Tuesday 14 January 2003

America Is Angry, Divided, Unhappy

Twisted By Conflicts It Refuses To Face

The creeping lunacy creeps on, creepishly. It gives life a constancy comforting in an uncertain world. For this we should be grateful.

In the Greeley Tribune (January 8, 2003) of northern Colorado I see that Mitch Muller, a boy of thirteen, has been expelled from school for a year. Yep. Gone.

You might surmise that he committed some grave crime, that he assaulted a teacher perhaps or was discovered to be selling bulk-lot cocaine. No. He played with a small laser pointer – the sort that projects a red dot onto maps during lectures. It was, said the depressing drones who run the school, a "gun facsimile."

This is fascinating, like a rare and aggressive tumor. Let us think about it.

To begin, there is no substance to the charge. A laser pointer does not look like a gun, no more so than a ball-point pen or a lipstick tube. It isn't a weapon, doesn't look like a weapon, and is not intimidating, being less dangerous than, say, a fist.

Further, note that we are not confronted by a somewhat overzealous application of a reasonable rule. If young Muller had disrupted class and gotten tossed for a week, that would have been excessive but not absurd. (Excessive because unnecessary: When you have a male principal who has not been administratively neutered, he says, "Bobby, stop that. Now." That's all he says.)

The child was suspended for a year, not for misbehavior but for possession of a legal and harmless object that was determined ex post facto to be gunlike. You see. Crimes carry harsh penalties, but you cannot tell what things are crimes until after you have committed them. That is, the authorities can find you guilty at will, whenever they wish to punish you.

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