I’m sick of it. The somber press conferences giving us the latest numbers of victims, adding those who succumbed in the hospital to those who died in the classrooms. The law enforcement announcements telling us that this or that aspect of the slaughter is “under investigation” or that they haven’t determined a “motive” just yet. Or later the details of exactly what kinds of weapons were used to commit the crime and create the carnage of bloody little bodies.
And I’ve also had enough of the endless video images of the flashing lights of police vehicles and ambulances and of the crime scene tape around areas where the murders took place. And the sickening parade of crowds of cops strutting around, conferring, trying to “piece together” exactly what happened, assembling a “timeline” of events and delivering tidbits of news to the press. Oh yes, and the endless stream of video showing them armored and armed with their own long guns, sprinting toward the scene (or were they running away in order to protect themselves?) one hour after the murderer entered the school, too late as usual to prevent the deaths but just in time to kill the “suspect” without putting themselves in danger.
And my God, how many “law enforcement” entities were involved in Uvalde – six, ten – in this incompetent performance? The town police force, Texas DPS, Border Patrol, County Sheriff’s Department, State Police, Texas Rangers, and even the FBI? And the school district had its very own police force, replete with its own “chief”? There they all were at the series of press conferences, all hapless and helpless, uniformed and uninformed, cowboy hats and cowboy boots, all armed to the teeth, admitting that they delayed for over an hour while the gunman shot a few more and victims bled out and died during the “golden hour” when their lives could have been saved. The tragic story of the one Uvalde teacher who survived, provides a dramatic account of police cowardice and delay.
And a couple of other things about the Uvalde disaster bear mentioning. First, I was incensed to see police officers performing a task better suited to almost any other citizens of Uvalde – that of taking bouquets of flowers, tender loving handwritten notes and signs from mourners and placing them among the dozens of mementos already there. Why the police? It seemed almost sacrilegious to me to have these heavily armed “protectors” who had failed the children and teachers of Robb Elementary, performing such a sensitive and loving task.
And why were they allowed or required to perform this task? Oh, I presume because the areas near the school were roped off, “protected” areas reserved for police “investigation”? Why was this pray tell? If I were a parent of a child killed in this dreadful incident or another school parent whose child had thankfully been spared, I would not want a policemen handling or even touching the memorial my child had thoughtfully prepared to pay tribute to a friend or favorite teacher who had died in this fusillade of bullets. Please, if indeed these areas around the school had to be roped off, the town authorities should have allowed clergy, colleagues of slain teachers or other citizens to perform this solemn duty, not a cop.
And of course the parade of politicians wringing their hands and saying we have to do something, yet always unwilling to do anything at all for fear of turning off the spigots of gun money from corporate and gun rights organization sources supporting their reelection campaigns or offending the armed and tattooed bubbas who constitute the bulk of their voting base. And the endless laments of “this is not who we are” when we know good and well that this is exactly who we are – a nation of spineless fools who allow, no, actually seem to encourage, every idiot and damned fool in the country to own a gun. And I’ve had it with the stupid suggestions for protecting students like “hardening” schools, arming teachers, providing more guards or having “one entrance”. How does that last one work for a fire in the school, Senator Cruz?
And then the endless breast beating by dozens of corporate TV talking heads and commentators, all wondering if this is the last time we suffer such an event, or “what it’s going to take” to get Congress to act.
And then later, the sad pictures and sketches of the lives snuffed out in the bloom of childhood – this one enjoyed art, another had a thing for animals, this child made the honor roll, another was a baseball player. And we begin crying, along with the parents and relatives.
And again, our “comforter in chief”, ever-suffering President Biden, shuffling and doddering among the memorial displays and gesturing about one or another, visiting the bereaved and offering useless public cliches that are supposed to make us all feel better. Oh and thank God, “Dr. Jill” was along too, . And the never ending cliches of “thoughts and prayers”, the flags lowered to half-mast, the “moments of silence” and the candlelight vigils.
I mean, how many of these terrible mass shootings are we expected to countenance before we do something concrete, something meaningful, to stop them. When are we going to pass effective laws to keep guns out of the hands of idiots, fools and the mentally deranged. The statistics are staggering – the only nation in the world with more guns than people – four hundred million at present. Forty thousand gun deaths every year along with 400 mass shootings. And so far in 2022 we’ve had well over 200 mass shootings. And now for the first time more children dying from guns than from auto accidents. The rest of the world is aghast at our stupidity and spinelessness. When a mass shooting occurs in another country they do something about it, but not the US. “Exceptional” indeed.
Frankly I think that doing anything different is impossible anymore in this country. Guns are such an integral part of our lives in the US. Every law enforcement officer of whatever stripe, level or description has to have a gun, presumably as Wayne LaPierre asserted, to be that “good guy with a gun” to stop that “bad guy with a gun”. Actually we’d all be much safer if neither of them had a gun. And furthermore, what did the hundreds of good guys with guns milling about Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas do? Not a damned thing, until it was too late.
