Saturday, June 04, 2022
After the [Buffalo mass] shooting, [Ann] Coulter wrote a column dismissing the idea that Republican politicians and commentators had popularized the “Great Replacement” theory, a conspiracy theory that the young, white Buffalo shooter cited as a motivation before killing 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Instead, Coulter argued that the theory had been popularized by political analysts and Democratic operatives who have predicted that the nation’s changing demographics will benefit Democrats over time.
In particular, Coulter, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and others on the right have cited the work of journalists like me, the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey, and the electoral analysts John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, authors of The Emerging Democratic Majority, claiming that, by writing about demographic change and its electoral impact, we are responsible for seeding the idea that white Americans are being displaced. “If you don’t want people to be paranoid and angry, maybe you don’t write pieces like that and rub it right in their face,” Carlson, who has relentlessly touted replacement theory on his show, declared in a recent monologue.
It might go without saying that documenting demographic change is not the same as using it to incite and politically mobilize those who are fearful of it. It’s something like the difference between reporting a fire and setting one. But given how many right-wing racial provocateurs are trying to disavow the consequences of their “replacement” rhetoric, it apparently bears explaining how their incendiary language differs from the arguments of mainstream demographic and electoral analysts.
Let’s start with defining replacement theory. It’s a racist formulation that has migrated from France to far-right American circles to some officials and candidates in the GOP mainstream. In its purest version, the theory maintains that shadowy, left-wing elites—often identified as Jews—are deliberately working to undermine the political influence of native-born white citizens by promoting immigration and other policies that increase racial diversity. This conspiracy theory was the inspiration, if that’s the right word, for the neo-Nazis who chanted during their 2017 march in Charlottesville, Virginia, that “Jews will not replace us.”
Stripped of the overt anti-Semitism, replacement theory has become a constant talking point for Carlson. A growing number of Republican politicians, such as House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and the Ohio Senate candidate J. D. Vance, have incorporated versions of it into their rhetoric. It’s the most virulent iteration of the core message former President Donald Trump has imprinted onto his party: Republicans are your last line of defense against diverse, urban, secular, LGBTQ-friendly, “woke” Democrats . . . .
No serious student of history or politics believes that a Democratic plot to import “more obedient voters from the Third World,” as Carlson puts it, has been the driving force behind U.S. immigration policy. Until the 1990s, most of the key decisions in modern immigration policy were bipartisan—from the passage of the landmark 1965 immigration-reform act to the amnesty for undocumented immigrants signed into law by President Ronald Reagan to the Republican-controlled Senate’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform in 2006, with unwavering support from President George W. Bush. A Democratic-led conspiracy that ensnared Reagan and Bush would be pretty impressive—if it weren’t so implausible.
Second, replacement theory pinpoints immigration policy, particularly the potential legalization of undocumented immigrants, as the key reason that white Americans are being “displaced.” But Frey, the Brookings demographer, has repeatedly documented that immigration is no longer the principal driver of the nation’s growing diversity. . . . it is propelled mostly by another factor. Among those already living in the United States, people of color have higher birth rates than white people, who are much older on average. Even eliminating all immigration for the next four decades would not prevent the white share of the U.S. population from declining further, Frey’s analysis of the census data found.
A third big difference between replacement theory and analyses of demographic change revolves around the role that race plays in the changing balance of political power in America. Many on the right see racial change as the key threat to the Republican Party’s electoral prospects. But demographic analysts have never seen racial change as sufficient to tilt the electoral competition between the parties.
No party can write off America’s white majority for that long. Instead, I and other analysts have long argued that Democrats have the opportunity to build a multiracial coalition composed of both the increasing minority population and groups within the white population that are most comfortable with a diversifying America: namely those who are college-educated, secular, urban, and younger, especially women in all of those cohorts. The combination of these white groups (many of which are growing) and the expanding minority population is what I have called the Democrats’ “coalition of transformation.”
Even Democratic organizations that are focused on maximizing political participation among nonwhite voters recognize the centrality of building a multiracial coalition, on electoral as well as moral grounds.
Those on the right who push replacement theory tell their mostly white supporters that they are locked in a zero-sum competition with minorities and immigrants who are stealing what rightfully belongs to them: electoral power, economic opportunity, the cultural definition of what it means to be a legitimate American. “There’s always this underlying theft—they are taking these things by dishonest means; they are taking what is yours,” explains Mike Madrid, a longtime Republican strategist who has become a leading critic of the party’s direction under Trump.
