Today’s guest columnist is Dan Le Batard.
Speech trembling, rage rising, heart breaking, Steve Kerr tried to give voice to America’s unique pain. “When are we going to do something?” he yelled helplessly Tuesday, pounding the table before the alleged big game. When? When? When? Something. Something. Something.
Nobody slaughters kids at school the way our country does. Nobody slaughters kids at school the way our country does. Nobody slaughters kids at school the way our country does. The world is deeply divided, violent and dangerous, unfathomably barbaric in many places. Nobody slaughters kids at school the way our country does. This time it was the town Uvalde, Texas, we all learned at once … because it forever carries the stain of introducing us again to the worst kind of pain, innocence extinguished.
Robb Elementary School this time. Nineteen children and two adults dead. The numbers climbed overnight. The kids were hard to identify, the horror done to their faces. More numbers. So many numbers. Numb, numb, numbing numbers. It took CNN more than three minutes Tuesday to list all the United States cities that have had mass shootings this year, more than 200 so far. It is only May.
A kid bought two assault rifles for his 18th birthday, and the gift to himself, as he walked into adulthood and into that school, was picking off scared innocents one by one? This will lead to the immediate and inevitable arguments about politics and video games and gun safety you can find in any crevice of the divided state of America today, as it always does, but that is merely displacement for our drowning. It is what you do when you know you can’t do anything … but must do something. This anguish is helpless and hopeless. We must scream something because stewing in the heavy and empty weight of the silence and sobbing feels like accepting something that can’t ever be accepted, even as we are forced to accept it again and again.
It is the worst pain a human can know, burying your child. We argue about the most basic facts these days, but we don’t argue about that. When Kerr screams “Enough!” and says he is tired of condolences and moments of silence, there is no rebuttal. It feels better to scream. Not good, mind you. Not good. Just better. It is better than doing nothing. But not by much. Because it won’t be long before we are screaming and grieving again. We scream at lawmakers, at each other, at God, at coffins, at life’s cruelty … and death’s.
A wailed “When are we going to do something?” never comes with an actual answer, or takes away any of the pain. Both sides in politics get accused of living in an echo chamber these days, but we all live together in the one where “When are we going to do something?” is screamed again and again in some form, different month, different school, different city, and it bounces off the haunting echo-chamber walls forever without an answer, a little quieter with each repetition … until it returns with righteous rage and grief the next inevitable time children are slaughtered yet again, the sound fading less quickly than those lives did.
No matter what you think America is or should be, no matter how much stupidity we file under politics these days, we live in a country where there are no safe spaces left to hide from this uniquely American sickness. Our guns aren’t safe. Our background checks aren’t safe. Our schools aren’t safe. Our children aren’t safe. Our country isn’t safe. Our love isn’t safe. The hate seems to be, though.
Outrageous. That’s what this is. You felt it almost everywhere I went Tuesday. People trembling mad. Angrier than they were before this, and this place was plenty angry then. The word has lost some of its meaning, outrage is so in vogue, but yesterday it went from inside to outside. Out, rage. Get out. Get out, rage, get out of us. Out. Rage. US.
You drop your kids off and trust their life with others. You expect to always get them back. It’s an understanding we have of school, of life, such a precious trust. Parents often cry on the first day, letting go. Life is up ahead, in the discovery of those books and those classrooms and those relationships. Not death. Life. Schools are where life is.
That’s where we send our innocents to learn, to grow, to be developed, not extinguished. Laughter fills a playground, not blood. That ground is for play there, not burial. Schools are supposed to be sturdy and secure places that protect the most valuable and precious things. Like treasure chests. Or bank vaults.
Walking a child to school, or to the bus, toward adulthood, is a postcard snapshot of what love could look like if it had a shape. There is little worse than you can say about a place than that it can’t protect its most vulnerable, but it is something we can say about America without dispute.
Such a uniquely American sickness. Unlike anywhere else in the world. We are the headquarters for this, the world’s biggest supplier. This was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. elementary school since Sandy Hook a decade ago, the deadliest shooting in the modern history of gun-toting Texas. That’s 26 school shootings resulting in injury or death in the U.S. in 2022.
We don’t have solutions today. That doesn’t mean we should immediately pivot to arguing about politics or guns. You don’t go to pay respects at a funeral to get into an argument with the grieving pallbearers about the Second Amendment. Somewhere between the moments of silence and moments of screaming, we bow our heads with condolences that don’t console and pray to God or scream at God through helpless and terrified pleas that a school even closer to home than this isn’t next.
It is so hard to come by empathy these days, but this one hits everyone in the heart because we all imagine, in the randomness, in the cruelty, in the unimaginable horror of dropping kids off at school with so much life and never getting to touch that life again, that it could be us next. Because it could be.
When are we going to do something? It haunts. The sound of it. The grief in it. The despair it is soaked in. The cry.
When are we going to do something? When are we going to do something? When are we going to do something?
Le Batard is host of the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz.