The short version of the story I’ve posted here is this: Josh Renville, a senior at North Fargo High School in Fargo, ND, had this picture taken to represent him in this year’s yearbook. His principal, Andy Dahlen, refused to allow it because of the assault style weapon Josh is carrying. He says those guns are not allowed on school property and because of that the picture will not be allowed in the yearbook. Josh’s father, Charlie, took issue, saying it’s a picture not a gun and that the principal’s liberal politics are driving his decision, rather than any sense of fairness. He called for Dahlen’s firing, accusing the principal of singling out his family over the years because of their “traditional conservative values and beliefs.” It’s worth reading the entire story to get the particulars, but that’s the gist of it.
You don’t have to spend too much time on my Facebook page to know my stance on the availability of weapons that have no function other than to kill people, and if I’m Andy Dahlen, I don’t want my high school represented this way. And, were I Dahlen, I might very well look at Josh and wish he didn’t feel as if he has to trumpet his macho. I may wish he were self possessed enough to know that true patriots and true soldiers don’t advertise. They act.
All that said, you also know if you spend much time on my Facebook page that I’m as big a promoter of the First Amendment as there is. Some of that is because my books get challenged and banned frequently - which gives me a platform on which to stand - but more importantly it’s because I took a basic civics course in high school and understand that promoting free expression includes expressions for which I have nothing but contempt. That’s the deal: free for me, free for you.
All THAT said, I don’t know that I’d be so proud of my gun totin’ offspring if I were you, Charlie. That gun he’s holding isn’t a hunting rifle. It’s used to kill people. It’s not a gun he needs for protection unless he becomes a real soldier instead of a pretend soldier; you know, a real patriot, rather than a pretend patriot. Should he do that, the armed forces will give him an even better one. If he does think he needs that weapon to protect you guys in your home, he must be one shitty marksman, and if he’s that shitty a marksman he might very well put a hole in you, protecting you. And if there are other family members, well, sheeesh! Wayne LaPierre and Shawn Hannity may be on your side, Charlie, but statistics aren’t. Every accidental killer is a responsible gun owner, right up to the moment he fucks up.
Charlie, a question I’d ask of your son before writing him off as one more kid who accepts his learned “values” before he gets a chance to vet them, is this: If you knew that making that particular rifle and all others like it illegal, would bring back the twenty six humans (most of them six and seven years old) slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary school, would you give it up? And if you wouldn’t, would you be willing to stand before the parents of those slaughtered children and say so? If the answer to the first question is no, and to the second yes, my congratulations to him. He can grow up to be Joe the Plumber.
Josh’s frontal lobe isn’t fully developed yet, (that’s not his fault, that’s brain science) so there’s some hope that he’ll at least question the “traditional conservative values and beliefs” he’s learned at your knee, Charlie. If you get a chance to kick it around with him before his gray matter is set, you might want to admit those conservative values aren’t really traditional. To be traditional, a thing has to be around for a while. Quite a while. The values you’re talking about here became part of the conservative lexicon in this country only in the eighties, when a B-movie cowboy/soldier and affable TV huckster, who also wasn’t paying attention in high school civics, invited fundamental Christians into his party as a voting block. If you’d like to take a closer look at REAL traditional conservative values, might I direct you to Dwight D. Eisenhower, who RAN a war and probably knew a lot more about the danger certain firearms present than Josh seems to; quite possibly a guy who believed the “pursuit of happiness” included freedom from fear that your kids will be murdered in great numbers at school or at the movie theater. Just a thought.
Until then, I am in one-hundred percent support of Josh’s right to have that picture in his senior yearbook. Truth is, if were his classmate, or say, a future girlfriend, I’d want to know exactly who he is.