By contrast, I and other analysts have emphasized the interdependence of the white and nonwhite populations. Building on work from Frey, I’ve repeatedly written that America is being reshaped by two concurrent demographic revolutions: a youth population that is rapidly growing more racially diverse, and a senior population that is increasing in size as Baby Boomers retire but that will remain preponderantly white for decades.
Although these shifts raise the prospect of increased political and social tension between what I called “the brown and the gray,” the two groups are bound together more than our politics often allows. A core reality of 21st-century America is that this senior population will depend on a largely nonwhite workforce to pay the taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, not to mention to provide the medical care those seniors need.
While the likes of Carlson and Coulter tell white Americans to fear that immigrants or people of color are replacing them politically, financial security for the “gray” is impossible without economic opportunity for the “brown.”
Due in part to the provocations of Carlson and others, the United States appears trapped in a cycle of increasing racial, generational, and partisan conflict that is escalating fears about the country’s fundamental cohesion.
The refusal of many GOP leaders to condemn replacement theory even after the Buffalo shooting, and their determination to block greater law-enforcement scrutiny of violent white supremacists, underscores how far we are from that world [ a story that America is the richest country in the world, that there is enough pie for everyone, there is no need for ‘replacement.’ ] To me, the safest forecast about the years ahead is that the Republican Party and its allies in the media will only escalate their efforts to squeeze more votes from white Americans by heightening those voters’ fears of a changing country. I’d like to be wrong about that prediction, too, but I’m not optimistic that I will be.
Most disappointing and frightening is the fact that the Fox News talking heads and Republican candidates care nothing for the harm their hate and fear mongering engender. The El Paso mass shooting and the one in Buffalo underscore that some will be motivated to murder. Fox News and the GOP literally have blood on their hands.
Friday, June 03, 2022
Are we to give Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas points for not attending the National Rifle Association convention in Houston last weekend? You know, the one that began just three days after an 18-year-old with an AR-15-style rifle slaughtered 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school less than 300 miles away?
Abbott canceled his scheduled appearance — but did speak to the gun-worshiping gathering remotely, with prerecorded remarks. This is known as hedging your bets. And this, in the Republican Party of 2022, is what passes for tact.
Ever since the Uvalde massacre, I’ve been watching Abbott and listening to him and looking for some small hint — for any evanescent glimmer — of misgiving about all that he has done on his watch and with his signature to glorify guns, to fetishize guns, to make sure that Texans can obtain guns easily and carry them proudly and be free, free, free!
Abbott hasn’t been as perversely tone-deaf as his party’s orange overlord, Donald Trump, who stuck to his plan to speak at the N.R.A. convention, marinated in the crowd’s adulation and — my favorite part — held forth on the topic of mental health. Because that’s Trump’s forte? Because he embodies it? There’s no kinship between rhetoric and reality when he takes the stage. And that estrangement characterizes much of the Republican Party today.
Certainly, it applies to Abbott. His most impassioned, pained moment after the elementary-school blood bath came on the same day as his Wizard-of-Oz convention appearance, when he declared at a news conference in Uvalde: “I am livid about what happened.”
Livid! But he wasn’t talking about the killings per se. About the pileup of tiny corpses. He was talking about the slow response of law enforcement officers on the scene that day, about his initial misimpression that they’d acted more heroically and about his out-of-the-gate praise of them along those lines.
“The information I was given turned out, in part, to be inaccurate, and I am absolutely livid about that,” he said. Yes, Governor Abbott, that’s the most infuriating aspect of — and salient takeaway from — this ordeal.
He has no right whatsoever to be livid. He forfeited it when, less than a year ago, he signed a law that gives Texans the green light to carry handguns without a license or training. He forfeited it when he signed a law that allows hotel guests in Texas to store their firearms in their rooms.
He forfeited it by signing law after law sending the message to Texans that what they should fear most isn’t all the killing done by guns but big, bad federal restrictions that might affect how quickly they can get their hands on more guns or how many places they can brandish those guns or how much caution they must muster around those guns.
He forfeited it when, less than two months ago, he cut more than $200 million from the Texas commission that oversees mental health services in the state, which, according to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report, ranks fourth in the nation in terms of the prevalence of mental illness, but last in access to mental health care.
