When you examine Donald Trump’s call for arming teachers and paying bonuses to educators who are willing to carry guns, a few facts become eminently clear.
One is that his allegiance to the National Rifle Association and other gun groups knows no bounds. For him the wishes of gun owners and gun manufacturers will always take precedence over the good of all others. He refers to the NRA as patriots: I’m sure he doesn’t think of the rest of us with the same fuzzy warmth.
Another fact is that he has no idea what teachers do with their time, what their day is actually like, how a school runs, and why most teachers become teachers. Some of them own guns, but they’ve decided that their occupation of choice doesn’t require firing them.
Nor does Trump have even a rudimentary understanding of weapons. In this respect he and I are alike, but I’m learning—and I don’t like the education. I now know that a bullet from a handgun travels at about a thousand miles an hour and pierces the body and its organs in a neat, straight line, leaving an exit wound (if there is one) that’s hardly noticeable. The victim can survive. A round from an AR-15 tumbles through its victim at three times that speed and leaves an exit wound the size of a baseball. Organs struck by a bullet from a handgun can be saved. Organs struck by a round from an AR-15 cannot even be found.
Still, in Trump’s distorted and parochial vision of the world, his suggestion that teachers match their handguns against a military weapon makes perfect sense.
Remember Trump’s promise to bring back coal? Nobody wanted it except a small group of men who had worked no other jobs and dreaded the idea of being retrained, and some mining magnates who feared the loss of their meal ticket. Once elected, Trump promoted coal and, significantly, cut back on regulations regarding those who worked in the mines. And then comes this: the admission that black lung disease has come storming back in southwestern Virginia in a frighteningly virulent form. David J. Blackley, an epidemiologist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said that the epidemic “knocked us back on our heels,” adding that “there’s an unacceptably large number of younger miners who have end-stage disease and the only choice is to get a lung transplant or wait it out and die.”
Any sane government would begin acting to ensure the miners’ safety; the Trump approach is to do the opposite. Now this approach may work with a vaccination—a little hint of the disease to build up antibodies, but it doesn’t work with coal dust and it doesn’t work with school shootings. Adding more guns to darkened and chaotic hallways where fear and terror predominate and where the only one making sense of everything is the shooter translates into nothing but more death.
Trump’s public and pretended shame over the absence of school security is beyond reprehensible, indicative of a pathological inability to empathize and an intellectual incapacity to envision a world beyond himself. He’s a recalcitrant child in our White House, but as I’ve said before, if he wants to protect our children, let him take that $10 billion he “needs” for a wall that will protect us from nothing, and apply it to school security: bulletproof glass, securable classrooms, an armed guard at the entrance.
But over and above all these stopgap measures, let him treat the NRA in the way he should be treating Putin’s Russia: as an enemy of the American people whose view of the world through a gunsight no longer coincides with that of right-thinking citizens. Only then will young men like Nikolas Cruz find it much more difficult even to take a breath near a weapon of war, let alone saunter into a gun shop and buy one.
Sometimes we take things for granted: the days are getting longer, the climate is getting warmer, the wealthy are getting wealthier, the Patriots always win, and James Buchanan’s rank as the worst president of all time would always hold true.
But now that New England lost the Super Bowl, the floodgates have opened, and who is the major beneficiary? James Buchanan.
For the first time in recent memory his previously unchallenged position at the bottom has finally succumbed to the pressure of a failed real estate mogul, confessed sexual abuser, pathological liar, and general misanthrope named Donald Trump.
It’s true. In a recent survey that comprised voters of all political leanings, Trump nosed out Buchanan with a rating of 12 to Buchanan’s 15. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s something to build on as @realDonaldTrump muddles through the days and weeks on his way to impeachment or resignation or, dare we dream? both?
Surveyed Republicans—his enablers, apologists, and handlers—were less unkind, placing Trump ahead of Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison, and the perennial cellar-dwelling Buchanan. Independents gave Trump a 16 to Buchanan’s 14, but Democrats’ single-digit rating of our current “very stable genius” (an 8!😏) brought home the trophy for Mr. Trump which he can
now shove place in the Mar-a-Lago trophy case.
The survey also pointed out some other factoids you might want to toss around on this Presidents’ Day:
- In the 2014 survey, Ronald Reagan was 11; now he’s 9. (He looks better to everybody now.)
- Bill Clinton dropped from 8 to 13. (Same reason, but substitute worse for better.)
- Andrew Jackson, by virtue of Trump’s adulation and that Oval Office picture that seemingly turns up in every photograph, went from 9 to 15.
- And in another Trump-related move—and one which I hope reaches Trump’s Twitter account—Barack Obama rose from 18 to 8, the largest jump on the chart. Even Republican scholars placed Obama 24 places ahead of Trump.
- (Washington, Lincoln, and FDR hold down the top three places, though in differing sequences depending on party affiliation.)
For all of us who have been claiming that no president has ever been worse than this one, we at least have a fairly thorough survey to confirm it. And though it’s difficult to celebrate Presidents’ Day in a country without an actual president, little diversions like this can sometimes help.
It appears that the assault rifle is the only problem in the history of our country that has completely overwhelmed us—that has left us powerless in the face of its murderous glory. As with Japan’s legendary Godzilla, we’ve arrived at the conclusion that it’s best to just let it happen and hope it protects us against worse monsters down the road. (Mothra, we’re looking at you!)
Imagine if some of our renowned historical figures had approached problems in a similar manner, our world might be very different.
•Some never-to be known aviator would have picked up the ball after Charles Lindberg said “Oh yes, planes can fly all right. But the Atlantic is huge—really huge—and a plane will never cross it non-stop.
•Some forever anonymous scientist would have his own name on a vaccine after Jonas Salk had thrown in the towel admitting, “Nothing we can do about polio. It’s going to be the scourge of American children forever.”
•James Meredith would not even have been a footnote in history if he’d conceded “Nah, a black college is good enough for me. Ole Miss gotta be white.”
•Thomas Edison’s confession: “Day is bright and night is dark—no sense messing with God’s master plan” would not have established his place in American myth.
•Even Smokey Bear would have been another pathetic has-been (who never was) once he pointed at us with that cool hat and those sad eyes and admitted “Nobody can prevent forest fires. Nobody.”
And yet the president, Republicans in Congress, the NRA along with other gun groups, and countless millions of Americans seem okay with the fact that gun violence simply cannot be stopped. Not only can it not be stopped; it can’t even be reduced. All those citizens of Tokyo—even the ones who knew they were doomed—at least fired back once in a while: a missile here, a cannon or two, a few bombs dropped. They tried.
Look, we haven’t erased auto accidents from the world, but we’ve made cars safer by using airbags, built crumple zones and employed safety glass, installed lane-change warning electronics and tried to build safer roads. We’ve educated people about drunk driving, placed restrictions on young drivers, added terms like “designated driver” to the vernacular. It has worked: deaths from motor vehicle accidents have dropped dramatically over the past fifty years. (That was about the time seatbelts became standard equipment.)
We can’t reduce gun violence? Really? That’s it? It’s settled?
If that’s true, then we probably can’t reduce mental illness either, so maybe the NRA can stop touting that as their solution.
Think of it this way: what if we could reduce gun violence by 1/10 of one percent by banning military weapons in civilian hands? That would mean that of the 1000 people bent on doing violence with a military weapon, one would not be able to purchase it. Just one. But what if that one person’s name was Nikolas Cruz? Would it then be worth it to make that 1/10 of one percent improvement? And if you disagree, would you be the one willing to admit that to one of the hundreds of grieving families dotting southern Florida today?
Even if the chances are one in a thousand, it’s still better than giving up.