Friday, December 19, 2014

Know Your Rights

It's been two years since twenty first-graders and six educators were killed in Newtown, Connecticut. One by one, or by the classroom, the victims continue to line up. I confess that I am a little surprised that no one has gone public with the assertion that if Michael Brown had been carrying a gun, he would be alive today. It is the thing that passes for logic in the gun "debate." The solution for so much of what is wrong in our country seems inexorably tied, for many, to our Second Amendment Rights. It is at this moment that I find myself confounded: Do they mean the right to bear arms, or a well-regulated militia?
My guess is that a well-regulated militia, if there is such a thing, would not be caught up in any of the mess currently found in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland and the list keeps growing. Just like the list of cities with mass shootings keeps growing: Portland, Philadelphia. As I have expressed here time and again, there are cities and departments across this great land of ours where law enforcement works with the community to protect and serve without pause or question. And there are plenty of in-betweens. I live in a city where each new crisis is a call to, well, not necessarily arms but a call to some level of confrontation. Squaring off in the street has become an almost nightly ritual here in Oakland. We want to exercise our freedom to assemble and speak. We want our rights. And then there are those in-betweeners. Like the tweets from Officer Phillip White from San Jose, just down the road:  "By the way if anyone feels they can't breathe or their lives matter I'll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun." Or the chief of police in Richmond, who showed up at a protest in uniform, holding a sign that reasserted, "Black Lives Matter." I'll give you a moment to try and make some linear sense of those last two.
The sense I can make is this: I don't want either one of their jobs. I kvetch and moan enough about being a public school teacher. I know how hard being a peace officer is. I've listened to their stories, I have seen them in action. I am everlastingly grateful that if something is lobbed at me from a crowd, it doesn't tend to explode and more often than not it's a four-square ball. Nobody is shooting at me. That's my bottom line. I suspect that when Victoria Soto went to school two years ago, she didn't expect anyone would be shooting at her, either. 
Interestingly, education is not one of those things guaranteed by our Constitution. Guns? Check. Protests? Check. Education? We'll have to get back to you on that. 

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