Uvalde, the State of the Electorate, and a Rant

San Antonio, Texas, the city where I currently live, is located about eighty miles away from Uvalde, a town that has been in the news a lot in recent days.

Unless you’ve been doing a Rip Van Winkle lately or are someone who lives outside the United States, I probably don’t need to tell you that in Uvalde, a little town of mesquite and pecan trees located due west of the Alamo City, a massacre of school children and teachers, carried out via an AR15, recently took place a mere two days before the end of the school year.  The death toll, after all the bodies were located and hauled away, was twenty-two, including the killer himself.  

I’ve never actually been to Uvalde, but I feel like I know the place inside and out because I grew up in such towns.  America is often known by its great cities—New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, just to name a few—but the country is filled with “Uvaldes,” the sorts of locales prevalent in what some have called “flyover country.”  Uvalde is the kind of town you’d stop in to fill up with gas and grab a quick bite before heading off to someplace else, someplace where more important things happen. 

Last night, on the local news, I watched an interview with a mother and a grandfather of one of the murdered children.  The interviewees spoke English with a noticeable accent.  The man, likely someone in his sixties, told the story of how he’d just brought his granddaughter a new softball glove because she was an avid player and had, in fact, been named to the local all-star team.  He cried while talking about how she’d never even had a chance to use it in a game.  The mother was more defiant, more obviously angry.  She had met with Biden on his recent trip to Uvalde and had told him that he had to do something.  While being interviewed, she mentioned that he had the power to make a change in gun laws.

I immediately began to wonder if the mother really believed that Biden could just make things better.  As someone who pays attention to what’s taking place in my home country, I know that far too few understand how government works.  Too few understand that the federal government is made of up of three branches and that “checks and balances” exist to assure that none of the three becomes too powerful.  They might not understand that the president, because he is the one who so often speaks on TV, has no legislative role other than to voice a list of priorities and then try to persuade lawmakers to act.  Far too many likely think that he can simply “do things” to make things better.  Knowing that there is a woeful paucity of knowledge about things like history, geography, and civics terrifies me.  Many of those historical American figures who played a pivotal role in creating the founding documents upon which the political culture and institutions of self-governance were created, have said, in one way or another, that democracy cannot exist in a place where the citizenry is uninformed or underinformed.

And what we have is a country that is far too underinformed.  Such a sad state of affairs can be laid at the feet of those who’ve underemphasized and underfunded education for decades.  Part of the blame is with us—the citizens.  We’ve gotten lazy.  Paying attention and being engaged has gotten too hard for us; it’s too boring.  And now, because we’ve all been less involved that we should have been, we’re paying a huge price in many different ways.  This disengagement is literally killing our children.  The metaphorical chickens have come to roost.

Shame on us…

If you like my writing, you can find more here; although, my personal blog certainly needs to be updated. 

29 thoughts on “Uvalde, the State of the Electorate, and a Rant

  1. Troy, I can assure you that there are few people outside the United States who don’t know about the massacre in Uvalde. Or the massacre in Buffalo. Or the fact that there were at least 8 mass shootings in the U.S. over Memorial Day weekend alone – after Buffalo and Uvalde. The rest of the world knows, and can only look on with incomprehension and astonishment. 😳😥😡

    1. Hi Jane. When I was living overseas, I would often tell Americans that I was living in such and such a country. Often, their response would be something like this: “Isn’t that a dangerous place?” or “Aren’t you scared living there?” At that point, I would always tactfully remind them that the US is one of the most dangerous countries of the world. Americans have this mythic view of this country that often doesn’t fully match the reality. Thanks for your comment.

      1. Many (not all, for sure) Americans are very insular and happily so. Happy in the “knowledge” that they live in the “greatest country on earth”. The sad thing is that it could be, and we’d all be so much better for it, not just Americans.

      2. Yes. It’s absolutely true that far too many Americans are insular. I’d also call them myopic and general under-informed about many subjects. I’m happy to report that I hear far fewer people in the US making the claim that the country is the greatest in world history. I used to hear that much more frequently. Perhaps reality is beginning to break through? Greater humility would certainly help.

    1. Thanks, Todd. If I were a politician who was blocking the passage of gun control regulation, I have to believe that I would be living in a state of perpetual shame and guilt. How could such a person not be living in such a state?