What Abbott didn’t speak about was reducing the glut — and regulating the types — of deadly firearms in a broken country that stands out, not so coincidentally, for both how many guns it contains and the number of people killed by them yearly.
I’m livid about that.
Abbott and other Republican leaders claimed to have heavy hearts. What they should have is haunted consciences.
Law abiding citizens should not have to worry that they or their loved ones might be gunned down simply so the gun industry can rack up profits and gun nuts can further indulge their sick fetish. It is past time to ban assault weapons and put strict restriction on gun ownership. The blood bath needs to stop. Texans can begin the process by voting Abbott out of office.
Thursday, June 02, 2022
Donald Trump and William Barr have spent years alleging that the Russia investigation was a criminal plot by the FBI. The Department of Justice’s inspector general found the Russia investigation was adequately predicated, but Barr disagreed. So he selected a prosecutor, John Durham, who would supposedly uncover this scheme and begin frog-marching its perpetrators to justice.
By 2020, Barr was conceding that Durham might not reach all the way up to Barack Obama but would bring down his accomplices. “As to President Obama and Vice-President Biden,” he said that spring, “whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man. Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.” By the fall, Barr was reportedly “communicating that Durham is taking his investigation extremely seriously and is focused on winning prosecutions.”
Durham is not winning prosecutions. His investigation has produced a single guilty plea from one extremely small fish for a likely immaterial error that the Inspector General already found. And now he is losing prosecutions. Durham abused his authority by trying to prosecute Michael Sussmann, a lawyer working for Hillary Clinton, whom Durham tried to convict on a single perjury charge. And the case turns out to have been so pathetically threadbare that it resulted in a rapid acquittal.
The charge against Sussmann alleged that he misled the FBI by saying he was not working on behalf of a client when in fact he was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Not only is a single charge of lying to the FBI weak tea for a prosecution, it was obvious all along that the evidence for even this small charge was tenuous. The prosecution hung its case on the testimony of one FBI official, James Baker, based entirely on his recollection of a conversation. Baker, however, was foggy on many of the specifics of his interactions with Sussmann, and even testified to Congress that he couldn’t remember if he knew who Sussmann was working for.
The trial went badly enough for Durham that his fans in the right-wing media were already laying the groundwork for acquittal by blaming the judge for allowing a juror who believed (but wasn’t sure) she had contributed to Clinton’s campaign. That excuse might have held some water in the event of a hung jury. But the jury’s unanimous and extremely speedy verdict suggests a single possible former Clinton-donating juror is not the reason. The reason is that Durham didn’t have the goods.
The fact Durham even had to bring this case was a testament to the failure of his probe. He had set out to uncover the FBI’s crimes against Mr. Trump. He was reduced to trying, and failing, to prosecute somebody for lying to the FBI.
In the meantime, Durham supplied hours of commentary for Fox News personalities by filling his indictment with lurid claims that were not backed by evidence.
Durham tried to use his charge against Sussmann as a hook for the larger conspiracy theory that he, Trump, and Barr have been expounding: that investigation was ginned up in order to smear Trump in the media before the election.
There are several flaws with this theory. The first is that the Russia investigation was already underway before Sussmann approached the FBI with his suspicions about the server.
The second is that the FBI never leaked its investigation until after Trump was elected. The only reporting on the whole matter before the election was in a New York Times report that the FBI “saw no clear link to Russia.”
[T]o the extent Durham deepened the public understanding of Trump’s conspiracy theory of the Russia investigation, he inadvertently undermined it. I argued in 2020 that Joe Biden’s Justice Department was correct to let Durham continue his investigation because it would expose the hollowness of Trump’s allegations. And it has.
The final, largest hole in the conspiracy theory is that there were in fact serious grounds for suspicion. By 2016 it was already apparent that Trump had hired as his campaign manager a guy who owed money to a Russian oligarch and who had previously managed the foreign campaign of a Russian puppet, had publicly asked Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, had exploited the results of that hack, among other things. The investigation turned up many more details, including a secret meeting where Trump’s campaign manager passed polling data on to a Russian agent, a secret business deal that promised to give Trump hundreds of millions of dollars in profit at no risk (and which he was exposing himself to Russian blackmail by denying in public), and so on.
The reason Sussmann was afraid Trump posed a security threat to the United States is that Trump posed a security threat to the United States.
