Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




Subject: More Monsters Will Not Make Us Safer

Dear Senator:

I am writing with concern about the recent legislative decision (SB-AR-15) to place monsters outside our schools. As a lifelong resident of Arkansas and these United States, I certainly understand the need to protect our children from active shooters, firenadoes, and reverse lightning storms. And I will be the first to admit that the saw-spined basilisk could send such fear into the heart of an approaching shooter he might turn to stone, that frost giants could easily put a stop to the near-daily threat of firenadoes, and real gargoyles on the roof will attract reverse lightning bolts that would otherwise strike down our steeples.

I also disagree with the liberal argument that having an ogre or dragon or an armored T-rex outside our schools might make children less safe (at least not in the same way everyone else is arguing). That an improperly trained T-rex might grow hungry and eat a few children is a definite danger, of that I have no doubt, but my concern stems less from the fear that a few children might be eaten than that a great many children might not learn how to keep from being killed.

The question is, sir, how safe do we want our children to be? If we protect them from every active shooter or meteor shower, we also place them in danger of not learning the skills to survive in an increasingly hostile world. Since the reappearance of frost giants and firenadoes—which some scientists claim are not caused by climate change, per se, but by the reemergence of the so-called “Gandalfian Balrogs” from the ancient deeps—do children not need to be ever-aware of their surroundings?

We could, certainly, tame a few T-rexes, balrogs, basilisks, ogres, orcs, dragons, mindflayers—well, maybe not mindflayers—but demogorgons and the like, and we could, possibly, set them to patrolling our schools. But at what cost? What happens when little Billy, over buoyed by the sense of safety he accrued while sitting in algebra, walks home and an untamed suburban werewolf finds him? Or some weirdo driving a white van swerves over to abduct him?

Children need to learn to watch out for danger in the world. Now, you might say that the danger children once had to watch out for was much less dire. I’ll agree. I’m old enough to remember when children went to school without wearing bullet-proof backpacks. All the more reason to teach them that danger lurks everywhere, since now, it does. I’d love to see a few crazed shooters, who, attempting to attack our schools, get eaten by a T-rex or turned to stone by a basilisk—we could even start a statue park with their stone bodies and the pterodactyls could poop on them—but I’m afraid that not teaching children to look out for themselves is a lesson that will backfire in the long run.

I know many will call me a monster for even voicing such a thought, but the truth is the world is a dangerous place. Better to lose a few than to raise an entire generation who can’t look out for themselves. Allowing monsters to do the job of good old-fashioned firearms is just folly. More monsters will not make us safer, and anyone who says so is parenting from the cockpit of a helicopter. Better to let children learn at an early age how to watch out for all the things that can harm them. In other words, continue doing as you have done since active shooter scenarios became an everyday occurrence; since climate change brought back balrogs who spawn firenadoes with their fire-whips; since the polarized earth started sending up ball lightning that grew as big as hot-air balloons; since ghouls and specters and ghosts crossed over from the underworld; since orcs and goblins and ogres crawled out from the caves where stored nuclear waste created them. Teach children how to survive when shooters come or when the drones swoop down from the sky like dragons. Teach them to bolt doors, to dodge bullets, to run when the T-rex tasked to protect them wanders off in search of food. Hold classes on what to do in case a shooter sneaks past the basilisk or gets by the troll guarding the bridge. Give children the collected thoughts of the learned men of our legislature—they’ll be much more help in the long run than any protective laws you pass.

God Bless America,

Rick T. Edge

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Paul Crenshaw

Paul Crenshaw

Paul Crenshaw is the author of the essay collections This One Will Hurt You, published by The Ohio State University Press, and This We’ll Defend, from the University of North Carolina Press. His third collection, on the Cold War culture of the 1980s, is forthcoming in fall 2023. Other work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, Oxford American, Apex, and Interzone. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCrenstorm.