By ED HUNGNESS
Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow frequently made headline news. Their legendary criminal exploits included robbing stores, gas stations and small-town banks.
Along with their gang, they roamed the Midwestern prairies, often striking communities with little or no police protection. This crime spree captured the attention of the American public during the “public enemy era” between 1931 and 1934.
The holdups ended on May 23, 1934 when Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed and killed in a hail of bullets from law officers in Louisiana. This was the stuff that movies were made of.
Moving the clock forward 80 years, we have a new batch of “public enemies” in the making. In late January, I read an interesting news article about a 5-year-old girl in Pennsylvania who was suspended from school after she made a “terrorist threat.” Her weapon of choice was not an assault rifle or semi-automatic pistol. No, it was far more sinister! The “threat” was to be carried out with a Hello Kitty automatic bubble blower.
Her 10-day suspension from school would have been much longer, but she hadn’t brought the “weapon” to the classroom or brandished it on the playground. Instead, she simply talked about the Hello Kitty bubble blower and was overheard suggesting to another classmate that they shoot each other with bubbles. Even innocent behavior such as this was like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater!
Now that we have identified the next Bonnie, what about Clyde? To round out the future duo of marauding gangsters, we head west to wild and woolly Colorado. Loveland, located 45 minutes north of Denver, is home turf for a 7-year-old second grade boy who had also been suspended from school. Unlike his younger potential partner, he wasn’t armed with a Hello Kitty bubble blower. His diabolical infraction of the law occurred when he lobbed an “imaginary grenade” into a box with what he called “evil forces” inside. Who knows what kind of trauma he could have caused? We can only hope that these two children never actually team up.
We have witnessed multiple examples such as the aforementioned. Children are forbidden from pointing a finger at a fellow classmate and saying “bang!” They cannot draw a picture of a gun or bomb in art class without risk of expulsion. Even an offhand remark about a squirt gun or pocket knife can lead to trouble for the innocent.
In more reasonable times, such activity would be dismissed as mere child’s play. I think much of this should fall under their 1st Amendment rights covering freedom of speech.
This tongue-in-cheek account of two children at play has me wondering. What is happening to us as a society? Where are we heading with this paranoia and why is such harmless play getting national attention? Do we not have bigger fish to fry?
Perhaps these infringements upon youthful innocence are nothing more than distractions from the far more serious issues that can be difficult to deal with.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed’s retirement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.