His face is a mask of pure evil.
Dressed like “The Terminator” in dark sunglasses, a black uniform and body armor, he’s sporting a buzz cut and a very bad attitude. Striding into an office building in broad daylight, he reaches into a backpack and produces a sawed-off shotgun.
Within seconds, he’s spraying bullets everywhere, killing a security guard and a woman as they stand chatting nonchalantly near the front door. The woman’s blood splatters against a white wall.
Just then we hear the announcer’s voice telling us this is no mere movie we’re watching. “Unfortunately, in this world, bad people, do bad things, and you have to be prepared,” the announcer says, as the crazed assailant continues his relentless onslaught. The camera is now focused on the terrified faces of the other office workers desperately trying to escape the carnage.
“You have three options,” the announcer intones over the dirge-like music. “You can run, you can hide, or you can fight.”
Students readying for the upcoming school year at Boston University recently received a link to this video over their cells phones. It came in the form of a “tweet” from the school’s campus police chief. In an interview with a Boston National Public Radio outlet, the chief said that, given recent mass shootings at a and , the timing was right for such a public service announcement.
Produced by the Houston Police Department, the chilling four-minute video explains how anyone can increase his or her chances of surviving a mass shooting. Have an escape route planned, we’re told. Don’t go back into the scene for valuables. Take cover behind solid objects. If you choose to fight, or have no choice, be “totally committed.”
More shocking than the video itself — and make no mistake, it’s plenty shocking — is the apparent lack of outrage at the suggestion that young men and women should be required to see it before going off to college, their last rite of passage before becoming full-fledged members of a civil society.
Though I’m well past college age, I want you kids to know, I’m plenty outraged on your behalf. I also want you to know — and I really hate being the the one to break the news — that things in this country are much worse than you can possibly imagine.
The sad fact is, you and I no longer live in a civil society. Don’t believe it? Look no further than the video itself for proof of our having entered a new Golden Age of Barbarism.
One of the fruits of civil society is, or used to be, that we are able to live relatively free from fear for our personal safety. In a truly civil society, elected officials band together to craft laws and create legal mechanisms so that those of us who want nothing more than to, say, enjoy the latest Batman flick, worship in the church, mosque or temple of our choice, or get a college degree, can do so without having to worry that we might be shot and killed in the process.
That’s the theory, anyway. What we have in practice is little better than the “every man for himself” attitude that prevailed those long years before political theorists wrote so eloquently about the glories of the “social contract.” (If you haven’t read about the social contract already, it’ll surely come up in one of your ‘ancient history’ classes.) That contract, if it ever really existed, has been torn up, replaced by a system that allows a special interest group with enormous power and influence in Washington to hold the vast majority of U.S. citizens hostage to its lunatic “guns for all” agenda. I’m speaking, of course, about the National Rifle Association.
Rather than engage in a serious national conversation about the wisdom of allowing virtually anyone who wants a gun to get one (or 100 for that matter!) — in some cases with no questions asked — instead, we produce videos that say: “Folks, you’re on your own. Your personal safety has been privatized. You’re responsible for yourself. Good luck with that.”
Watching the video, I was reminded of the old “Duck and Cover” public service announcements that ran during the Cold War of the 1950s and ‘60s. In the 2012 version, you’re hiding under your desk to protect yourself, not from incoming Soviet ICBMs, but a ticked-off neighbor with an assault rifle hell bent on sending you to Kingdom Come. (It’s funny how history repeats itself, often with an ironic twist.)
Cowards that they are, politicians on both sides of the aisle don’t have the guts to say what everybody capable of rational thought already knows — this situation is not what the founding fathers had in mind when they drafted the Second Amendment.
(Another interesting historical footnote: in my copy of the U.S. Constitution, the first few words of the Second Amendment speak of gun ownership for the purposes of a “well-regulated militia.” How the meaning of all this got perverted over 200 years, I’ll leave it to your learned professors to explain.)
Don’t expect any politician, including President Obama, to go toe-to-toe with the NRA. The gun-worshipping crowd is simply too rich and too powerful. In what’s shaping up to be a closer election than anyone expected, Mr. Obama is far too “pragmatic” to take the moral high ground. Pragmatic is one of the president’s favorite words. Back in the 1970s, when he was coming of age, “pragmatic” was a euphemism for “copping out.”
That’s another value that higher education teaches, particularly a law school education — how to parse language so as to avoid responsibility for fixing situations that desperately need fixing. Like our totally wacky gun control laws. (Politicians use this skill all the time. An advisor in the campus career services office can tell you how its "transferable" to other fields, I'm sure.)
The near fatal shooting of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 didn’t force a lasting change in the laws, so it’s probably ridiculous to expect the two unrelated gun massacres in two weeks will make much difference.
But by all means, kids, please don’t muddle your minds with thoughts about such things should — and I hope to whatever gods may be this never happens — you find yourselves in a situation in which bullets are flying. You’ll have much bigger things to fret about.
Afterward, when you’re safe and back in class you can tell yourself you weren’t really “running for your life.” You were simply “taking control of your destiny.”