    1. I often wonder the same thing. Biden and the Dems are hampered by the fact that they aren’t terribly ruthless and seem to be more principled. From a purely political standpoint, it helps to be without scruples. From a purely moral standpoint, living without scruples in unimaginable. Thanks for the comment.

  2. We’ve always had powerful civilian versions of military firearms. The AR-15 he used has been available to the public since 1959. Even during the 1994 assault weapons ban, when the model was explicitly prohibited, modified knock-offs were still available.

    European-style gun control cannot pass here. It is popular to blame gun manufacturers but if you combined all the manufacturing of civilian firearms into one company you still wouldn’t have a Fortune 500 company. Not much of a financial base for “buying” congressman with all the money from oil and pharma and tech floating around. It is popular to blame the NRA but if the NRA didn’t have millions of dues-paying members, it would be nothing. Ultimately Congress critters have to reflect their voting base or they don’t stay in office. So you can only “blame” your fellow voters and be honest.

    Blame is counterproductive because it prevents compromise. Compromise and conquest are the only ways differences can be settled.

    We need an American style of legislation that reduced the ease of purchasing high lethality weapons – perhaps with very thorough vetting. We need efficient and thorough background checks, safety and handling training, moderate waiting periods, and maybe kick the minimum age to purchase up to 21. But you’d still acknowledge the 2nd amendment and recognize an individual right to own firearms and not try to prevent most law-abiding citizens from buying the most available guns.

    I think there is too much hate on both sides of the topic and the leaders of both pro and anti-gun control groups are busy whipping that hate even higher. In that sense, the leadership of the Brady Campaign and the NRA win because their leaders gain their position and power from the struggle and not the resolution.

    I see today’s daily mass shootings as a product of a decaying society. We’ve moved from a soup, to a salad, to oil and water fighting over who gets to be in charge. There’s been a decline in empathy. There has been a decline in the belief in personal responsibility. Nobody is willing to let things go and move on. There’s been a big increase in “I’m ok and you’re not. F-ck you.” And a growing streak of nihilism.

    If nothing matters and nothing is your own responsibility and everything is “society’s fault,” then why not go kill a bunch of helpless children? They are just as meaningless as you are. It feels good at the time. You’ll have inflicted maximum pain on the society that failed you. You’ll be a hero to the people on your discord server and people will rush to your defense and grant you the status of society’s victim when what you deserve is to be excoriated as a monster.

    There are perverse rewards at work here. In a sense, every schoolyard killing is a copycat of the previous ones.

    1. Your diagnosis of the situation is dark, and my mood is likely even darker. I can’t help but think that we’re watching the “Great Unraveling.” I think a likely outcome to all this is that the country will become ungovernable–they call such countries “failed states.” Is the US heading toward failed state status? A question worth pondering.

      I actually agree that I think things have gone too far and the problem is mostly unsolvable. There are more guns in the country than there are people. There are more guns than there are automobiles. The only real solution is to try and change the culture and begin to engage in gun confiscation. Of course, such a move would trigger the greatest civil war in the history of civil wars. A problem of this enormous size cannot be substantively changed without radical–by “radical” I mean “big” and “far-reaching”–steps being taken.

      When I was growing up, lots of Americans smoked cigarettes, but now, in comparison, few do. There was a concerted effort to change culture which then changed behavior. That sort of approach might work with guns, but a zillion people will be killed before such a long-term solution could be implemented.

      I’m not optimistic at all about this situation. That’s why I’m planning with my wife to leave the US in the not-so-distant future. If the great unraveling continues to occur, I don’t want to be anywhere near the place.

      Sorry to be so dark…

      1. There are two ways to change things. One is to launch a hearts and minds campaign. The other is to try to force it with an arm wrestling contest.

        The fact is that 43% of all households have firearms. A recent NPR survey indicated that 72% of all people and 63% of nongun owners believe that the 2A grants an individual right that needs to be protected. At the same time I have seen surveys that indicate a significant majority of people believe that the right can be regulated as long as you don’t stray into prohibition. To me that’s a recipe for negotiation.

