Last night I was immobilized by mourning. Buffalo, Orange County, now Uvalde — two teachers, 17 kids. How does one respond to a country who’s deliberate inaction sanctions the murder of schoolchildren?
This morning, I passed an email with the headline “Is Nothing Sacred Anymore?” I didn’t open it. I already knew the angle, the request for money. Of course nothing is sacred anymore I found myself muttering. It’s been that way since Ronald Regan corrupted morality. Trump has turned amorality into big business. Nothing is sacred, and I often feel helpless against these hypocritical narcissists in power.
A school shooting is the most American of deaths. Only America with its skillful erasure of history could view repeated massacres as inevitable. Varying rates of mental illness do not explain these shootings; the conjuring of disproven theories that more armed officers will protect our kids has also repeatedly failed. The most effective and pernicious response from Republicans to schools shootings that they enable is the templated phrase: “Thoughts and prayers.” This phrase is a gesture of selfish idleness that seeks to replace action with performative catharsis. It’s why cliched language is dangerous: it enables the powerful to evade all accountability for their virulent apathy. As Toni Morrison said in 1993 Nobel lecture:
“Unreceptive to interrogation, [dead language] cannot form or tolerate new ideas, shape other thoughts, tell another story, fill baffling silences…. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.”— Toni Morrison
“Thoughts and prayers” limits knowledge and is code for an entrenched allegiance toward inaction and mass violence. The Democratic isn’t perfect, but I’d rather take its occasional “virtue signalling” any day over a party that enables people to legally blow of the jaw of a six-year-old. The dead language of most senate Republicans reflects a numbed and deliberate willingness to accept more shootings so long as their power is retained. Abbott, Cruz — these are megalomaniacs chasing a white whale at all costs. Their actions suggest that they literally do not care if their ambition kills everyone on the ship.
More and more often, the essence of America is a school shooting. Like the children, the elders, the congregants, we are all helpless to protect ourselves. The onslaught is mounting and it’s coming for you — that’s what life in America feels like now.
What is there do?
Some meagre suggestions:
- Elect: Root for Beto O’Rourke — https://betoorourke.com/
- Protest: If only to recognize your mission is present in others, protest. Find your people fighting gun violence. One of my loved groups is Gays Against Guns: https://www.gaysagainstguns.net/
- Support: Give directly to the families of the Uvalde massacre: https://www.gofundme.com/f/mtdrdc-texas-elementary-school-shooting-victims-fund
- Mourn: These shootings are tragedies. Each of these adults and children were incalculably unique and lost through the most senseless violence enabled by Republican senators. We have to make space to grieve, to feel far more than “thoughts and prayers.” That sincere feeling will motivate us to act.