Commentary

Politicians Putting Young Lives at Risk in More Ways Than One

By BILL BONVIE | Feb 28, 2018

Watching all the eyewitness interviews with survivors of the latest school shooting rampage – a 21st century Valentine’s Day massacre that made the one of gangland legend pale by comparison ­– I couldn’t help recalling the moments of sheer terror I experienced back in my early elementary school days.

True, the chilling prospect of someone prowling the premises brandishing a high-powered, semi-automatic version of a combat weapon was virtually non-existent in that era. But going to school at the height of the Cold War held its own sense of dread because we never knew when an “air raid drill” might suddenly require us to run out into the hall and crouch beside the wall. Or worse yet, short blasts on a siren might mean a “sneak attack” was underway, in which case all we had time to do was dive under our desks. And we could never be certain whether any such occurrence wasn’t merely a drill.

Fortunately, such an unthinkable possibility never actually came to pass. But for far too many of today’s students, suddenly forced to crawl under their desks and pray that they wouldn’t be the next victim of a gunman roaming corridors and classrooms, the unthinkable – in a form no one ever could have imagined back then – has become all too real.

School desks, unfortunately, provide little more protection from the lethal slugs of an AR-15 than they would have from a nuclear blast – nor, apparently, do drills against such a horrific threat, like the one conducted in that Florida high school shortly before the actual event materialized. In fact, it appears that a fire alarm pulled by the perpetrator may have helped raise the death toll.

But when you stop to think about it, the unthinkable has now become the new norm in this country. And even as the body counts of mass-shooting victims continue to mount with every successive year, our elected legislators remain paralyzed. They are unable to do something as simple as reinstating a ban on assault weapons whose firepower the framers of the Second Amendment could never have visualized when the Bill of Rights was formulated in 1791.

To make matters worse, a president who at least called for more effective gun-control measures, even if he proved unable to impose them, has been replaced by one in lockstep with the National Rifle Association and whose solution would be to adopt the NRA’s draconian proposal to turn teachers into armed guards.

One might have hoped that when he promised in his inaugural address that “this American carnage stops right here and stops right now” he was referring to our country’s rather unusual epidemic of mass killing. What he has made a point of talking about instead, however, is the menace he would like us all to believe that undocumented immigrants pose to the lives of Americans, despite an absence of statistical evidence that any such threat exists.

At least, that’s been one of the main rationales behind his campaign to round up and summarily deport millions already living and working in our communities and to reduce the numbers of people legally permitted to come here from abroad. He also wants to prevent those already here from sponsoring family members, as has traditionally been done by other new arrivals on these shores, and to wall off the entirety of our southern border.

Should Congress refuse to fork over a $25 billion ransom to accomplish that latter goal, money which he repeatedly, if implausibly, promised his supporters would be paid by Mexico, he has been quite explicit in threatening to deport hundreds of thousands of young people. The Dreamers are actually Americans, and mostly exemplary ones at that, by virtue of having spent almost their entire lives here.

That’s an issue that, unfortunately, has been largely obscured by the collective grief and outrage over this latest mass shooting. But it’s actually part of the same pattern of indifference our political establishment, now led by “outsider” Donald Trump, has callously exhibited toward the lives of America’s young people.

What might be the fate of many young people who have lived in the U.S. practically all of their lives were they suddenly to find themselves exiled to the unfamiliar and highly dangerous countries they came from? In that case, the number of victims could easily exceed those slain at that Florida high school.

So in answer to a recent claim that Democrats who stand in the way of deportations “will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants,” I would suggest that if such deportations actually came to pass, anyone supporting them would be complicit in every resulting murder of a promising young Dreamer. To put it another way, taking an overly rigid stance when it comes to immigrants would end up having the same disastrous effect on people’s lives as our current extreme permissiveness toward guns.

Perhaps the most damning aspect of all this is that it wouldn’t cost American taxpayers one red cent to remove the sword hanging over these Dreamers’ heads. Yet most politicians continue to be more concerned about being seen as “soft” on immigration than they are about Dreamers.

I find that every bit as unthinkable as the fact that these same politicians, for similarly selfish reasons, continue to allow homicidal maniacs to have access to weapons of mass destruction in this country, despite the legion of dead children and adults that has already resulted. And even more unthinkable that the people we continue to put into office can be so utterly and unconscionably unthinking.

Bill Bonvie of Little Egg Harbor Township, is the co-author of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them and author of the essay collection Repeat Offenders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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