Trying to write about the current resident of the White House and his odious pals is like being trapped in a warehouse, condemned to assemble endless Ikea products without instructions or that little hexagon key doohickey. The work never ends, you have no idea what goes where, illogic reigns and there always are extra parts left over. A screw loose, for example . . .
One “exasperated ally” of Trump’s described the situation as “pure madness” and retired Army general Barry McCaffrey told The Washington Post, ““I think the president is starting to wobble in his emotional stability and this is not going to end well. Trump’s judgment is fundamentally flawed, and the more pressure put on him and the more isolated he becomes, I think, his ability to do harm is going to increase.”
This is a presidency ruled by irrational, bad decision-making. The man in charge has no coherent policy beyond doing the opposite of what his predecessor did and believing that if someone other than Trump comes out ahead, there is no progress. He possesses the proverbial whim of iron; within hours, shifting on behalf of gun control and then against, claiming to seek safety for our immigrant Dreamers then reneging on a potential deal, announcing trade tariffs on imported steel and aluminum even as his staff tells reporters that the plan hasn’t really been worked out yet.
Which led to this loopy comment on Sunday’s Meet the Press from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: “Whatever [Trump’s] final decision is, is what will happen. What he has said he has said; if he says something different, it’ll be something different.”
So many non sequiturs, so little time.
For now, let’s backtrack a bit and focus on just one. Training teachers to pack heat while in the classroom may not be the most idiotic idea Donald Trump has had out loud since he became president, but it’s right up there. I write this with the understanding that if the brief history of this absurd but dangerous administration is any indication, there’s always more and worse to come. In fact, as I started writing this the other day, Trump had just told the nation’s governors, assembled at the White House, that he gladly would have laid his life on the line for the kids attacked in Parkland, Florida: “I really believe I’d run in, even if I didn’t have a weapon.” Good grief, look to the skies, it’s President Mighty Mouse, here to save the day.
The next day, he told lawmakers that he wasn’t as scared of the National Rifle Association as they were, then had a meeting with NRA officials and retreated like a bunny rabbit being chased by Farmer McGregor—but this time the old man has an AR-15 semi-assault rifle, locked and loaded. Not to mention the more than $30 million that the organization poured into Trump’s campaign.
This NRA-backed “teachers with guns” notion bears the whiff of the letter to the editor from the village crank who wants to put Pampers on the pigeons in the park, but this particular nut has actual power and a bully pulpit from which to spray his fusillades of foolishness.
Teachers have it hard enough as it is; overworked, underpaid, paying out of their own pockets for school supplies, coping with outsized classes, trying to educate in the midst of a society beset by upheaval and chaos—much of which is obsessed with privatizing and downsizing schools. To suggest that some teachers also take on a firearm is far above and beyond the call of duty, not to mention the possibilities for hideous human error and associated insurance and litigation nightmares.
Louis Fantasia, a friend from college who works as a producer, director, writer and teacher in California, recently was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. Louis actually owns a gun (long story, but it involves a play he produced) and knows how to shoot it.
“Suppose I decide to go back to classroom teaching and state my gun ownership as one of my qualifications,” he said, “and because I am ‘adept’ and ‘talented’ and, I hope, one of the ‘very best’ teachers, I am asked to conceal and carry in the classroom. Let’s also suppose that one tragic day, someone with an AR-15 walks in and starts shooting.
“Say I get the call from the principal’s office and have to join other ‘adept and talented’ colleagues who are armed. What next? We go in with guns blazing? Has anyone thought this through? How does this not lead to more panic, more shooting and more death?
“Arming teachers is not only a stupid idea, it’s also a dangerous one.”
Not all of what Louis said made it to the Times as it was cut down for length, but here is one other thing he told me in an email: “In what scenario does this lead to anything but panic, more shooting and more death? Maybe [Executive Vice President] Wayne LaPierre and his spokeswoman Dana Loesch at the NRA would like to be the first to try and bring down the bad guy at their kids’ school? You want to shoot into a roomful of kids? . . . We know they have no decency, but maybe they could have some common sense.”
That’s asking a lot, Louis. Especially as the NRA justifies arming teachers by retreading the old “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” argument while wrapping itself in the flag and making a pseudo-solemn pledge to defend liberty no matter the cost.
Here’s LaPierre at the CPAC conference on February 22, declaring, “Some people think the NRA should just stick to its Second Amendment agenda and not talk about all of our freedoms. But real freedom requires the protection of all of our rights. And a Second Amendment isn’t worth its own words in a country where all individual freedoms are destroyed.”
Some would mistake this for noble and patriotic sentiment, but like the entire Trump administration, the rhetoric is meaningless; in the end it’s all about the money. LaPierre is like Alan Rickman’s villain in the original Die Hard movie—his seemingly political act is really just a robbery. As hero John McClane’s wife says, “After all your posturing, all your little speeches, you’re nothing but a common thief.”
Trump and the NRA leadership’s disdain for schools as “gun free zones”—as if the idea of an educational safe haven is somehow ludicrous—is equally abhorrent, like an arsonist cynically making fun of a flameproof building and simultaneously passing out lighter fluid to show how to make it burn.
They helped create a situation in which even schools and churches are unsafe and now peddle their craven solution. Bottom line: this is all about selling more and more and more guns, plain and simple, a venal profiting off tragedy.
As the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School say, we call B.S.
Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.