Information — that is, real information — is beginning to emerge from Uvalde, though perhaps too late to ever displace the rumors. But one thing that has been clear almost from the moment of the murders is that, as Ann Telnaes puts it, mass shootings are part of our culture.
The outrageous part is not that the Uvalde killings have nearly distracted us from the war in Ukraine but that they’ve nearly distracted us from Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.
We’re horrified and delighted and fascinated, and, as Phil Ochs wrote of JFK’s murder
They say they can’t believe it, it’s a sacrilegious shame
Now, who would want to hurt such a hero of the game?
But you know I predicted it; I knew he had to fall
How did it happen? I hope his suffering was small.
Tell me every detail, I’ve got to know it all,
And do you have a picture of the pain?
However horrified we may be at the moment, the mood passes quickly enough.
But whether or not these shootings are part of our culture, guns themselves most certainly are. Jeff Stahler mirrors Telnaes in declaring guns so much a part of our lives that, when they intrude on our daily lives, we express more annoyance than outrage.
Uvalde made us snap to attention, certainly, but there have been plenty of mass shootings since and they’ve barely made a ripple.
It occurred to me that, while the NRA has been criticized for continuing to hold its national convention in Houston in the wake of the Uvalde murders, we slaughter each other so frequently that I don’t know when they could meet that wouldn’t be on the heels of some disaster.
This thought process was greatly aided by an NPR story about taped conversations in which NRA spinmeisters considered canceling their 1999 Denver Convention in the wake of the Columbine shootings.
Uncovering their discussions is not quite on the level with unearthing Tobacco Institute papers in which they conspire to hide the truth about cigarettes and cancer, but it does demonstrate that there was, in those days, a divide in the group between people worried about decency and people worried about pride.
We know who won that one.
Juxtaposition of the Day
I’m not even sure something on the level of the Tobacco Institute revelations would stir Congress out of its torpor these days, and the disconnect between Foggy Bottom and the Rest of America is tangled not just in the successful push to create a cultural divide that puts guns on one side and public safety on the other, but in the whole Citizens United mess of money and politics.
We ought not to oversimplify it. It’s certainly true that gun lobbies shower politicians with donations, but it’s more convoluted and deeper than just campaign financing. As AOC said, it’s not just about the money but about the faux friendships that emerge in the cocooned world of Washington.
As I’ve noted many times, good journalists have many sources but no friends, and, in this quick video, she explains the process as it applies to politicians.
The personal coincidence being that I’ve been remembering a cops-and-courts reporter at one paper where I worked who thought he was truly in with the police and fire departments. You’d hear him chatting and chuckling on the phone as he gathered the information each day and you might have thought so, too.
But I had enough connections within the first-responder world to know that they laughed at him behind his back, and I strongly suspect there are congresscritters and their staff members who are just as unwittingly held in the same contempt by Washington lobbyists.
The bottom line being that we can’t expect to see action out of Congress, and the shame is that the majority of Americans would like to see some.
But it would have to get out of committee and then it would have to get to the floor.
Meanwhile, back in Uvalde, John Deering (Creators) notes a proposal to raze and rebuild the school where the murders took place, and suggests, rather, that it is the police department which needs to hit the restart button.
I have been, and remain, reluctant to join the chorus screaming “Cowards!” at the police because the full facts have not yet emerged.
As an example, we were told a teacher had propped open the door, but in the past 24 hours, we’ve learned that she saw the gunman and pulled the door shut as she called 911, but that the lock did not engage. Even if she failed to pull hard on the door, it should have been set to lock simply by its own weight.
Point being that all of us who accused her of breaking the rule and subverting school safety owe her an apology, and I was among that crowd.
But at least I didn’t call her names.
Because, while everyone agrees the response by police was wrong, we still need to fill in the blank spaces to know why it happened, and, in the meantime, it is presumptuous in the extreme to call them cowards when we don’t know what orders they were given or even what disparate units they may have represented.
However, the Thin Blue Line now appears to be drawing at least around the incident commander, who has reportedly ceased cooperating with the Texas Rangers’ investigation.
Who the hell does he think he is? Kevin McCarthy?
Whatever comes of this, and however many area departments may need to be included, Deering has it right: They need to blow it up and start all over again.
I didn’t choose those last words by chance: A fellow from Uvalde wrote an OpEd in the Washington Post which made this ol’ country boy recall that, while some kids can’t imagine ever leaving town, he seems like one of those who didn’t let the screen door hit him as he hurried away.
But there are also a whole lot of us who have to go but who never lose our affection, even for a place in need of a little work.
I’m betting Uvalde has plenty of those.