Wednesday, June 01, 2022
Tuesday, May 31, 2022
The person who sexually abused me when I was 5 years old is someone I could describe as a “groomer,” a “pedophile” or a “child molester.”
I couldn’t find these words for over 20 years, in part because I didn’t understand what happened to me — I was so young — but also because I had to first reckon with the pain, horror, and shame I felt.
This is the norm for child survivors of sexual abuse. Our words carry weight, and we fight to say them out loud.
As we head into the 2022 midterm elections, calling someone a “groomer” or a “child abuser” has become the conservative attack du jour. What once felt like language reserved for the followers of QAnon, a fringe community united by a central conspiracy theory that America is run by an elite ring of pedophiles, has seeped into the mainstream. The use of these terms has even sparked the anti-gay slur “OK, groomer,”. . . .
Anyone who opposes Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida is “probably a groomer,” according to his press secretary, Christina Pushaw. Anyone pushing back on conservative ideology is a molester. With that logic, roughly 50 percent of the American electorate are “pedophiles.” Most recently, Mallory McMorrow, a Democratic state senator running for re-election in Michigan had to publicly denounce baseless claims from her opponent that she was a groomer.
If the politicians making those accusations were actually concerned about ending child abuse, the kinds of institutions they would be challenging would include religious organizations, youth sports and even the nuclear family — systems that exert control over children and their bodies. These are the venues where child sexual abuse commonly occurs. The misuse of these words is not about stopping abuse, but rather a reassertion of homophobia, gender hierarchy and political control.
Abusers often seek to gain the trust of their victims and, in time, use that trust to assert control over them. In my case, a medical professional used my reliance on health care, as a child with a life-threatening illness, to take advantage of me, stripping away any remnant of bodily autonomy I had left.
When I think about the root of that violation, it reminds me of what we are seeing conservatives do to the most vulnerable among us: proposing and passing laws that ban health care for transgender children or strip us of reproductive care. Our bodily autonomy is being ripped away by the same people who are crying abuse.
Calling political opponents “groomers” is clearly the latest in an unoriginal conservative strategy to name-call and character assassinate the opposition, it’s that exact frivolity that is so dangerous and corrosive to the very real and devastating experience of sexual abuse.
To weaponize this claim casually in a political debate is to degrade the lifeline of vulnerable children. When an adult uses your 6-year-old body for sexual gratification, words are the only power you have left.
A study by Child USA, an organization that investigates child abuse, found that survivors were 52 years old, on average, when they first reported childhood sexual abuse. To make matters worse, Department of Justice data suggests that 86 percent of this kind of abuse goes unreported altogether. Reasons for the delay or lack of reporting stem from a fear of not being believed and a pervasive devastating shame.
Terms like child molester are not the only ones fraught with conflict these days, but the stakes with these words are higher than most. The victims are children who cannot fight back. Words, in this case, are the mechanism of action. A child in danger cannot find safety if the language we use to define abuse is diluted.
No anti-LGBTQ education bill, book ban or health care ban, would have prevented my abuse or helped me in its aftermath. What could have helped me was comprehensive sexual education in which I would have been taught age-appropriate language around consent, like “good touch” and “bad touch.” That language would have also helped me understand that what happened to me was wrong and that it was not my fault . . . .
One in four girls and one in 13 boys will endure sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. That is far too many children to sacrifice for the sake of salacious political rhetoric. . . . If we can’t agree that the use of these words is sacred and worth protecting from daily politics, we are telling one another that our deepest, most intimate, heart wrenching wounds are empty — and that we may as well be, too.
Monday, May 30, 2022
Born in 1964, I grew up when stereotypes about gay people like me were largely negative and deeply ingrained. And perhaps the cruelest of the lies about us, reflected in recurring debates about who should and shouldn’t be allowed to teach in schools, was that many gay men were child molesters. It was a facet of our perversion, a function of our deviance. To leave us alone with children was to give us an opportunity to groom them into sexual activity, so we had to be watched. We had to be stopped.
I remember that verb: groom. Its meaning was both specific and sinister.
As the decades passed, its currency seemed to fade as the prejudice it gave expression to ebbed. I stopped seeing, hearing or at least noticing it. And I pretty much forgot about it, choosing to relish progress rather than rehash the indignities of the past.