I can’t get out of my head the image of a queue of new Border Patrol or ICE recruits, most of course scraped from the bottom of the barrel as these agencies scramble to fill their authorized ranks, all lined up and one by one being presented with their guns, belts, holsters and ammunition. Yes, this is the real badge of law enforcement in America – the power to instantly kill and maim. Honestly, do these creeps really need guns? What are they going to do – shoot some poor immigrant striving to achieve a better life for his family? Shoot some poor mother as she struggles through the currents of the Rio Grande with her children? But there they are getting their guns. This is indeed a major part of the mass killing epidemic in our country – guns themselves and their prevalence, whether in the hands of the “good guys” or the “bad guys”.
The recklessness and randomness with which guns in the hands of the police are fired at hapless and helpless citizens is astonishing. Attempting to run away from the scene of a crime or reluctance or recalcitrance (or inability, as demonstrated when a policeman aimed five bullets at the body of a pregnant woman so instructed) to heed shouted police orders, should not result in execution. Examples of cops acting as judge, jury and executioner are far too numerous to list here but one recent incident which I cannot erase from my mind is this one, in which a poor, confused and probably inebriated immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrick Lyoya, tried to run away from a traffic stop arrest, was tackled by the cop and summarily executed with a single shot to the back of his head.
And there’s our august, brilliant, dignified black-robed justices of the Supreme Court. How do they feel when they know they are responsible too for this carnage – the bloody, lifeless bodies of innocent children in a school. These distinguished “jurists” have opened the legal floodgates for this torrent of guns. They have done so by striking down laws limiting ownership of guns and making it perfectly legal for gun manufacturers and gun rights organizations to buy their own congressmen (see my upcoming article “Screwed by SCOTUS”)
And accordingly our corrupt “lawmakers” in state legislatures and Congress go about the business of making it easier to own weapons of war, making it legal for any moron to carry a gun in public, into a restaurant or department store if the idiot wishes. And our Republican leaders in Congress persist in claiming that the real problem is mental illness and school safety, not the number of guns in our country. As a career educator I deplore the focus on “hardening” schools. Schools need to be open, warm and welcoming beacons to the communities they serve, not cold, austere and forbidding fortresses. And arming teachers, as our genius and wise sage ex-president Donald Trump suggested at the NRA Convention in Houston last Friday is ludicrous. Give me a break – teachers have more than enough responsibility in their increasingly demanding roles. They should not and cannot become armed guards as well. Placing armed personnel in schools has not increased safety but has only made schools more dangerous.
I’m sick of it all. This is not freedom, but tyranny of a different sort. I’m personally tyrannized by the omniscience of guns, the ease with which they can be purchased and the ease with which ammunition to load them can also be obtained. And please spare me all the banal platitudes about “responsible gun owners”. I mean, there’s got to be a limit on this too. How many guns does a “responsible gun owner” need? The same goes for “collectors”. How many of the 400 million guns in this country are owned by collectors and responsible gun owners or hunters? How many of the murderous killers of children in schools, patrons in shopping centers or supermarkets, music lovers at a country music concert have fallen into these categories. No, there are simply too many guns in this country….period.
Isn’t the primary duty of the state to protect its citizens? And wouldn’t the first among them be those least able to protect themselves – our children? Look at how our country has utterly failed at this primary task. And yet we have far more policemen and police departments per capita “serving and protecting” our society than any other developed country (see my upcoming article “Police State”). And perhaps it’s time to ask why we have so many policemen and why we are not any safer or better protected. Oh yes, the cops are out in droves to “keep order” during times of civic unrest, looking and acting far more like agents of a repressive state than protectors of lives and property. In Uvalde they were out in droves, directing traffic, cordoning off areas, doing crowd control and keeping parents from actively rescuing their children, even handcuffing one distraught mother, doing everything except going after the shooter. And yes, their guns were ever at the ready, to kill and injure. Wherever there are people demonstrating, exercising their constitutional right to “peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”, there are the phalanxes of heavily armed policemen, replete with their weapons and vehicles of war, to “keep order”. Perhaps it’s time to ask what police really do for us, as Natasha Leonard noted in a recent article for The Intercept.
It might be appropriate to close with a grim reminder of what we have become – a nation of mass shootings which keep happening. On May 27 the Washington Post published a grim list of all the names of those who have died in mass shootings since Columbine, replete with telling photographs of ensuing grief and sadness, with the plea we have heard so many times before – Congress needs to pass sensible gun laws. Now.
What on earth do our Congressmen think when they consider this list? Might they think that something is wrong in our country? Something they need to address? My God, there’s Mitch McConnell again at a press conference, flanked as usual by his do-nothing fellow Republican “leaders” Senators Barrasso, Thune, Ernst and Blunt announcing again what they won’t do, deciding what legislation to block and when to use the filibuster. How long are we going to tolerate a Senate where all good legislation voted by the House goes to die?
Perhaps we just need to admit that our nation is in serious trouble. It is in a steady decline, totally unable to arrest its deterioration because its government is controlled by corporations and money and because of its foolish fealty to a constitution long overdue for a rewrite.