We Are Broken

Source: The Insider

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…

39 thoughts on “We Are Broken

  1. I was a child when “duck and cover” was a way of life for us. I remember being absolutely terrified every time I heard an airplane. I’d have nightmares about finding unexploded bombs in the front yard.
    The greatest fear I had when my children were in school was that they might tear their ACL while playing soccer.
    Ultimately, they all did.
    I don’t see them anymore, nor do I see my grandchildren , but if I was still a mother or a grandmother, I would be half out of my mind with worry every time they went to school or church or the grocery store.
    The sad reality is that it will happen again, and we all know it.
    Why in the world would someone sell these horrendous guns to children who are barely old enough to shave? Answer…BECAUSE THEY CAN.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, Laurel. That about sums it up: because they can. The power the gun lobby has over politicians, particularly on the right, is what drives this. It’s sheer unadulterated power. The lives being lost isn’t even a consideration to them.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Powerfully articulated, Marty. I’m going to add this link to my post from this morning. I actually grew up in the “duck and cover” era as well, on Long Island. I grew up believing exactly what you describe your parents as believing, that America was a power for good. I only left to go to McGill, a choice I made completely on a whim as a 17-year old. Two months after I left for McGill JFK was assassinated. Was that the beginning of the changes? The reality that American politicians won’t stand up to the gun lobby because of money is beyond the pale. The fact that they make excuses for people being able to own assault weapons – which have absolutely nothing to do with the intent of the 2nd amendment – so they can continue to receive obscene donations from gun manufacturers is sinful. It’s evil. It should not be the case that someone (me) who grew up in a country that offered itself as an example of freedom to the rest of the world now feels blessed that by a complete fluke she ended up living as a citizen in another country. It just shouldn’t be this way.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your story here, Jane. I knew it from reading your blog, but I’m glad some people who come here will see it also.

      I am a strong believer in all things being cyclical, and that at some point the tide will turn and we’ll finally see a backlash to this with legs. But at the moment, I’m saddened at the spinelessness in our leaders. Evil is indeed the best way to frame it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I never had to Duck and Cover, but I know of it. I did go to a high school that had what were called ‘race riots.’ We were taught to shelter in place, lock doors, and stay close to the floor– in the event a rock/brick came through the window. Writing that sounds tone-deaf and naive in light of the world today. Today’s kids deal with much more than a random brick. I feel for them all– and want better for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Ally. I can’t for the life of me imagine what it must be like to be a student today in that environment. For two beats, I wanted to suppress comments on this post but decided against doing that. I’m glad I didn’t. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Marty, you are right. We are so very broken. I hope changes are made, and I think, it’s going to take a multi-prong approach. There isn’t just one answer; there are many. And I can’t help but think, why wasn’t this school locked? I retired from a community college. On an in service day, we all received training on what to do in the event of an active shooter. I was glad for that training. We let those children – and all the others down. I’m a practical person. Let’s find common ground and start doing something!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the post, Marty. I had not seen John Dickerson’s commentary. When I lived in Texas, I always thought it was harder to get a driver’s license (even as a licensed adult moving from another state) than it was to get a gun. Here’s more evidence of that. I’m pretty angry.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well written. I’ve always wondered how anyone can find even one simple reason for the average person to want, need, or own an assault weapon. We have elected representatives who supposedly represent our cares, concerns, complaints, and issues, except for guns. We’ve been living through these nightmares for years, and the NRA and its backers win out every time and our families lose beloved members. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it just keeps happening over and over.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. [Over the last three or so decades, whenever I’d hear of parents mourning their child’s untimely and needless violent death, I would add some element to the fictional account below, which was originally penned in the early 1990s. … I’d find bewildering the notion that God would enable one praying couple’s child to be spared a brutal death while allowing another praying couple’s child to painfully perish.]

    LISTENING to her teenaged daughter’s recorded screams, the distraught mother could not contain her grief. With heaving sobs, she stood to leave the courtroom, only to have her weakened knees buckle and collapse onto the courtroom floor. Gasps came from many spectators (some others she’d suspected to be but voyeurs), as the bailiff, district attorney, and even defense council, rushing to assist the bereaved woman. Slowly, gently facilitating the trembling frail woman to her feet, the three courtroom officials somehow misperceived stability in her pale expression and gradually pulled away their hands. But she was so shaken by the prosecution’s key evidence — that of the accused’s own trophy audio-video of her only child’s last tortured hours alive — she fell hard, flat unconscious.

    The night she was kidnapped, the desperate mother had locked her daughter out of the house in an attempt to correct the otherwise average girl’s increasing tendency to breach curfew. It was the first (and tragically final) time the mother had, still with much reluctance, attempted such a tough-love measure. Only it had gone the most horribly wrong.

    By all accounts, the mother had been a fine parent, as was the girl’s father; although he, until then healthy, had died suddenly of a massive coronary less than a month after his “little princess” had been prolongedly tortured, then murdered in the worst way. The girl’s assailant had caused her all the real hell any parent wishes against their child ever having to nightmare about, let alone actually instinctively enduring for the sake of surviving the atrocity, only to be snuffed out at day’s end anyway.

