Americans is the responsiblity of every citizen
By Joseph Sheppard
America has a number of things
to worry about. Some of the big ones on our Things to
be Worried About list are President Bedhead in North
Korea, nuclear weapons in Iran, anarchy in Iraq, a flu
epidemic originating from Chinese poultry, terrorists
from the Middle East, and leafy green vegetables rich
in Vitamin A and covered in E. coli from California.
A careful look at our Worried About
list reveals that America may be worried about all things
foreign. A look at headline national policies may confirm
that suspicion. This year we've stayed the course in
Iraq to stabilize the democracy and prevent terrorism.
We approved construction on a double barbed-wire wall
that blocks a third of the southern border. We painfully
debated and approved legislation that denies rights
of habeus corpus to foreigners suspected of acts of
And yet, with the exception of North
Korea's nuclear testing last weekend, the most recent
disasters have not come from foreign shores, but from
homegrown Americans. We can also see that our recent
tragedies can't be prevented or resolved just by military
or police force, but that they require the active involvement
of the American people.
Three of the most devastating events
of the last month have been school shootings: First
we have 32-year-old Carl Charles Roberts IV, who entered
the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School on Oct.
3 and shot himself and 10 schoolgirls. Five of the girls
The second: the shooting of Wisconsin
principal John Klang by 15-year-old student Eric Hainstock
on Sept. 29.
And the third: On Sept. 26, 52-year-old
Duane Morrison held six students hostage at Platte Canyon
High School in Colorado. He killed one of them and then
Those three shootings all happened
within eight days of each other. Nine people died. The
murders were all committed by people with good Anglo-Saxon
names: Morrison, Roberts, and Hainstock. None of them
sound Middle-Eastern, or North Korean, or even Hispanic.
Just good, old-fashioned American names--the names of
people who live on your street.
Just to put that in perspective,
let's compare that to the number of American soldier
casualties in Iraq. During that same time period, from
Sept. 26 to Oct. 3, 24 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq, according
to CNN. So in that bloody week, a third as many Americans
died from violence in American schools as did in the
terror-ridden streets of Iraq.
The shootings painfully and powerfully
make a point. For so long we've been afraid of those
with foreign names and different skin tones. We are
afraid of psychos living outside of our borders -- in
Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran -- but never here.
But there is danger here at home, and Americans are
often the cause of it.
So what can be done to protect us
from escalating threats at home? Well, in the case of
schools we can try more armed guards at the school doors.
Metal detectors are becoming more stylish. Maybe bullet-proof
vests could become part of school uniform.
The trend of heightened security
is certainly occurring nationally as wire-tapping and
e-mail surveillance with and without court orders is
being carried out by the Homeland Security Agency. The
Patriot Act continues to be renewed. Wartime curtailment
of liberties continues because a war against terrorism
is not likely to ever end. But even if America's security
measures were heightened to the making of America into
a police state, the safety of Americans could not be
It is the case with every security
problem: an iron executive grip cannot protect citizens
from violence. The citizens themselves have to protect
themselves. Just look at Iraq. Despite the presence
of tens of thousands of security forces, Iraq plunges
deeper into sectarian violence. Last week, 26 food-processing
workers were kidnapped from a neighborhood in Western
Baghdad, according to The New York Times. The
bodies of ten of them were later found. Later in Baghdad
that week, men dressed as police blocked off a street
and kidnapped 14 men working in an electronics store.
American soldiers and Iraqi citizens are learning that
the largest threat comes not from foreign combatants
flocking to Iraq, but from Iraq's own feuding ethnic
groups as their militias inflict casualties on each
In Iraq 2006 was supposed to be the
year of the police. As Iraqi policeman gradually took
over the security process and American soldiers eased
into the sidelines, the sectarian violence was also
supposed to ease. But that has not been the case. Over
the past two years as Iraqis have taken over security,
over 2000 Iraqi policemen have been killed and over
4000 have been wounded, The New York Times reported.
Iraq is discovering that a limitless supply of soldiers
and police cannot guarantee protection to its citizens.
Now Prime Minister Nuri Kam al-Maliki
is attempting a new strategy. Last week he announced
a new security plan that would call for committees of
neighborhood leaders to defuse sectarian violence in
their own neighborhoods. The plan isn't completely developed
yet, but it requires neighborhoods to look for solutions
to the violence. Will it work? Who knows. But making
communities responsible for their own security may be
a step in the right direction. Iraqi communities are
struggling to become responsible for Iraqis as American
communities will have to become responsible for Americans.
Community involvement played a major
role in reducing the tragedy in one of the recent school
shootings. Principal John Klang and custodian Dave Thompson
are being heralded as a heros by many in Cazenovia,
Wisc., for their efforts to disarm Erin Hainstock. The
15-year-old student carried two guns into his high school.
The first was wrestled from him by Thompson. Hainstock
ran from Thompson and confronted Klang, who was shot
three times as he tried to pull the second gun from
Hainstock. Without the actions of Klang and Thompson,
students could have been killed. They took responsibility
for their community and saved lives. Despite the losses,
this was a success for Cazenovia because their students
But the success was limited since
the tragedy maybe didn't have to happen at all. According
to the Milwaukee Journal, Hainstock said he took
a gun to school because he was angry that other students
were picking on him and calling him a homosexual. He
said he was angry that teachers hadn't done anything
about it. He was also unhappy about a pending in-school
suspension. An unidentified teacher told News Channel
NBC 15 in Madison that this was not the first time Hainstock
had attacked students and that he had attacked teachers
"He could be a very sweet and
giving kid, but when he got angry he was a scary child
to be around, he had that sort of look where you just
want to back up. To some extent, I think the system
did fail him because of the way that he acted. I think
he was sort of crying out for more help," she said.
We can't say if Weston High School
handled Hainstock and his problems well before the shooting.
But perhaps if the neglect and abuse that had prompted
Hainstock's actions had been addressed, the shooting
never would have taken place. Community responsibility
could have been taken to the next level if someone had
taken Hainstock under their arm. He could be a normal
happy teenager instead of facing a life in prison.
Community involvement and responsibility:
that's the security measure that may quell the fire
in Iraq. When more Iraqi Sunnis begin wrestling weapons
from other angry Sunnis and when more Shias begin wrestling
weapons from other angry Shias, then perhaps the violence
will stop. Likewise it is the only security measure
that will keep America safe from its own domestic threats.