy cartoon and had Marc Klass tell us that it would have saved his daughter’s life. I think that’s a stretch.

My friend won’t let her 10 year old son ride his bike around the neighborhood because she’s worried he’s going to be abducted. Another friend won’t let her 14 year old child have sleepovers because they are afraid of molestations. Still more won’t allow their 11 year olds to cross the street.

These actions make children vulnerable. Every time you tell a child they are incapable of crossing a street, riding a bike or trusting an adult you’ve primed them for predators real and imagined (though most likely imagined). Yes, we’ve recently had a sniper attack on young children. Yes, this is tragic and, yes, as predicted the news coverage was reckless and predatory and as a result of local news becoming national news we have endless copycats and temporarily heightened security.

My phone is ringing and two local security guard businesses have asked for coverage here. Apparently people hire armed guards for weddings, sleepover parties and when their husbands are out of town. If you’re a lesbian or a single mother you should probably just hire one full time I suppose.

No one is standing up and saying: This is crazy.

Not a single news anchor looks at these fear peddlers and says, “You’re out of your mind”.

I’m here to tell you that this is crazy. The media circus has spoon fed you fear and you’re dutifully passing it along to your children.

The NRA would like to go into the business of training armed guards for schools. Make no mistake this is the same money grab as the Kevlar Backpacks, Teflon GPS devices and track-a-kid iPhone apps. This is what it looks like when you use fear as a marketing tool.

The NRA says:

As brave, heroic and self-sacrificing as those teachers were in those classrooms, and as prompt, professional and well-trained as those police were when they responded, they were unable — through no fault of their own — to stop it.

Are we sure that’s true? Are we sure that a 27th person wasn’t saved? A 28th or even a 50th? Does no one recall the two armed guards that were unable to keep 13 children safe at Columbine High School?

You’re scaring your kids. You’re also scarring them.

The world isn’t a scary place, we have scary moments and Newtown will have a generation that’s rightfully scarred but there’s no reason for the whole country to be reactive.

When I look at the Leo Watch site I’m greeted with this message.

selling fear leowatch

Every year 800,000 children are reported missing in the US. This includes runaways, non-custodial parent issues, kids who are simply late and acquaintance disappearances. Of the 800,000 missing children 115 of them are abducted by strangers.

You’re going to not let your child cross the street because in a country of of 314 million 115 children are abducted by strangers? We have more lottery winners than stranger abductions.

If you want to talk about the risk of homicide then statistically the most dangerous person in a child’s life appears to be their own parents with friends being the second most dangerous and strangers accounting for 3% or less of all infant and child homicide to age 5 in the last few decades.

Maybe we don’t need armed guards in schools? Maybe we need parents to stop killing their own kids?

My point is this. The news is over and we don’t need to be gawking at the folks in Newtown any longer. Yes we should support them and yes, we should be looking to reform gun control. Before anyone tells you that armed guards in schools are a good idea remind them that Columbine High School had not one but two armed guards on site.

Perhaps the NRA is having fantasies that we’re living in a spaghetti western and the good guys don’t bleed.


Neighborhoods, Deaths and Fear


This week our neighbor died. We used to live exactly across the street from him but now we live around the corner. He was one of the first people to know our children and I had the privilege of watching his children turn into adults.

He daughter was our babysitter, and his son was the produce manager at my local market, his wife teaches at the kids’ school and it brings me joy to see her each day. During the last eleven years I looked forward to bumping into my neighbor, we would have nice chats about our families. I always left him feeling a little lighter, happier.

He died unexpectedly, there was no illness or injury that I know of. His widow has asked for privacy and I want to respect that.

I bought an African Violet and a condolence card. I left both of these things on her front doorstep, but only after keeping them in my house for almost two days.

For two days the African Violet sat by my front door and the card was next to it. The card was empty, now that I  think about it I may have forgotten to remove the price tag from the plant. I thought about what to write. “With love from,” didn’t seem like enough but too much seemed like too much in an totally inexplicable way.

I decided to write a note to the three of them and tell them how their father and husband had touched my life. Handwriting is extraordinarily difficult for me as arthritis has taken much of the function from the first two fingers on my right hand.

Part of me hopes that the Violet lives as long as her grief, another part of me hopes she smashes it into the bottom of a trash can.

So now I’m crying and trying to write and trying to not make a mistake because I only have one condolence card and condolence cards are among the most horrible of all cards. They say too much and they say the wrong thing.

I was sad that my neighbor died, no doubt. I love the family he left behind, but we weren’t very close, he and I. What was scary, what terrified me (and perhaps others) was that he died at the wrong time. He was supposed to be there for his daughter’s wedding and his son’s graduations. He was supposed to grow old with his wife and tend to their grandchildren. He was supposed to be in the driveway when I walked the dog and we were supposed to chat too long making us both very late. He was supposed to always be there as that nice but quiet man with the really great family.

There’s this hole in the neighborhood and I don’t have very good words to describe it.