The images are too pervasive, and I can’t get away from them, much as I’d like to.
The woman standing in front of the pancake mixes and bottles of syrup in the local grocery store announcing, “Well, now, we can’t even have Aunt Jemima anymore. It has to be ‘Pearl Milling Company’ because someone had to throw a tantrum and pound their fists on the floor because Aunt Jemima hurt their widdy-biddy feelings.” She said it with a sneer in her voice and loudly enough that anyone within close proximity could easily have heard her. At literally the same time in another grocery store a few hundred miles to the north, a young man was murdering people because their skin was black.
News coverage about the mass shooting in Buffalo, was immediately followed by a political ad. It showed the candidate and his family, including grandma, dressed in cheery plaid jackets and all happily carrying firearms as he reassured voters he would fight for their second amendment rights.
The wooden signs on a property I’m forced to see every time I leave my development. “Diversity equals Marxism.” “Families united under God.” “No more CRT.”
The horror of a young woman shot to death while her toddler sat in the car, apparently because her neighbor was angry about a property dispute.
The shootings that occur almost every day in the community where I live.
And now, these beautiful innocent children and their teachers. Again.
I was still teaching when Columbine happened and then Nickel Mines and then the assassination of a principal at a neighboring school district. I watched events unfold at Sandy Hook on my classroom TV. I was still teaching when we first learned the word lockdown and practiced code reds. Students would carefully lay their instruments on their chairs and huddle behind my desk, giggling and restless, while I turned out the lights, pulled the shades, and pushed an official red folder under the door listing the students who were with me. As if that would stop anyone.
Now that the first twenty-four hours of horror are over, I can already sense those who steer the wheels of power turning away from these brutally murdered children. I heard it in the carefully worded statements from the governor of Texas, pinning the blame squarely on the lack of accessibility to mental health services. Point taken, but he neglected to mention that this individual was able to legally buy assault weapons that would destroy a human being from the inside out in a state that says he’s not yet old enough to drink. I heard it in the blathering of one of their senators, insisting that arming our teachers and turning schools into fortresses would solve the problem.
I guess I’m naïve, but I didn’t grow up in a world like this. Never could I imagine that the lust for power would take precedence over human life. But that’s our reality. The monstrous leviathan of political influence is driving this country into oblivion, and it’s utterly terrifying. I know the country has always been governed by what happens in the smoke-filled back rooms, but never to the point of condoning the murder of innocent people, over and over again. What’s changed, I suppose, is we now have the technology to ensure that the right messages, regardless of their truth, reach the right people. Holding onto a senate seat and doing everything possible to destroy the opposing political party, regardless of what’s best for the country is all that matters. Soon the propaganda machines and lobbyists will start spewing, “Yes, but they’re going to take your hunting rifles,” and we’ll just keep on murdering each other, wringing our hands, and offering thoughts and prayers.