What happened in Stroudsburg this week is a good example of why the Poconos and Pennsylvania in particular and American society in general are so screwed up.
It is illegal in the Poconos and in Pennsylvania to smoke on school property.This laissez faire attitude about guns contributed to a lockdown of Stroudsburg High School because of fears that a Columbine or Nickel Mines-type shooting incident might be in the offing. This was because two students seen with .22-caliber rifles left a message with some ambiguous but possibly threatening language on an Internet instant message board and then disappeared.
It is illegal in the Poconos and Pennsylvania to have drugs on or near school property.
But it is legal in the Poconos and in Pennsylvania to have guns on or near school property.
* * * * *The drama began on Monday morning when Alex Camaerei and Matt Bond, both 16 and both sophomores, played hooky. The reason: They were bored with school, tired of people, had some issues at home and apparently needed to deal with their adolescent angst.
So they did what any self-centered teenager would do.
Instead of merely telling their parents that they needed to chill, they wrekked havoc by disappearing after leaving a message that included the phrases "I'm going to miss you," "We're going to rough it. We want to hunt how we want to hunt," and "[The] big event they were going to be remembered for."
Hunt for what? Deer? Wild turkey? Students?When Camaerei and Bond did not return home on Monday night, did not appear at school again on Tuesday and word that they were armed and had left the creepy message reached Stroudsburg High officials, they quickly and appropriately ordered a "high alert" and put the school into lockdown.
As it turns out, neither deer or wild turkey are in season, but this being America, students always are.
Doors and windows were locked and students could not leave their classrooms. Those who had to have a tinkle were escorted to bathrooms in group. Other schools in the region also were put on alert, and panicked parents streamed to Stroudsburg High where they were confronted by the sight of armed officers, some carrying assault rifles.
A search was launched for Camaerei and Bond, and the errant lads were found at a campsite not far out of town on Tuesday evening. They told police they had been planning to run away for some time.
* * * * *Is there a happy ending to this story? After all, nobody got hurt or killed.
No, because it is unlikely that anyone will have to pay for the incident in an appropriate manner or that, heaven forbid, it should become one of those so-called "teaching moments" of which educators seem to be so fond.It turns out that the father of Alex Camaerei is the wrestling coach at a nearby high school, while his mother is a clinical psychologist who coordinates mental health screenings for the area
Based on media accounts, Al Camaerei is as out to lunch as his son.The Pocono Record did its part in blowing off the reprehensible aspects of the incident, as well.
"They wanted to get away and live off the land for a couple of days," explained Al, speaking for clueless parents everywhere in failing to take responsibility, let alone apologize, and saying that the whole thing had been blown out of proportion.
Blown out of proportion!
In an astoundingly lame editorial on the lockdown, the Record pondered what would cause two nice boys from good homes to go AWOL.
It concluded that the incident "served as a drill, a chance for school officials and police to test their emergency plans, and which, in the cool light of day, they may evaluate and refine."I myself would order the expulsion of both boys for the rest of the school year and tell Al to put a sock in it the next time he feels the urge to say something incredibly stupid in public, let alone the impressionable young dears that he teaches and coaches.
Thank goodness for the cool light of day, and the days are indeed cool in the Poconos these days. But there was nothing in the editorial about taking responsibility. Nothing about the consequences of doing stupid and potentially harmful things. Nothing about teaching moments. Nada.
But, you see, guns rule in the Poconos. They are objects of worship.It's as easy to buy a gun in the Poconos as it is to buy seed for a bird feeder. So easy, in fact, that guns purchased in Stroudsburg by straw men are turning up in New York City, which has some of the toughest gun laws anywhere. (I blogged about that here.)
A lot of people have guns. A lot of people carry guns. Usually not out in the open, but in the glove compartments and trunks of their cars, the tool boxes of their pick-up trucks and God knows where else. You can bet that on a given day there are guns in cars in the parking lot at Stroudsburg High or Stroud Mall.
And a lot of people use guns, sometimes on each other as the area's disturbing violent crime rate shows.
Anyone want to take bets about how long it will be before the Pocono's sick obsession with guns results in a major tragedy?
It's just a damned good thing that neither Alex Camaerei or Matt Bond were smoking cigarettes on school property, let alone sharing a joint.
Then there really would be hell to pay.