Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of the deadly Parkland shooting, has started bringing students back into class. Things are different than they were before the February 14 shooting. In part, this is because of new measures put in place to enhance school safety. One policy the school put in place requires students to bring clear backpacks to school.
There has been outrage over this policy, with students claiming that going to school now feels like being in jail. But isn’t this is what the victims and their allies said they wanted?
Rights and Liberties
One image from the protests asking “Is ‘freedom’ more important than safety” summed up the protesters feelings well. The answer, when it was in the context of guns, was a simple “no.” But now, those safety measures are affecting the students themselves, and they are pushing back.
The students are right to be outraged over the backpack policy. This policy seems like one the local school district (not Marco Rubio) implemented so they could say they did something. After all, “doing something” is what we expect of politicians these days.
But, using their own logic, the policy should be perfectly fine. After all, nobody needs a standard backpack. Does your right to privacy or your “freedom” trump the right of others to be safe? What if you are hiding a gun in your bag?
The lesson here for the students is that punishing the collective for the actions of the individual is not a good idea. This lesson should be applied not just to backpacks, but also to innocent gun owners. Things like this happen when people value safety more than freedom.
Lessons of History
The worst dictatorships in history have been excused because they provided physical and social safety and security. The abolishment of political opposition in Hitler’s Germany was justified on the grounds of public safety. Communist apologists frequently excuse the death squads by citing the wonders of health care in communist countries.
These dictatorships made sure that you had a right to health care, ensuring your social safety and security. The government employs everyone, but only the government has guns. But as Benamin Franklin famously wrote, “They who can give up essential Liberty to obtain a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
The only thing you do not have is freedom, because the government runs your life.
Bureaucrats say they run your life because that is how they show they care about “the people.” But f you step out of line, you are a threat public order or safety, and might mysteriously disappear late in the night. Arguably, the “safest” place ever was Airstrip One in George Orwell’s 1984. Nobody dared do anything “dangerous,” because the ever-present television screens were spying on you.
The Parkland students should not have to wear clear backpacks because of the actions of one guy. However, the policy is a natural consequence of the “do something-ism” that dominates our political discourse.
Hopefully, this can be a teaching moment. The world is a dangerous place, and we have a choice. We can live as a free people, or surrender our rights and freedoms to the government in exchange for protection. The latter, however, is not too far up the road from oppression.