This Just In – It’s Illegal to Have an Imagination

Check out this list:
Xavier
Regan
Joel
Mr. Peepers
Bob

Who are these people? Guys I’ve slept with? Coworkers? Members of my skeet shooting team?

If I were 12 years old and attending Pin Oak Middle School in Bellaire, officials there would say this is my hit list, and they would suspend me from school for three days and disallow me to ride the school bus forever for security reasons. Nevermind that all of the names on the list but one were made up. Nevermind that this list was spotted by another student on the school bus and was not being carried around on a clip board by a gun-toting tween who was checking off names as she went. None of that matters because we’re all scared, man, and we can’t take any chances. Even when common sense would dictate otherwise. ‘Cause you just never know, you know?

Thus far, the actual content of the “hit list” has not been made public, but let’s say for argument’s sake that it looked like this:

People I’d Like to Kill:
Toby
Paris
Carlos
Lindsay
Ann Coulter

Just because I might fantasize about squeezing the life out of Ann Coulter, thus silencing her vile mouth forever, it doesn’t mean I’d actually do it. I fantasize about Hugh Jackman too (in a much different way), but I don’t see him showing up any time soon.

Though it’s been many years since most of us were in junior high or high school, we can all remember how tough those years are. Most young adults spend their time alternately fantasizing about killing their parents, themselves, their teachers, the boy they like or the girl who made fun of their culottes and fantasizing about how some day they will live in a world where their parents’ fears don’t take away their civil liberties or that their zit cream is actually working.

This child could be a budding writer. She could be intentionally pushing people’s buttons to get a reaction. She might be trying to deal with what is an awkward time of her life by putting stuff on paper to get it out of her head. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we’ve become a nation of people who believe in striking first if someone seems like they MIGHT pose a threat at some undetermined point in the future. We’ve become a nation of guilty until proven innocent. If we start punishing people for what they’ve written on a slip of paper, what’s next? The government will start monitoring the books we check out of the library and reading our emails and listening to our phone conversations without a warrant?

Oh.

[This column originally appeared in its entirety on Houstonist.]