But everything old is new again, including slurs. “Grooming,” as Monica Hesse wrote recently in The Washington Post, “has lately become a buzzword in anti-gay politics.” She went on to note that it “preys on every parent’s worst fear — someone harming their children — by insinuating that all gay or gender nonconforming people see their children as prey.”
Are we really back here? Oh, yes.
The debate over a recently enacted Florida law that prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity among young schoolchildren was both an emblem and an engine of the demonization of L.G.B.T.Q. people as malevolent opportunists with children in our sights. And while its backers often referred to the legislation in terms of “parental rights,” some of them also spoke of it as an “anti-grooming” measure.
On her Fox News show, Laura Ingraham asked: “When did our public schools, any schools, become what are essentially grooming centers for gender-identity radicals? . . . Another television host, Sara Gonzales, who has a show on the conservative streaming service Blaze TV, responded to a video of Chasten Buttigieg speaking to children at an L.G.B.T.Q. summer camp by tweeting, “Pete Buttigieg’s husband is a groomer.”
The conservative superstar Ben Shapiro expressed his support for the Florida law by saying that he was passionate in his commitment to “protecting small children from the predations of adults who wish to talk about controversial social issues” with them. “Predations” is no accidental noun. It doesn’t just roll off the tongue. . . . “It reflects an angst that gay people who do not conceal their sexuality are attempting to brainwash and molest children.”
Stern went on to provide crucial historical context:
This outlandish and bigoted notion has deep roots. You see this assumption in the infamous 1961 short film “Boys Beware,” which warned schoolchildren against predatory homosexuals and was produced in part by (of course) a school district. You see it in the failed 1978 campaign to ban gay teachers from California schools. . . . . Now we see it in Florida, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma.
Ingraham’s and Shapiro’s fearmongering can’t erase the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that created marriage equality throughout the United States. Gonzales’s dig at one Buttigieg doesn’t undermine the significance of the other’s political ascent.
But I’m sobered by how much hate nonetheless remains and by how readily and unabashedly many partisans vilify gay people when they sense a tactical advantage in it. I’m scared by our resurgent popularity as scapegoats, not just here but in Poland, in Hungary, in Russia, where Vladimir Putin casts himself as a righteous warrior against Western permissiveness.
And I’m saddened, because the self-consciousness that I mentioned earlier was an awful and degrading feeling, in one sense ludicrous and in another utterly sane: I understood the world in which I was operating and was taking care to protect myself. That’s what you do when you’re the target of bigotry. It’s why such bigotry must die for good.
All of this saddens me greatly and makes me very concerned about gay youth in this resurgent atmosphere of hatred and vicious lies.
North Carolina’s state senators have introduced a version of a “don’t say gay” bill, following several other GOP-led states. The legislation, which is currently going through Senate committees, would prohibit teaching students about gender or sexuality during early elementary school.
It could also require school employees to out LGBTQ+ students in any grade level, according to Raleigh’s The News & Observer.
LGBTQ+ advocates and other critics of the bill, HB755, have called it anti-LGBTQ, but Republican lawmakers say they are supporting parents, not being discriminatory.
North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper may veto the bill.
He said that lawmakers shouldn’t bring “the ‘don’t say gay’ culture wars” into the state’s classrooms, according to The Associated Press.
“Schools are grateful for involved parents and we need even more of them working together with teachers to educate our children,” Cooper said in a statement. “However, the last thing our state needs is another Republican political ploy like the bathroom bill which hurt our people and cost us jobs.”
Aside from the ban on teaching LGBTQ+ topics in class, Tuesday’s legislation would also force school employees, like guidance counselors or teachers, to inform a student’s parents if the student comes out to them if the parents asked. It would also require schools to notify if a student’s name or pronouns are changed in official school records.
The bill also grants parents more access to textbooks, curricula, and other aspects of their student’s education. If schools do not provide such access, parents would be able to sue the school.
Some North Carolina teachers have taken issue with the bill. “Unfortunately, there are many households where children are not safe coming out. Forcibly making children come out in environments that are hostile will absolutely put their lives at risk,” Taylor Cordes, a North Carolina teacher, told local TV station WRAL.
