We Need to Make the Country Less Safe for the Rich and Powerful
As someone who watched Columbine unfold on live television in middle school, the entire Uvalde episode that claimed over 20 lives has an eerie sense of deja vu. With an intriguing twist.
I can’t get over the persistent rumor that the Uvalde Police quietly ducked into Robb Elementary School to save their own kids before actually doing anything. In complete honesty, the Uvalde PD has denied those claims, but hasn’t bothered with the claims that they huddled outside in their body armor for almost an hour before going in, whilst tasing and detaining distraught parents. So, the UPD will forgive me for just shrugging and assuming that they’re liars, in addition to accomplices to murder. But, the critical takeaway is that, even cops know how useless they are in an emergency. If that isn’t an immediate sign to stop and call for a complete audit and funding reduction of every police force in America, I don’t know what is.
I know, from Columbine, that we’ll go over some bizarre series of kulturkampfs over time. Rap music will probably be dragged into it. I’d imagine Marilyn Manson can expect a PR boost. Video games will be discussed. Bread and circuses will be given to distract Americans from the fact that there was an armed security guard in the school, a dozen cops with high-powered rifles were on the scene very shortly after the latest massacre (and we need to start using that word), and, somehow, we were powerless to prevent a tragedy. This is the narrative that will be pushed by the Powers that Be as a way to discourage anger and action at the unholy alliance between arms manufacturers and Congress. The US is sending half a billion dollars in guns to the Ukraine, the least the arms industry could do is gracefully bow out of the American market, but that won’t happen.
What’s happening instead — and I do hope you will appreciate this — is Ted Cruz and the other politicians complacently aiding the ongoing slaughter of children (as a gay friend pointed out, if you wanted to see the police mobilize, just call and offer a tip that a gay pride parade was happening on school grounds), are now being confronted by private individuals over their votes to fellate the gun lobby rather than increase waiting times for guns and increase background checks. There’s already the YouTube clip of Beto O’Rourke confronting Greg Abbott about Abbott’s decision to make it easier to obtain guns. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Noted coward and alcoholic uncle everyone lies to about family gatherings, Ted Cruz, is on-camera fleeing from British journalists, from private citizens who confront him in diners, generally just fleeing people, as most creatures of the night tend to do.
Overlooking the horror of another mass shoooting in America for a second, to me, this signals a very positive shift in the power dynamics in America. Many of my unAmerican friends and acquaintances (most of whom hail from saner, safer, more-stable states than this dystopian shithole of Stage 4 capitalism) told me, over the years, that the unique, and uniquely strange aspect of American politics, is that American politicians are shielded from both the consequences of their legislative actions, and their own constituents. If you have the stomach to review Flyin’ Ted’s brief appearances on Youtube, you will see — within the first 20 seconds of all of them — a bodyguard or two. I’m not saying that those in power need to live under the same hellish conditions they deem fit for us serfs, but facing something like public shame and outrage might be a start.
Many, many years ago, I got to attend a lecture on the Finnish education system given by Pasi Sahlberg, who was the Finnish Education Minister (or Deputy Minister), although I don’t believe he was a government employee when I saw him speak. The takeaway is, as far as I could seen Sahlberg didn’t have a private security detail. It’s possible that they were well-hidden in the room, but I was within five meters of the man. If anyone genuinely wanted to hurt the man, it would’ve been incredibly easy. In complete honesty, in person, Sahlberg is even more reminiscent of that one goofy science or art teacher in middle school who encouraged you to follow your weirdest ambitions than he is on YouTube, so, I have a hard time imagining who’d want to take a shot at the man. But he wasn’t cloaked in the same protective detail that stands between Joe Manchin and his constituents, and that’s what we’re seeing crumble on CNN. People are rightly angry, and, if you’re my age or older, you’ve seen the classic distraction tactics that were so aggressively and effectively deployed after Columbine. The NRA did a massive rally (at which personal guns were not allowed, so, despite the rhetoric, the NRA actually knows there’s a correlation between gun availability and violence), just to show that they are above such mortal concerns as behavioral norms or decency. There were a few hundred protestors present, and, one assumes, counter protests. Don’t get me wrong, that, in and of itself, doesn’t give me hope. Nor does Chris Murphy’s naive assumption that this time, the Republicans will agree that maybe, perhaps, we should raise the age to buy a Howitzer. What gives me hope is the fact that Ted Cruz’s entire family now has a protective detail. And, still, strangers are making their way to him to shake his hand.
That has got to keep him awake, at night. Cruz didn’t spend all that time and money to make himself freely available to his constituents, nor possibly to encounter an angry widower grieving a wife lost to COVID. It’s not much, but Americans have been suckled on the idea that peaceful protests and boycotts are enough to effect major political change, which conveniently ignores that contemporary press coverage of the Civil Rights Movement. My European friends are quick to point out that treaties protecting peasants only originated as an alternative to the peasants brutally guillotining the Baron and their family. The lie I lived through in Columbine, which is now crumbling, is, “Violence and direct action against the governing class is counterproductive; we don’t talk politics in this classroom.”
We’re now seeing, live-streamed, the utter cowardice of our alleged leaders. If a British journalist can make Cruz flee, imagine what would happen if someone actually made it to Lindsay Graham’s home? For everyone wondering, I’m not advocating a violent approach — yet — I’m just advocating the exact same tactics currently keeping the SCOTUS from releasing a potentially dangerous, precedent-setting legal setback for women. Just find our elected officials, in their private life, and discuss politics with them. This is their job, they weren’t drafted, and, ultimately, they are part of a community, too. And part of being a member of any community is being held accountable to that community if your reckless behavior endangers that community.
So many aspects of our life are governed by unspoken social norms and behaviors, I feel that it leaves us unprepared for the real monsters out there. A case in point, if you will; as far as I know, there are no posted speed limit signs on my little suburban street, because it’s a residential area, there are kids about, and, even if you really, really needed to race down the block in a minute or less, 30 KPH is more than enough to do the job. So, no speed limits posted (that I can see). If some maniac barreled through the neighborhood at freeway speeds and left a trail of mangled pedestrians behind him and drove away while we were collectively in shock at someone carelessly shitting over the idea of public safety; no, it’s not likely that my municipality would ban all cars. But we’d put up a ton of speed limit signs, and probably a few speed bumps, and possibly even a traffic light. We wouldn’t tell the children that it was their own foolish faults for venturing outside. And, yeah, even responsible drivers like myself might find the commute suddenly irksome, but, guess what? My minor inconvenience would be a damned small price to pay knowing that the neighbors’ kids weren’t going to be massacred by a maniac in an SUV. Regressive politicians who are sucking up to the arms industry are directly comparable to that vehicular maniac; the Constitution does not forbid politicians from taking bribes from special interests, and turn a blind eye to carnage, because only a complete sociopath would do that. And our Constitutional Framers probably assumed that we’d all know the difference between people grappling with complex, interwoven political issues, and psychopaths who use the word “complicated” as a dog-whistle for, “My lobbyist didn’t pay for a week in Monaco for me to vote on a bill.”
The way forward is; keep up direct pressure on every politician, regardless of party. If you recognize your local Congressman out and about, walk right up, introduce yourself, and demand to know what they, personally, are doing to make massacres less-likely. You don’t even need to invoke “American exceptionalism,” just let them know that they have responsibilities, and that the bodyguards can’t be everywhere at once.