A day after the Texas school shooting, a sibling wrote to me how relieved she is that our parents are no longer alive to see what’s happening to our country right now. She wrote:
“They lived through the Great Depression and World War Two; they were convinced that their children would never see a world as dark as that. Yet, we’ve now entered another kind of darkness, haven’t we? It feels so permanent.”
Indeed it does.
I started elementary school a few years after they stopped engaging in the “Duck and Cover” drills, designed in case of an atomic bomb attack by Russia. By the early 1960’s, however, it was apparent that Soviet missile capabilities were far more advanced than when those drills were originally devised, and the prevailing consensus was that Duck and Cover had outlived its intended purpose.
Now, of course, teachers and students conduct regularly scheduled active shooter drills so that they can hopefully survive an attack by a gunman. The odds are now obviously less that an atomic bomb will ever strike, and more that a shooter will enter a school classroom.
Or a nightclub.
Or a house of worship.
Or a supermarket.
To me, the worst part of this endless madness is that the weapon of choice is an assault rifle. For the love of G-d, can anyone explain why a private citizen needs to have such a weapon? Its very design and intent is for warfare, and yet it is perfectly legal to own one in this country. It feels like we regulate fireworks and firecrackers more than these weapons. Have we gone completely mad?
To offer some compassionate solidarity to my heartbroken sibling, I agreed with her that I too am glad my parents are no longer alive to witness any of this. Though their post-war optimism was surely tested by the social and political upheavals of the nineteen sixties and seventies, their belief in the core tenets of American values and exceptionalism never wavered. They believed in the basic goodness of their fellow citizens and our elected leaders. Yet, I’m absolutely certain now that they wouldn’t recognize their country were they alive today. I’m struggling to recognize it myself.
In the aftermath of these heinous shootings in which 19 innocent children and two teachers were murdered, I was struck by the raw poignancy of journalist John Dickerson’s closing remarks on the evening broadcast, mere hours after the rampage. He speaks for me and I assume countless others:
Until next time…