    And that appeared to have been the last straw. …

    Suddenly everyone on Earth was aware of an unprecedentedly profound Great Change, and one that would become a far better existence than just moments before. The planet-wide awakening was a massive shift that would finally find favor for the most materially, physically, mentally and spiritually poor people of all.

    For starters, every fortunate person was forced, as though by true magic, to empathically share in the anguish suffered by the greatest life-sentence affliction that Fate can cruelly, yet with cold apathy, reserve for a parent — a child lost to a torturous death. Now all bore a tiny portion — thus one sometimes imperceivable — of that enormous emotional turmoil otherwise suffered solely by those individuals who’d received the lottery-jackpot-odds lousiest of parental luck.
    In rehabilitative return, those most unfortunate parents who’d suffered such unjust extreme loss, inexplicably felt very great relief from their overwhelming affliction. Their trembling hands slowly left their tear-streaked faces, for their heavy hearts no longer suffered the agony alone.

    With the supernatural change, however involuntary, when all shared in such a terrible personal toll, it became a literal — rather than just the common figurative — sharing of grief. It was analogous to a fiscally imprudent national government that had invested a large sum of treasury funds into an eventually losing deal; but with the shortfall shouldered by the large collective citizenry, the burden on the individual taxpayer was so much greatly lessened, if not unnoticeable.

    Rather than being specific thought invasively transmitted and received, it was loosely comparable to an expecting husband’s sympathy pains suffered for his greatly laboring pregnant wife. Even academics agreed it was akin to everyone having been spontaneously cerebrally re-hardwired to literally share in others’ dreadful suffering, like so many undisturbed antennas suddenly receiving the immensely distressed signals from a few isolated agonized antennas.

    Most assumed the change was implemented by a kindly sentient omnipotent source. This was defined by monotheists as God, and by polytheists as multiple powerful spirits; while others believed greatly advanced caring alien-race monitors were responsible. Many secular humanists theorized it was simply the good within humankind itself psychically coming to long-overdue overpowering conscience terms with the disproportionate injustices suffered by some but not by most others.

    Of course the change was also well received by many other worldwide examples of disproportionate suffering, notably that of desperately poor citizens of developing nations wanting for the most basic of life’s necessities. Indeed, great empathic relief was felt long before the arrival of overflowing shipments of water purification devices, as well as the exponentially larger quantities of food and medicine than ever before — all gratefully given by the prosperous nations because the planet’s privileged people were abruptly enduring what had consumed the world’s most needy for far too long. And in return, the fortunate givers felt physically and mentally so much better.

    Although initially the otherwise fortunate felt indignant by the change, that they’d done nothing personally wrong to justify the unfavorable empathy, soon it no longer felt like an imposition but rather a universal effect in which all were naturally wanting to treat all affliction, just as though it was in fact one’s very own turmoil. And contrary to the usual human-history pendulum swing of ideological and political mood, the Great Change was a permanently solidified authentic sense of others’ upheaval, therefore no chance would remain of all reverting to the unjust existential norm of yore. ….


    1. I couldn’t agree more, Janis. Immediately after posting this, I made the switch to cut off comments because I figured that would be easier on everyone (and perhaps me too). But I quickly changed it back for the reasons you just mentioned: We shouldn’t allow ourselves to feel helpless. Well said.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been engaging in some drama queening with my neighbours of late. Of course, at the time I was raging it felt important, but it’s now taken its rightful place in the grand scale of things as petty.

    Himself & I have talked the subject of gun ownership round about and back again. He was a sporting shooter who, with all the others, gave up his guns after the school shooting here in the UK 25 years ago. He’s been looking at the statistics of ownership in the US vs the UK (before the law change) and the difference is striking. The figures were in the order of 2 guns per 100 people in the UK and 2 guns per person in the US.

    If I believed, I would find it hard to continue to so do in the face of all this. Take good care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Somewhere I read an account from a law enforcement official here that even if somehow we were able to ban assault-type rifles here, the number of them already out there in homes runs somewhere north of twenty million. That’s a staggering and horrifying amount; to me it literally means that a ban would already have no affect at all.

      For so long, I always supported the rights of gun owners, particularly of those who hunt and for sport. But in the face of all these mass shootings here, it’s hard to even know where to draw the lines anymore.

      Thanks for your thoughts and shared solidarity, Debs.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Poignant and articulate, Marty. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. For me, to think of the abject horror is a gut punch. Please! How many more must we endure? Politically, this is just another facet of the selfish and corrupt conservative right, pandering to the gun lobby and special interests for the sake of their own quest for power. Heinous and disgusting!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We had one school shooting here in the UK in the 1990s and gun laws were tightened even further. There is no need for the average person to have a gun and I will never understand those in America who seem obsessed with them and their idea that more guns equals safety. It’s completely baffling!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Baffling is the polite word. Insane is a better one! I am so envious of the UK, Australia, and New Zealand for smart gun control laws. I don’t think I’ll ever see that here in my lifetime. It’s beyond sad.


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