Petri: We give up, which means ‘soft targets,’ ideas of safety

Oh, we’ll give up other things, like schools and churches that aren’t fortresses. And loved ones, too.

By Alexandra Petri

The Washington Post

Well, it has been decided; after Odessa, if not after Sandy Hook, or Las Vegas, or Parkland. Things cannot continue like this. To keep going, we will have to give up certain things.

We will have to give up, first of all, the feeling that we are safe anywhere. At prayer. At work. At school. On the way home. We are lucky if we ever had this feeling to give up. We will have to give up the notion that there is anywhere this could not happen, that there is a single place — a concert, a highway, a shopping center — where we should not be afraid. We must give up the old meanings of the names of places; towns and cities across the country must wait to become synonymous with the worst thing that anyone has ever done there.

These are just a few of the things we must give up.

We must give up expecting anything else. We will have to give up, for instance, the idea that a school is not a fortress. Schools will be redesigned against invasions, like medieval castles or World War I trenches, complete with oil, curved walls and zigzags to interfere with sightlines. We must give up the quaint notion that public spaces should be designed from any perspective but one of abject terror. There will be random drills, random searches. Backpacks will be reinforced — usefully or not — with bulletproof materials. We will transform all soft targets (a sorrowful euphemism for the places in civilization that are most precious) into hard targets. There will be guards and metal detectors. Teachers will carry guns; libraries will be heavily armored. We must give up these tender places civilization has made. We will have to live in bunkers protected by metal detectors and gates.

And we must give up something else, even more precious than a place or a way of being. We will give up people. We will give up a father of two; a young man excited to start his own family; a 15-year-old girl still in the middle of discovering who she was going to be. We will give up getting to hear the end of her story. We will give up all the things they would have done, things that might have been huge and noteworthy but could have been simple and ordinary, which would have been just as remarkable.

We will have to give up the feeling that the preferences of the majority count for anything with our elected representatives (if we were still holding on to that feeling). We will have to give up the idea that this could change, if we wanted to.

Or there is something else we could give up. It might not feel so much like giving up as this does.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter @petridishes.

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