We rent a house in Torrance California in a 1950's subdivision neighborhood that actually has trees. They took years to grow, but there they are. The mail carrier, Tracey, tells me she loves the neighborhood because when it rains she can deliver the mail without getting wet. For the same reason, kids ride their bikes on the sidewalk, not the street.
Two days ago two huge trucks appeared and cut down one of the oldest trees right in front of my house and fed it to a wood chipper.
When we got in touch with the City of Torrance, they explained that they were going to cut down four or five more trees on the street because they were 'tripping hazards.' The federal government had given them money to redo the sidewalks in order to make them more accessible for wheelchairs. The roots were threatening, or starting to, buckle some of the concrete, and after much consideration they decided the only possible solution would be cutting down and feeding the trees to wood chippers. They didn't really let the neighbors know. I saw an older woman staring at a stump three inches high and just crying inconsolably. The city assured me they would stop at just four trees on my street.
The man I spoke to about this, the city worker, laughed when I told him he was destroying something beautiful. "Why are you laughing?" I asked. "Because you're being silly," he said.
As it turns out, the woman staring at the tree stump is not the only one doing some crying around here. Many of the kids at the high school were crying when they heard about the 17 kids killed in Florida on Valentine's Day. Those Florida kids were killed because the NRA and the politicians they bribe have made a calculation that X equals Y equals Q and that equals a certain acceptable number of dead children. The alternative is that they would lose their jobs and prestige and would have to go back to being, probably, rich lawyers.
We all know what happened after that Valentine's Day tragedy. Certainly my kids know. What happened is that an amazing number of bright, brave, and idealistic kids took to the airwaves and social media and demanded change. They want rational gun legislation and they know that the elected members of Congress are not going to give it to them. That's because X equals Y equals Q equals a number of dead children that is acceptable, etc. etc. etc....
A number of days after that, my daughter texted me from her high school. "There are cops everywhere," the text said.
We are all well trained. "Explain," I texted.
"There's been a threat against the school. What should I do?"
I know that the authorities who run schools have trained all the kids to do something called "run, hide, and fight." This is the modern equivalent of "duck and cover", but of course duck and cover was about a nuclear missile launch, and there never was a nuclear missile launch against the United States ever in the history of the republic. There have been umpteen school shootings in the USA. Actually, not "umpteen." By the time Parkland happened, there had already been 11. There have been 186 school shootings in the United States since Sandy Hook.
I texted my daughter, "Get out."
She and my son got out, but they were both worried about being penalized by the school for their absence. If you have too many absences it affects your records. The school uses this threat to tell the kids they won't get into colleges with such black marks, and every high school knows -- because the school tells them -- that if you don't spend every waking moment of your teenage years working to get top grades and get into college, you're cooked.
This is the world they live in. The President of the United States is such a tool that he held a meeting with survivors of school shootings but inadvertently revealed that he was holding cue cards that told him to say things like "I hear you" and to show interest in what was being said. After that the conversation switched to tariffs and a porn star named Stormy Daniels.
The kid who faced Senator Marco Rubio, a complete and utter political hack, and demanded to know if he was going to stop taking money from the NRA, is one of the coolest customers I've ever seen, and I say that especially because it's clear that his hand was shaking while he was standing his ground, but he was indeed standing his ground.
My son walked home from school the day before last and said, "When I turned onto our street I saw they cut down a bunch of trees. I just thought, what's the point?" I told him they were not going to cut down any more.
We helicopter parented them. We worried about everything they ate and we didn't let them just play, we organized play dates. We figured out what colleges they would go to even when they were in kindergarten. We didn't get in their space and we gave them freedom. We did all this because we wanted them to inhabit the greatest world possible and to enjoy life to its fullest.
Then we put them in schools where they have to learn how to "run, hide, and fight", where they have to demand action from their Senator because the adults won't do it for them, and where they have to lie down in front of the White House because we won't stand up for them. We voted for a Big Orange Clown who makes them ashamed of the country, baffled by what it's supposed to stand for, and wondering what all this bullshit is about the American Dream.
Then, yesterday, my kids went to school and found out that one of their classmates, a 15 year old freshman, fell or jumped off a balcony in a medium rise building near the beach. He died at the scene.
The high school fell apart. Some say it was eerily quiet. Others say there was hysterical sobbing in the hallways, kids lying on the floor weeping, unable to console one another.
My daughter looked out her school classroom and saw ambulance after ambulance and paramedic truck after paramedic truck pulling up to the school. The first thing she thought was, we're being shot up. The second thing she thought was, they're coming here because we're falling apart over their classmate's death. But, she reasoned, it's unlikely even half of them knew him . So clearly something else was at play here.
When my son walked home at the end of that long day, he turned on to our street and saw they had actually cut down even more of the trees, and the street was now denuded of its beauty. In fact, they are going to cut down 180 trees.
They had, once again, lied.