LGBTQ+ rights group Equality NC condemned the bill. “We are outraged that this bill continues to progress through the General Assembly. We are disappointed in the NC GOP’s lack of transparency, and fast-tracking of such a harmful piece of legislation. House Bill 755 is an attack on LGBTQ+ youth, educators, and parents,” the organization’s executive director, Kendra Johnson, said in a release. “We know that forced outing and erasure in the curriculum have severe impacts on queer and trans young people’s safety, mental health and well-being, especially poor youth, and youth of color.”
Sadly, Republicans care nothing about the lives they harm. It's all about self-advancement and getting elected/re-elected.
Sunday, May 29, 2022
May, a month we traditionally associate with spring, Mother’s Day, and graduations, was defined this year by a far different rite: funerals. In a single ten-day stretch, forty-four people were murdered in mass shootings throughout the country—a carnival of violence that confirmed, among other things, the political cowardice of a large portion of our elected leadership, the thin pretense of our moral credibility, and the sham of public displays of sympathy that translate into no actual changes in our laws, our culture, or our murderous propensities. In the two deadliest of these incidents, the oldest victim was an eighty-six-year-old grandmother, who was shot in a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York; the youngest were nine-year-old fourth-grade students, who died in connected classrooms at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas.
In the interim, there were other mass shootings, in Indiana, Washington State, Florida, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and elsewhere. . . . . the data are less salient than another element of the month’s tragedies: the images posted of the children who died, many of them smiling, blithely unaware of the flawed world they were born into. The knowledge that they are no longer alive—that any future iterations of those smiles have been permanently forestalled—is an indictment that we all have to live with.
Some of the victims of the shootings were killed evidently because they were Black; others were killed for reasons that are as yet indiscernible. The shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, though, bore notable similarities. Both were carried out by eighteen-year-olds who had legally purchased semi-automatic rifles shortly before their killing sprees. . . . . And both shooters were confronted by armed defenders who failed to stop them. In Buffalo, Aaron Wallace Salter, Jr., a fifty-five-year-old retired police officer who worked security at the supermarket, was killed after firing multiple rounds and striking the shooter’s body armor. . . . Reports that an officer had confronted the Uvalde gunman outside the school were subsequently refuted, though the shooter apparently exchanged gunfire with multiple officers early on in his rampage.
Two years ago, a study published in the journal Justice Quarterly examined the effects of gun laws in every state. Emma Fridel, an assistant professor of criminology at Florida State University, looked at gun-ownership rates and the proliferation of concealed-carry laws between 1991 and 2016. State lawmakers pushing for laxer laws have tended to argue that a more broadly armed public would serve as a deterrent to violence. Fridel found the opposite: gun-homicide rates in states with more permissive carry policies were eleven per cent higher than in states with stricter laws, and the probability of mass shootings increased by roughly fifty-three per cent in states with more gun ownership.
The most obvious indicator of the absurdist thinking on this subject can be seen in the fact that the latest massacre happened in Texas, a state that has more than eight thousand gun dealers, and where an estimated thirty-seven per cent of the population owns firearms. Last year, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that allowed most Texans to carry handguns without a license or mandatory training. This legislation did not prevent the Uvalde carnage any more than previous legislation allowing easier access to guns prevented the 2019 shooting that killed twenty-three people at an El Paso Walmart, or the 2017 attack in the town of Sutherland Springs, which took the lives of twenty-six worshippers in a rural church.
All this was the context when Beto O’Rourke confronted Abbott during a press conference in Uvalde last Wednesday. “The time to stop the next shooting is right now, and you are doing nothing,” he said, adding, “This is on you.”
Senator Ted Cruz, who was also at the press conference, later said, “I get tired of all the politicking. It happens every time there is a mass shooting.” That Cruz used the phrase “every time there is a mass shooting” spoke volumes about how commonplace these abominations have become. Two days later, Cruz addressed the annual N.R.A. convention, in Houston.
O’Rourke did not politicize the shooting. The circumstances that make a mass murder of fourth graders possible are inherently political. The legal access to the weaponry involved is political. The most visible people refusing to see these things as political happen to be elected to political office. But O’Rourke was only partially right. Some of this is on Second Amendment fundamentalists and the politicians who translate their zealotry into law—the rest is on every one of us who has yet to find the courage, the creativity, or the resolve to stop it.
We all share part of the blame for the deaths in Uvalde, especially those of us who continue to vote Republican or those who have a gun fetish or need a gun to prove our manliness.
Once, when I thought of child sacrifice, I thought of ancient shibboleths.
