CSotD: Digging Deeper

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

(Paul Fell)


(Rob Rogers – Counterpoint)

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.

Fat chance.


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.


10 thoughts on “CSotD: Digging Deeper

  1. Placing any amount of blame on the teacher for propping the door is akin to placing blame on a rape victim for ‘dressing provocatively’.

    And yes, I’m well aware that there are entities who would see no problem doing either.

  2. Would you also absolve someone of blame if they lit a cigarette while filling their gas tank and there was a fire?

    The point. however is, she closed the door. It failed to latch, and that’s a mechanical problem, not her fault.

  3. It is my understanding that gasoline is flammable because of its chemical structure, not for any legal, political, or psychological reasons.

    But yes, I understand that your point is she did what she could to prevent the issue.

  4. Observing America from thousands of miles away (NZ) it is hard to know where to look (or maybe whether to just look away).

    The fixation on the roles and errors seen so far seem to miss the point. Yes, the teacher propped open the door. Why not? Many people prop open firestop doors to improve ventilation. If they were to think about consequences what would be the probability of that act causing harm? So small as to be negligible? How many elementary schools are there in America? One hundred thousand plus? What chance it would be this one on this day? Sometimes a short-term need seems to have minimal risk. Ditto for latches failing to engage.

    From my point of view John Deering’s cartoon falls very short of the problem and Rob Rogers almost irrelevant. The problem is, and remains, accessibility to weapons capable of carnage.

    As an aside TexasMonthly(.com) has been trying to work out what happened on the ground and some wider ramifications. A good read. Amongst the articles there is an op-ed on treating the gun crisis. Will anyone with influence read it? Sadly, and perhaps deliberately, the conversations keep getting diverted onto individuals, mental health, and first responders rather than the over-arching problem of legal weaponry that cause great destruction.

  5. The one thing that doesn’t surprise me (and there isn’t just one) based on all my years as a public school teacher, is that – NO MATTER HOW HARD SHE MIGHT HAVE SLAMMED THE DOOR the lock didn’t engage correctlky.

  6. How do we know that the door was ever locked that day? The only person we know who tried it got in.

    That door may be a staff entrance that is unlocked before/after school hours to allow staff access from/to the staff parking. Maybe somebody just forgot to lock it.

    We’ll just have to wait for the official reports to come out.

  7. Kevin, as someone who visited hundreds of schools after Columbine, I can vouch that the doors were set to lock by default. There is no need for anyone to tend them.

    The one main door was the only one open at any time during the day and it wasn’t “open” but, rather, monitored by someone in the office who would buzz you in.

    For doors by faculty parking lots, there would be someone tending the door during the time when teachers arrived, but, like all the other doors in the building, it would lock by default when closed.

    Unless it didn’t, which may have been the case this time. But that’s a mechanical failure and (thus) a failure of maintenance, not of a particular teacher.

  8. “We’ll just have to wait for the official reports to come out.”
    I don’t mean to foment conspiracy theories but – check out who is front and center at the Abbott press conference that O’Rourke crashed. It is those who will be signing off on the final report.

  9. I still stand by my statement that we don’t know that the door was actually locked on that day.

    The part about a staff entrance was just a possible scenario of how the door could have been left unlocked.

    This article proposes a different scenario: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/uvalde-texas-school-shooting-security-plan-rcna30568

    “The school was holding an awards ceremony Tuesday for students who were just a few days from finishing the school year, which may be one explanation for the open doors.”

    In states in this article: https://apnews.com/article/texas-school-shooting-timeline-6069b0cf01e5f732ef55f9fd0b7109d7

    “Three city police officers enter the school through the same door that Ramos used and are later followed by four other officers, ”

    Multiple people were able to access the school through the same door. Once is a malfunction but 3 or more times indicates, to me at least, broken or unlocked. You’d think we would have heard if it was broken.

    It also says in the first article that the district had a “requirement that teachers lock their classroom doors”. Yet the gunman was able to enter a classroom.

    I could be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. We just wait for the investigations to finish and then we will see what we see when we see it.

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