I realize school shootings are now the first thing that come to mind. Yesterday morning, not long after 9 o’clock, we were driving south on I-465, which rings Indianapolis. Suddenly, coming our way across the median barrier, were five police units, traveling at an exceptionally high rate of speed, even for police, with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Within seconds, another three police cars sped by at incredible speeds. My reaction was immediate, Vera: I mentioned to your grandmother that I can’t image anything that would elicit such a response other than a school shooting. I didn’t think much more about it, until later yesterday afternoon when I turned on the car radio as we finally reached Pennsylvania.
It was then I learned my reaction was spot on. There had in fact been a school shooting, in Noblesville, the school district that borders our home district. It was that close. A student is in critical condition and a teacher, who courageously subdued the teenage shooter, despite taking three bullets himself, was in surgery yesterday but is expected to live.
As school shootings go, there have been worse. Lots worse. But none has been as close as this one. I easily could ride by bike to this school. As with most of these shootings, it occurred in a nice suburban community. In general, crime rates tend to be higher in inner cities, but not so with school shootings. They tend to happen where people are wealthier and schools are nicer.
Our failure to address the problem frustrates me. And sometimes angers me, too. I don’t understand why we’re so accepting of this carnage. The mindless slaughter of our children. And grandchildren. I suppose I’m upset more about it because of you, Vera. You’re in school, and you have many years of school in front of you. Your safety shouldn’t be a concern. But it is. We live in a society in which reality makes it so. It’s the only so-called developed society on earth in which this kind of thing happens frequently. The only society that accepts the slaughter of its children, sitting on its hands, content to respond merely with “thoughts and prayers.” When it comes to this problem, we are sheep.
I doubt there is a simple answer. Sure, the basically unconstrained access to guns — including automatic guns and assault weapons — is part of the problem. But the problem must go deeper than that. There must be something going on with the American people that would spur them to become cold-blooded killers of children.
What is it and, more importantly, why aren’t we more interested in finding out what it is and working hard to change it?
I don’t know. I just don’t know.
We have time to talk about everything else. And focus on things like tax cuts and elections and tariffs and demagogues.
Our president has ample time to pursue his toxic strategy of dividing our nation in the pursuit of his selfish goals. Our congress has ample time to debate relatively trivial issues and play political games and engage in endless political posturing. We have time to be obsessed with the stock market and all the things necessary to help people of wealth and influence acquire even more. But we don’t have the time or will to discuss our children. And their safety. And the obvious ills of our society. I just don’t get it.
It makes me wonder if our society is doomed to fail. If we’ve lost our soul. Our legitimacy. I’m not sure. But it’s hard to dismiss the possibility.
What do we value? What are the most important things to us?
When I reflect on those questions, I find the answers to be quite disturbing.
But it does no good to complain or whine about it. Action is the only thing that counts. And so long as we continue to elect small-minded, incredibly selfish and self-centered political hacks to public office, then there won’t be any meaningful action.
And so long as long as we think the most important thing is the pursuit and acquisition of stuff and status, then there won’t be any meaningful action.
And so long as we view each other as either winners or losers and elevate raw competition above all else, then there won’t be any meaningful action.
And so long as we think it’s more important that people be able to possess whatever deadly weapons they desire than it is to protect our kids, then there won’t be any meaningful action.
America is in a bad place today. It has leaders who are worse than pathetic and a citizenry that thinks it’s O.K. to elect such people to office. It has values that have been weakened and may be to the point of breaking. It doesn’t even talk about virtue anymore.
Does that mean our decline is inevitable? Probably not. But perhaps yes. Perhaps — just perhaps — we are getting what we deserve. In the Old Testament, there is a concept that describes what may be happening here. It’s called “judgment.”
Mindless, senseless, lethal violence visited children in their classroom yesterday, close to home, in a nice affluent community with renowned schools that sends its graduates to the “best” colleges on their way to becoming highly “successful” adults. This is no way to run a country. A society.