In Aeschylus, Agamemnon lures his daughter, Iphigenia, to a spot she thinks is for her wedding, as the chorus urges: “Hoist her over the altar like a yearling, give it all your strength … gag her hard.” Agamemnon agonized but felt he had to sacrifice his daughter to appease a goddess and be granted favorable winds to sail against Troy. Small sacrifice to get your fleet moving.
In Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus kills his daughter, Lavinia, at the dinner table, after she has been raped and maimed by attackers. “Die, die, Lavinia!” he cries. “And thy shame with thee.” Small sacrifice to save your honor.
On “Game of Thrones,” Stannis Baratheon orders his sweet child Shireen burned at the stake, as she cries out for the father she adores, so black magic will melt the snows. Small sacrifice to get your starving army on the march.
Now, however, I think of child sacrifice as a modern phenomenon, a barbaric one that defines this country. We are sacrificing children, not only the ones who die, but also those who watch and those who fear the future.
Children having their tomorrows taken away. Small sacrifice if we can keep our guns. Why not let every deranged loner buy an assault weapon?
America is not a mythical kingdom ruled by fickle gods or black magic. Our fate is not in the stars. It is in ourselves. It is within our power to stop schools from becoming killing fields.
We have simply decided not to do it.
The shooter in Uvalde slipped into a fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School, ominously announced, “Look what we have here” and fired more than 100 rounds.
The local police did nothing to stop the human sacrifice. Nineteen officers loitered in the hall for as long as 78 minutes as children died. How can you justify keeping assault weapons on the open market when police officers don’t engage with them, even with kids’ lives on the line?
The local police did nothing to stop the human sacrifice. Nineteen officers loitered in the hall for as long as 78 minutes as children died. How can you justify keeping assault weapons on the open market when police officers don’t engage with them, even with kids’ lives on the line?
As the officers waited, not bothering to break down a barricaded door, the 19 lambs went to slaughter, trapped in a blood-soaked classroom with an 18-year-old madman. In a haunting tableau, one little girl smeared herself with her dead friend’s blood to appear dead. Meanwhile, desperate parents tried to climb over a chain-link fence to save their children. The police, doing nothing more useful, kept busy by handcuffing at least one parent trying to get into the school.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas coldly said of the massacre, the sixth mass shooting in his seven years in office, “it could have been worse.” Donald Trump, who once told me if he were elected president, he would get in his limo and drive down to the National Rifle Association and bargain with it until he could get agreement to some common-sense solutions, spoke to the N.R.A. convention in Houston Friday evening and spouted gun lobby talking points — small price for the tens of millions it spent to get him elected. What a sociopathic jellyfish.
What is wrong with this country? Republicans think they’re showing their toughness by preventing curbs on guns. But it’s a huge American weakness.
When a gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania in 1996, the Australian government passed such common-sense gun laws six months later that there has been only one mass shooting since. More than a million firearms were destroyed.
When an anti-Islamic extremist in Christchurch killed 51 people in two mosques in 2019, the New Zealand government banned most semiautomatic weapons 26 days later. There have been no mass shootings since.
The political debates here are empty and soulless, with Democrats dodging the issue and Republicans hardening even on mild proposals like universal background checks, which has overwhelming public approval.
Republicans throw up a fog of nonsensical suggestions. Before speaking to the N.R.A. Friday, Ted Cruz said schools should have only one entry point, with an armed guard. Guns don’t kill people. Doors do. During his speech at the N.R.A., Trump suggested turning schools into virtual jails and letting teachers pack pistols in class.
“Meaningful policy discussions over guns or voting or public health have left the room,” said my colleague Elizabeth Williamson, author of the new book “Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth.” “Spewing conspiracy theories and bench-clearing nonsense around mass shootings, elections and coronavirus is becoming a tribal signifier for some on the right.”
The Republicans are doing everything they can to stop women from having control over their own bodies and doing nothing to stop the carnage against kids; they may as well change the party symbol from an elephant to an AR-15.
America is stuck in a loop on guns — and it’s a fatal one. This country always cherished its frontier image, Gary Cooper in “High Noon,” shooting it out with the bad guys. But now when the bad guys start shooting, lawmakers just shrug.
We’ve become a country of cowards, so terrified of the unholy power of gun worship that no sacrifice of young blood is too great to appease it.