The day after the massacre in Uvalde, I drive my five-year-old daughter to school and park in the lot designated for parents of the youngest students and those with special needs. We race up the three flights of stairs toward two heavy metal blue doors and take our place in line amidst a scene of controlled chaos: losing struggles with tangled backpack straps, hopeless attempts to re-braid hair, awkward hugs at the door. There is no police presence. There is only the unspoken transfer of responsibility from parent to teacher—a sacred conveyance of duty and sacrifice.
I kiss my daughter goodbye, let her slip from my grasp, and watch her whisk around her teacher’s legs toward her classroom—her friends; her unfinished artwork; her delicate, perfect imaginarium. A sense of dread and impotence wells up as I turn away and descend the stairs. I don’t make it to the parking lot before I turn back, climb to the platform, and pull the door as hard as I can. It holds. And for the first time, I read every one of the colorful stickers plastered to the bulletproof glass: The Future is Female, Black Lives Matter, Todos Son Bienvenidos Aqui, You Are Safe Here…
The imposing brick, brutalist structure is strangely reminiscent of a Norman castle. Every window block is bolted and enmeshed in steel, every vulnerability considered. What a tragic paradox that our places of learning must be fortified against a siege. What cognitive disassociation must I adopt, what lies must I tell myself, to believe that old grey turrets and faux arrow slits will somehow ward away a school shooter or protect my daughter against the caprice of The Fates.
I walk back to my car resigned to a painful truth: Evidently, in times like these it takes more than a village to raise a child; it takes a fortress.
If all goes to shit today, my daughter’s teacher will take a bullet for her. The ineffable oath that I took as a parent will be broken. I’ll tear across the streets of my city toward those heavy blue doors knowing that my daughter’s teacher will be with her in her final moments of terror. But I’ll take no solace knowing that the last image my daughter may ever see will be her teacher sprawled in a pool of blood, a hot muzzle, and a sick, satisfied grin.
If you live in the United States of America someone has surveilled your local school. We have every reason to fear that predators roam our streets, that all across the United States men with murderous intent are in the process of purchasing military grade weapons and tactical gear in preparation for a terrorist attack on one of our communities. And they have every legal right to do so, as long as they are willing to kill and die by the rule of the gun. They know that if they agree to the terms of a mass murder-suicide pact, they get to dance across the scales of justice with impunity. While we as a society get to mop up the blood, brain matter, and broken lives, struggling desperately to stave off the vomitous thoughts and feckless prayers.
The greatest lie the American citizen was ever told is that the “Founding Fathers” considered the Bill of Rights to be a set of Commandments, a covenant between future citizens and the nation’s “divinely-inspired” Creators. To the contrary, Jefferson wrote to Madison in a series of letters leading up to the Constitutional Convention of 1789: “…no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation…Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.”
Society is an animate being—mutable, fallible, delicate, and vulnerable to all of its citizens’ sins and virtues. It is therefore the responsibility of every generation to amend the Bill of Rights in order to respond to the needs of its citizens—to at once uphold universal values and reflect the zeitgeist. A society that lacks the political will or social morality to deem the preservation of the next generation its highest function renounces its raison d’être. When the will of the individual supersedes the well-being of society, it will naturally begin to cannibalise itself and eventually collapse.
The “Founding Fathers”—moral herpes and all—never intended the Second Amendment to justify domestic terrorism or the rule of the gun. They were revolutionaries, idealists, and, many of them, parents of young children. There is no need to question whether they would recoil at the sight of our generation gathered in cemeteries en masse, weeping and suicidal as we lay the broken bodies of our children in tiny coffins and cover them with the soil of a nation that failed to protect them. They would rightfully look upon us with shame and disgust.
If parents are to fulfill their oath to their children—and society its oath to its citizens—then we are left with no other choice but to resoundingly reject the ethos of the Post-Massacre Site Strong mantra for its calloused irony and cruel indolence, and deem it our generation’s moral imperative to dismantle the fallacy of Second Amendment “originalism”: that the finger on the trigger is more sacred than the life at the end of the barrel.
As long as we lack the courage to protect the lives of our children and the health of society, we can expect every Fathers Day and Independence Day to end in a massacre somewhere in America.