Crazy people in an insane society

We’re paying for our millions of guns with the blood of our children

The author, a retired Butte College English instructor, is a frequent contributor to the CN&R.

My daughter teaches seventh- and eighth-graders. Each day she goes to work, I worry a little.

I taught for nearly four decades in community colleges. In the course of those years, I can recall three distinctly dangerous students. One of them came to my public-speaking class wearing a loin cloth. He later gave a speech in which he offered the opinion that rape was a good thing. He was later diagnosed with mental problems, and he lived nearly wild in the woods. Everyone was wary of him, but no one knew how to deal with the potential for danger he represented.

Another worrisome student was a Vietnam vet who took a writing class from me. I dealt with him through a very uneasy semester. The scraps of writing he turned in were clearly the product of a disordered mind. After I gave him an F, he approached me one night in a bar and said, with a menacing laugh, “I’m going to kill you, y’know.” He was wearing an 18-inch Bowie knife, so it hardly seemed like an idle threat.

The other student who presented himself as a potential danger was an effeminate young man who wrote a short story in which a woman is dismembered, her remains stored in a steamer trunk. The victim in the story was clearly based on the counselor who served the small student body at that school. When I alerted her to the frightening fixation my student had revealed, she was utterly nonplussed about what to do.

There may have been other students just as crazy. I’ll never know. What I do know is that I was lucky. So far, my daughter has been lucky, too. And luck seems to be the only real protection teachers and children are afforded. Congress, where legislators protect gun manufacturers, is protected with heavy security. Our kids aren’t.

Crazy people will always be with us. But even more worrisome than the inevitability of crazy people is the fact that we seem committed to living in an insane society in which teachers work in combat zones, and parents send their kids to school not entirely sure those children will ever return home. We have more handguns per capita than any other nation on earth, and we pay the price for the power of the National Rifle Association with the blood of our children. To date, we seem just fine with that. And that’s truly crazy.