I don’t have to tell you how heavy it feels.
By now, you know the numbers. 19 children, two adults. The second-most deadly mass shooting at a K-12 school in history, trailing only the 26 from Sandy Hook. I remember being 19 years old when 13 students were killed in Littleton, Colorado. At the time, it was just the fourth school shooting since 1970, and it felt like the entire world had changed.
There have been eight mass shootings at K-12 schools since then, and 27 school shootings total just this year. And that’s to say nothing of the mass shootings that have happened in supermarkets, or churches, or concerts, or… The mind begins to spin just listing the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Today is the 147th day of 2022, and there have been 214 — make that 215 mass shootings in the United States this year.
It’s the last week of school for my two kids, and dropping them off at school the last three days has been an Iliad of silent worries and prayers while I try to keep a brave face and not worry them further. If you have kids in school right now, I assume you know what I’m talking about. Like I said: I don’t have to tell you how heavy it feels.
We are unwell.
There’s no point in unloading my anger in this space. We’re all angry, aren’t we? Besides, an overwhelming percentage of the population already agrees with me, and I just don’t have it in me to start yelling and inviting people to yell back. Yelling at each other in the comments (or on Facebook or Twitter) never changes any minds or hearts; it is one of the least effective things we do after mass shootings, right up there with photo ops where politicians show us just how sad they are that this keeps happening, and moments of silence.
I write about the Texas Rangers for a living, and have watched as they stood silent for two of those this week, as both the Angels and Athletics took moments before games to honor the victims. It’s not that it was a bad thing to do, but they both just felt so… helpless. Isn’t silence what keeps us here, anyway? “Don’t politicize it, it’s too soon, just give your quiet thoughts and prayers and go back to life as usual.”
As if any of us could accept this as “usual”.
My job is to write about baseball, but that has seemed impossible this week. The team is 2–1 since Tuesday afternoon; who cares? Rangers starter Martín Pérez took the mound with “4 UVALDE” in capital letters on the front of his cap. It’s on everyone’s mind. I don’t have to tell you.
I was thankful, as I’m sure many of you have been, for the distraction of baseball to give me a little bit of respite from the horror of the details, from being glued to my phone or silently worrying if Dallas might be the next city to be added to the list that includes Uvalde, Oxford, Parkland, Santa Fe, Maryville, Newtown… If not Dallas, will it be Fort Worth, where my kids have cousins? Or just outside Phoenix where my brother’s kids go to school, or any number of cities where I have friends with school-aged children? Or will it be some other city where families no less important than us are also keeping a brave face while they drop their kids at school this week?
I mean, statistically speaking, it’s going to be somewhere. And that’s part of what makes it so heavy. It’s devastating enough to think of the 19 families who went to bed on Tuesday with now-redundant laundry in the dryer, drawings on the refrigerator that will never have sequels, toys still strewn on the floor. It’s unbearable to think that this isn’t the last one, it’s just the latest one.
I don’t mean to sound nihilistic, nor am I so idealistic as to think that we will ever completely eliminate the sort of evil that would fuel someone to do such an unspeakable act, but there are ways to mitigate this. We have just decided thus far to spend our time doing other things — moments of silence, for instance. That’s the third thing adding to the heaviness, I think — not that there aren’t ways to make it better, but because we continue to be told that nothing will solve it completely, so we should stop asking for something to make mass shootings more rare, or less deadly, or harder to accomplish.
Just ask any state-level politician here in Texas, they’ll tell you just how little it would help to try all the things they haven’t tried.
It has been impossible to write about baseball with any conviction this week. It serves its purpose — distraction for a few hours a night — but it doesn’t feel important in the least right now. How are any of us supposed to get worked up about an ineffective offense when there’s other inefficacy so front-and-center, and with such infinitely higher stakes?
The Rangers and Athletics will play again tonight. I will watch the game, take some notes, and try to remember that writing those stories is my small part to help baseball fans return to normalcy. But if a return to normalcy is really the goal, I am also re-doubling my resolve (and hoping to remind you as well) that there are much bigger things to be done before we can get back to “normalcy”. Baseball won’t do it, and neither will moments of silence, and neither will photo ops of sad politicians giving bad-faith misdirections about why they really can’t do anything at all — or worse, scolding those of us who insist they’re using “can’t” when “won’t” is a far more accurate word.
You don’t need me to tell you how heavy it is, but maybe you do need to hear that it’s not hopeless.
We just have to collectively decide to stop believing that it is.