Gary Horton: Surrendered and fenced in with fear


Walls and fences and fear sell big all around America these days. Bad guys with guns, drugs and perversions are feared to lurk at every corner, on every street, outside our schools and inside our movie theatres. Fences, walls and weapons are what we’re told we need to keep ourselves safe.

“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre festered up last week. His quote is duplicitously noxious. After having indiscriminately armed the very criminals plaguing us, LaPierre sells us hardened schools to protect our kids from the guns he’s so egregiously spewed.

Americans must love to be cowered and made fearful. We take the bait of bad guys and evil-doers at every chance. Falling dominos lead to Viet Nam. Orange cake had us marching into Iraq. And now, mass shootings have us quivering for more fences, armed teachers and more protection, more guns. Lots more guns. Purple mountain majesties of steel-blue guns.

Guns and fences everywhere. That’s our solution to our self-made problem. Hardened schools. Hardened churches. Teachers and deacons packing heat. Harden up our very lives with guns and walls to keep out the bad guys we, ourselves arm through stupidly self-defeating laws.

We must be nuts. No, we are nuts. Ask just about any soul fogging a mirror outside America and they’ll tell us we’re nuts. Why can’t we see reality ourselves? Why the fear response at every turn instead of preventative action?

It’s ignorance. Our lack of curiosity about how things could really be – if we willed it. A passively enduring and accepting belief in guns and “God-given 2nd Amendment rights” that seemingly makes all of this insanity necessary and irrevocable.

Over at the NRA website, you’ll learn that America is under attack at every corner. That even with this nut-job Republican-controlled Senate, House, and Presidency, still, “the government” is poised to take your guns and freedom – more than ever! These folks live on the perpetual promotion of fear. Fear of nearly everything that always concludes we don’t have enough guns, that we need to harden all our living spaces, and indeed, harden our very hearts.

Where does all this hysteria lead?

To degraded lives. To fear encompassing us, to loved reduced and the separation that tears at human empathy and togetherness like only walls, fences and armed teachers and preachers and guards can do. We are, through our passive acceptance of the status-quo, creating hardened, degraded, saddened, poorer lives.

Carrie and I first moved to Valencia thirty-seven years ago. We marveled how the local schools were so green and pastoral. Schools and parks were intertwined so kids could use the park area for play and community itself formed around the parks. These communal spaces became focal points for all sorts of bond-building, friendships and closeness. We loved how nice and relaxing it all was.

Last January, our school board decided to fence in our local Valencia Valley Elementary with an 8-foot tall barrier. Like others in our valley, Valencia Valley School was beautifully attached to a large park and the whole thing tucked perfectly into our pastoral setting. School, parks, paseos, kids and parents, fun and education… fitting together with a sense of grace, peace and community.

There’s an 8-foot tall barrier going in now. The school is being “hardened.” Extra guards are being posted. Substantial funds are stolen from education, deployed against the guns we sell to all comers. Other schools are getting the same fear-treatment. We will now drop off our kids inside compounds in the vain hope that an 8-foot segment of wrought iron will keep us safe from that lurking evil that we ourselves wrought. And we’ll pretend AR-15’s don’t fire properly at schoolyard gates, as kids line up and clamor to squeeze inside.

We are indeed, delusional.

Our sense of community is being degraded by the fear we’ve had a hand in making. Fences are the start of a death spiral of community. We’re surrendering to fear that, as one local said of the fence, “I know the community is safe and has an excellent track record; however, times are changing and… other schools have approved these measures.”

“Times are changing.” “Others are doing it.” So, we recoil without addressing underlying problems.

“Hardening up” is a dumb response to failing to fix things rationally, intentionally, thoughtfully. “Hardening up” means closing up, means shutting down, means admitting defeat over the “evil” we so weakly tolerate as “normal”. It means admitting defeat in our efforts to create a peaceful society. It means admitting our model for American community has failed because, “Times are changing.”

“Times are changing” because we have failed to. Mired in the fundamentalism of guns, we don’t have courage to demand a modern and productive agenda.

We glorify violence, terror, mayhem, perversions in our media. We pump handguns and weapons of war into our streets willy-nilly like they’re jelly beans – often with less restrictions than a driver’s license or permission to buy beer. And then, we’re shocked, outraged and cowered at Wayne LaPierre’s “evil that walks among us.”

Yet, Wayne’s agenda of weaponizing America is, itself, that very evil.

And now, up go our walls and fences right here in Santa Clarita. It was a sad moment when I first read about Valencia Valley Elementary, and remains so. We lived in such a bucolic community – before fear came.

Now, hiding behind porous fences, we accept the violent culture we created and tolerate all this as “normal.”

We are indeed, nuts.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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