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Taking Away Their Life

Washington Times 9.28.99
Balint Vazsonyi


On September 21, the Style section of the Washington Post printed an article about school safety. The insert offered quotes by five of the country's brightest students under a headline taken from the statement by Amber Hudson, 18, Jackson, Miss.: "They're Taking Away Our Life."

The subject of the article, the object of the students' despair is the avalanche of "safety" measures under which they are suffocating. Their years of carefree existence have been overshadowed by the frenzied experimentation of a generation that, some thirty years ago, was persuaded to destroy the social fabric of America. To be sure, only a certain percentage went on to do just that, but they were the ones who set the course. Now, faced with the wreckage they have created, they heap error upon error, mistake upon mistake, believing all the while that they know better than all the people and peoples who had preceded them over thousands and thousands of years.

Their most recent pretext is predicated on the episodes of violence that has cost the lives of young people from Colorado to Texas. Their battle cry is "to make schools safe for our children."

Schools tend to be as safe as life in the society that surrounds them. My personal experience is limited to two ways that make society safe. One is the fear of police authority, and the certain knowledge that penalty for bad behavior would be swift and merciless. The other emerged among people who, over time, had learned to live with one another in peace.

For the former, examples abound. The latter has been rather rare, confined to places like Britain, Holland, Denmark. These are countries with a rather homogenous population. The miracle, as always, has been the United States of America, where people from all over the world defy traditional wisdom by demonstrating that self-government, the rule of law, and common sense combined can create domestic tranquility.

But that miracle is fading. Self-government - the absence of rulers - is the highest dividend accruing to those willing to live by the rule of law. Accepting the rule of law requires the application of common sense. Common sense is a function of maturity.

By and large, the generation that came of age some thirty years ago rejected the rule of law. They forsook common sense, and substituted the mentality of eternal adolescence. There are notable exceptions, of course, but persons with an infantile perspective of the world have long terrorized our educational establishment and, especially during the 1990s, have come to occupy key positions in government.

"Infantile," believe it or not, is the charitable view. The alternative is to see them as socialists dedicated to the total transformation of this society. The word "transformation" is yet another gesture of compromise to accommodate those who find reality hard to digest - "destruction" would be closer to the truth.

At the risk of being repetitive, I would once again plead that readers focus on the fundamentals of socialism, namely on the maxim that it can and must change the world, and all who live in it, according to a formula - devised in books written mostly in French and German - which socialists continue to manipulate. That formula informed those who did away with authority, morality, knowledge and standards in our schools and substituted chaos, titillation, propaganda and licence.

And what is the panacea proposed for our present ills? Are we supposed to learn from the example of America's successful past? No - the remedies are to be copied from regimes this nation had sacrificed greatly to defeat. Response to the present crisis assumes the customary socialist posture: search of possessions, search of persons, prohibition of assembly, out-of-bounds places and times, surveillance cameras, identity papers for students, identity papers for their means of transport.

Apparently, every tragedy is turned into another step toward the ultimate goal: that Americans no longer be free, independent, creative people. Because as such, Americans have been nothing but trouble in the eyes of those who believe they can and must change the world, and all who live in it, according to the formula.

But wait. According to the Washington Post, something is going wrong with the plan. Martin Banda, 17, of Harlingen, Texas, and Natasha Goffredo, 18, of Philadelphia, and Lisa Bell, 17, of Lewiston, Idaho, and James McGhee, 17, of Maywood, Illinois, and - yes - Amber Hudson, 18, of Jackson, Mississippi show unmistakable signs of common sense, of independence, of recognizing the enemies of freedom - theirs and ours. "They spent $1 million on...surveillance. You aren't supposed to walk anywhere without a pass. [Before] I could walk around wherever I wanted." Behold them and renew your faith in America.

This is not meant to be a diatribe against embattled, well-meaning school administrators, desperate to deal with events that overwhelm normal human expectations. But it is a wake-up call to them, and all others willing to face reality. Most of what ails us today is the result of ideas often hostile, always alien, to the ones that have made this society successful. Turning to those same ideas for solutions is like appointing the pathological arsonist national fire chief.


Balint Vazsonyi is author of "America's 30 Years War: Who Is Winning?" and director of the Center for the American Founding.

But when information needs to be conveyed quickly and accurately, one's sense of humor is rarely engaged. Speaking of airports, "go gay fy" will not do when there are seconds left to make it to gate five. Sometimes I wish there were large signs at all points of entry to the United States, proclaiming "Welcome to America where we do pronounce consonants at the end of words!"