This week four high-school kids in the Hays, Texas school district, including the son of a sherriff's deputy, were arrested for making bombs and charged for possession of 'prohibited weapons' which carries a potential sentence of up to ten years in jail.
These kids were turned in by a classmate when one of them brought a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook to school to show a friend. Authorities have determined that there was no intent to use the napalm-like material they had manufactured for any purpose other than their own amusement and they had no plan to harm or threaten anyone.
This incident raises a lot of questions about where our society is going.
First off, what is wrong with the youth of today? When I was a kid my friends and I had already manufactured napalm, Molotov cocktails, and pipe bombs by the time I was in 8th grade and we didn't even have The Anarchist Cookbook to use as a reference. We had to rely on information we found in histories of saboteurs from World War II. These kids are in 10th and 11th grade and they're only just now discovering the joys of blowing things up and starting fires? By the time I was in high-school we were making thermite and white phosphoros bombs because we finally had access to a decent chemistry lab. [...]
The second question is why the hell are these kids being arrested? They should be given an 'A' in chemistry and encouraged to enter something in the annual Science Fair. Where are we going to get our future weapons designers, pyrochemists, resistance fighters, and chemical engineers from if we discourage teenage experimentation with the threat of a decade in jail?
Finally, it's bad enough that we've taken to prosecuting "thought crimes" by arresting people who are just idly discuss things like killing schoolmates or blowing up buildings without taking any action, but isn't it even worse to arrest kids for merely having the capacity to burn down or blow up a school when they clearly had no intention to actually do any harm? In most states it's legal for teenagers to own rifles and shotguns, though under federal law they have to be purchased by a parent until the kids are 18. Are we now going to arrest them for owning them because they might potentially be used to shoot someone? Building a bomb is just taking knowledge and putting it in physical form, so shouldn't we arrest people just for reading The Anarchist Cookbook or finding similar information on the Internet? After all, having that knowledge makes them inherently dangerous. Hell, you can kill someone with a pencil. Let's arrest kids for having a pencil and giving a teacher a dirty look.
As a society our paranoia level is cranked up way beyond any reasonable level with little real justification. Sure we were attacked on 9/11 and in Oklahoma City and there have been a few incidents of school terrorism, but should that make everyone a suspect and every action a crime? Statistically all of the domestic terrorism, jihadist attacks, and trench-coated nerds out for revenge have killed far fewer people than other forms of violence in the same period. Fewer than inner-city gang violence and enormously fewer than drunk driving.
We need to consider the cost of our paranoia. We're becoming a nation of intellectual shut-ins. We're telling our kids not to go outside and play, not to think any unapproved thoughts, not to be interested in any forbidden topics. Don't read that book, it might give you ideas. Stay inside, watch TV, and above all, conform. We're killing the curiosity of our future generations, the one quality which has always driven America to outperform other nations in invention and creativity. We've forgotten that the 16-year-old in a vacant lot with a Mason jar full of homemade napalm could well be the guy who a decade later follows that same experimental impulse to invent the next leap forward in digital technology, telecommunications or medicine.
Remember kids: mindless, slavish conformity is the highest of all virtues! Be just like everyone else! Do exactly what everyone else does! Do think for yourself! Don't do different things than other people! Everyone go to business school and get an MBA, and then we can become a do-nothing, know-nothing, be-nothing society, down to the last person, in just a single short generation!