        But both political parties seem determined to turn it into an all-or-nothing proposition. No holds barred or prohibition.

        The availability of guns is only one factor but as I pointed out, they’ve been available for most of a century. Neither party seems interested in pursuing strategies that might reduce the number of kids who decide that mass murder looks like a viable option. You can build power in your base from a conflict but not from a resolution.

        Here’s a thought. Donald Trump came to power by exciting a portion of the electorate that had stayed away from the polling booth for many years – the Populists. They accounted for 11 million mostly new votes.

        At the same time, the middle of the road voters, the ones that used to be all-important, stayed away in droves. As Nixon once said, to get elected he had to run hard to the right for the primares and then run hard to the left in the general election. Who does that anymore?

        Nowadays, parties have decided that pleasing the activist base is more important than fighting for the middle. Lot of reasons for that but I partly blame the internet and the ease of creating social bubbles and echo chambers.

        This leads to policy violently whipsawing back and forth as wildly different factions gain power by a microscopic majority. And a Congress that can’t get anything useful done on controversial issues because the extremes aren’t interested in negotiating.

      2. Excellent analysis and diagnosis of the problem.

        I have a few thoughts about all this.

        One: America’s foundational documents are old and need to be revised.

        Two: We know guns are the problem because what happens in the US doesn’t happen in other places where guns aren’t so ubiquitous.

        Three: The second amendment is looking more and more like a suicide clause.

        Four: America likely faces a perfect storm. There is extreme political polarization and instability in a nation that is armed to the teeth. Like I said, the second amendment is looking more an more like a suicide clause.

        I stand by my original assertion. I am in no way optimistic about all this.

  3. Indeed I have to agree the chickens have come home and the fox is in the home with them! I mourn for your country and your loss of freedom but my empathy tank is empty.

    1. It almost feels like the case is hopeless and that the country needs to collapse before it can be reconstituted in a more enlightened way. America could learn much if it followed the lead of many other countries. Unfortunately, the US thinks it’s “exceptional. And maybe it is. It’s “exceptionally” unstable and exceptionally lost. Sorry to be so dark. Thanks for the comment.

  4. From where I come, education the only tool is exploited with every change in government. And it’s sad that we didn’t get this news of massacre through our media. Hopefully, the families are granted the strength they need. ❣️

    1. Just out of curiosity, where do you live? I agree education could be a key in solving such a problem. Unfortunately, many don’t want to be educated. Thanks for the comment.

  5. I have heard people make comments about how the president should do something. I totally agree that civics education is inadequate. Democracy is fading in the US. Thank you, Troy, for speaking out about this issue! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Cheryl, for caring enough to read my piece and think about the things I wrote about. Democracy cannot survive in a country where the citizens are uninformed, gullible, and apathetic. And that describes the US, exactly. The next few years are going to interesting (and likely scary).

  6. Well stated. I know I have become politically more aware over the last few years. Our democracy, the peaceful transition of power, rights of people to own their own bodies, the ability to vote, sensible gun restrictions, all are on the line. We need to vote out the seditionists, fascists, and pro-Putin lovers at all levels.

    1. Hi. I totally agree. What scares me is that those you named (seditionists, fascists, etc.) have figure out how to game the system and make voting potentially more and more meaningless. What happens when the vote no longer works or matters? Well, then things get interesting…Thanks for commenting.

  7. In one way, we should be grateful for all the seditionists, fascists, and putinista’s for pointing out the flaws in our system. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to throw all of them out, strengthen democracy, and secure it for the coming generations. South Dakota Cons are buckling down on popular ballot measures, against their own party! If it doesn’t work or matter, imagine a fascist with America’s nuclear weapons. That is reason enough to votr, donate, volunteer, because the American experiment is dependent on good people winning.

  8. I think you’ve accurately described the situation. We’ve seen “underemphasized and underfunded education for decades” and “We’ve gotten lazy” both in our attention to the realities of the world and safeguarding our apathy. We seek entertainment instead of education, algorithms instead of awareness.

    1. When the historians write about this period in the future, they’ll conclude that Americans got too dumb to keep themselves out of trouble. When a huge segment of the population is unable to easily tell the difference between a conman and a statesman, were f***ed. Thanks, Josh, for reading and commenting.

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