The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Skipping School Until Gun-Rights Laws Pass Is a Foolish Idea

David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks at a rally calling for more gun control in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, February 17, 2018. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: I vent my spleen about the Florida kids planning to stay out of school and the proposed national school walkouts; a familiar name makes a ruling that that the Trump administration applauds; one more thought on Black Panther; and a warning for companies who think cutting ties with the NRA will help them overall.

A Midweek Rant About Cutting School, Walkouts, Children, Politics, and Fear

At least two of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students say they’re not going back to school until Congress passes gun-control legislation. I guess their classes haven’t covered “how a bill becomes a law” yet, because otherwise they would know they could easily miss a semester or two.

I wish I’d thought of that for every time I cut classes. “I’m not being lazy; I’m just making a bold and principled stand by refusing to do that thing I’m supposed to do.” Maybe I can refuse to clean out the gutters until we’ve wiped out the Taliban.

We can always find a good reason to be outraged about some injustice in the world, and we can always point to that injustice as to why we can no longer go about our daily routine. Never mind that attending school and getting an education is the process that’s supposed to equip us with the tools we need to bring about the changes that we want to see in the world.

We won’t go to class until Congress passes gun control; after that, we won’t go to class until they’ve solved homelessness. There’s always a good cause to stand for or something to protest. Under this philosophy, we will never have to actually show up and, you know, do what everybody else expects us to do.

At my sons’ elementary school, some parents are talking about having their kids participate in the national student walkout on March 24. You can imagine what I think of this, but I don’t want to be “that dad.” The one that makes all of the big-hearted progressives on the PTA sigh, “oh, Merciful Gaia, here we go, Mr. Geraghty is at it again. Scandinavia help us.*”

You’ve heard me rant about the Authenticity Woods school district’s policies on snow days — if there’s a chance of precipitation, school is canceled as a precaution, lest one of the trial-lawyer parents skid off the road and accidentally hit a seven-figure settlement. Now throw in the winter holidays, teacher-training days, the various winter colds going through the class, and now they want to add protest time. Apparently, the Cosmos just does not want my children to spend five consecutive days in class ever.

We can’t just have some safety program where kids are taught not to touch guns, can we? That would be too much to ask. Better to have them walk out onto the playground, listen to someone read a long list of names of murdered children, and be informed that everyone is protesting because the measures in place to protect them just aren’t sufficient right now. What, the local therapists aren’t busy enough already?

Call me crazy, but I think kids have enough on their minds with kid problems, never mind the ones we grown-ups are supposed to sort out.

Every parent worries about protecting their children in a dangerous world. The irony is that overall, our children are probably safer than we were. Those of us who grew up in the 1980s watched after-school specials about child abduction, some of us didn’t go trick-or-treating because of “razor blades in Halloween candy,” crime rates were much higher than today, schools were much less worried about bullying, we had no cell phones to reach parents or guardians away from home, we didn’t use bike helmets, DUI rates were much higher, and of course, the Cold War hadn’t ended yet. Life involves managing risk, and most of us can figure it out okay.

Fear is a powerful motivator — which is why we see it used in politics and activism so much.  I think the ease and frequency with which political leaders press the fear button to advance their agendas is exacerbating some people’s difficulties in handling the usual anxieties and troubles of life. How many times have you been told recently that a policy change will kill you?

Muslim immigrants “will kill Americans.” Republicans health-care proposals “will kill Americans.” The tax cuts make Americans “more likely to die.” Ending net neutrality will “throw us back to the Dark Ages” and “destroy the Internet.”

I guess at least now I have an excuse for the next time I have bad-blood pressure numbers at my doctor’s**. She’ll say, “I thought I told you to stop eating so much and exercise more,” and I’ll be able to reply, “Well, doctor, it must be the tax cuts. We were warned.”

* Come on, they’re not going to say, “Heaven help us.”

** Lately it’s fine.

Guess Which Judge Just Dismissed a Complaint Against the Proposed Border Wall?

An important legal victory for the Trump administration:

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled against an environmental challenge to President Trump’s border wall, delivering a win to the Trump administration in a decision that allows construction plans to move forward.

The case involved the Trump administration’s ability to ignore environmental laws in the construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The project had been challenged by several environmental groups and the state of California.

The ruling will now allow the administration to issue waivers on environmental laws and build sections of the border wall.

The U.S. District Court judge who issued the ruling was . . . Gonzalo Curiel. Does that name ring a bell?

Judge Curiel was on Donald Trump’s mind a lot in June of 2016:

Trump: Let me just tell you, I’ve had horrible rulings, I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I’m building a wall, OK? I’m building a wall . . .

Tapper: I don’t care if you criticize him, that’s fine. You can criticize every decision. What I’m saying, if you invoke his race as a reason why he can’t do his job.

Trump: I think that’s why he’s doing it. I think that’s why he’s doing it . . . We are building a wall. He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings, rulings that people can’t even believe.

As many pointed out at the time, Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican-immigrant parents.

Those of us who bothered to look at Judge Curiel’s record back in July of 2016 didn’t see a lot of reasons to characterize him as a hardline ideologue or an activist on the bench. He had ruled against labor unions, Native American tribes, and was vice president of a charter school.

I remember having a conversation with someone at the time who said something along the lines of, “Look, this judge is Hispanic, and most Hispanics are Democrats and lean to the left, and thus he’s not going to rule fairly.” In other words, they were completely comfortable reaching a conclusion about whether Curiel could be objective based upon his racial heritage.

Accusations of racism get tossed around really casually in this world, but if you don’t trust someone’s judgment because of their ethnicity or ancestry. . . well, you’re racist, aren’t you?

One More Thought on Black Panther

Clarence Page with a nicer-than-usual assessment of my column about Black Panther and Wakanda:

This is not a dialogue limited to blacks. The conservative National Review’s Jim Geraghty enjoyed the movie but offers a cautionary note about utopian thinking. “Wakanda can’t exist, not owning to any inherent flaw in Africans but because of the inherent flaws of human beings,” he writes.

“Every human society involves trade-offs. . . . In theory you can avoid wealth disparity through socialism, but collectivism destroys the incentives to create, innovate and work hard, and a corrupt few inevitably rise to the top, creating new wealth disparities.

People have to choose what values they prioritize in their nation.”

Indeed we must. But every vision begins with some imagination. Wakanda, I suspect, gives us a vision of paradise that has ancient roots. But it also echoes today’s social arguments. The two principal male stars offer a leadership choice similar to that offered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, among other leaders of the past.

Frustratingly, after I finished the column, I came up with an even simpler way of putting the movie’s contradiction.


In the closing scene, T’Challa says to the United Nations, “In times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” Put aside the implied slam at Trump for a moment. T’Challa is expressing this noble, idealistic sentiment that is completely contradicted by what we just watched in the movie’s plot. Wakanda built its barriers long ago and thrived within them for many generations. Within a day or two of allowing in Eric Killmonger, the country was gripped by a civil war!

The implication is that Wakanda will have much more interaction with the rest of the world going forward — presuming that the malevolent alien Thanos leaves some of the country standing after the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. If the writers so chose, an upcoming sequel could depict Wakanda as thriving peacefully with open borders, high levels of immigration, and economic inter-connectedness in a globalized world. But considering how this is a sci-fi/action/superhero franchise, it seems safe to assume that some crisis will strike.

ADDENDA: If companies think that cutting ties to the NRA is going to buy them goodwill or a public relations win, they’re completely wrong. A new survey finds that Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Norton Antivirus, Lifelock, MetLife, Alamo, National Car Rental, and SimpliSafe all saw their public opinion decline in the past week.

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