ELEGY FOR THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF UVALDE
I have been pondering the Uvalde mass shooting event quite a bit lately. After every mass shooting event, I get quiet and start thinking. I read about the shooter and I read about the people who died. I read about their lives; their quirks and their personality traits. I learn about the loved ones they left behind. I examine their photographs and imagine the sound of their voices. I try to make each person more than just a passing thought. I pray for GOD’s peace in the midst of these situations but I also ask Him a lot of questions.
I imagine that one of the worst things about being a parent or spouse of a Uvalde victim is not just the fact that they died but the horrific manner in which they died. These twenty-one women and children were gunned down execution-style while cowering in fear in an elementary school. Their bodies were showered with bullets from a semi-automatic rifle capable of firing more than four-hundred rounds per minute. Let that figure settle in your mind for a minute. Now imagine what could happen to people trapped in a building for over an hour with an active shooter in possession of this weapon. The speed of each bullet is such that it renders thousands of pounds of force per square inch on its target. What that translates to on a human body are entry and exit wounds that are not well-formed Swiss cheese appearing holes but jagged skin tears, splintered bones, and seared necrotic tissue that rendered the victims identifiable only by DNA tests or, in one case, only by a pair of green Converses with a hand-drawn heart on the toe cap. Add to all of this the inconsistencies regarding the timeline of events as well as the delayed intervention by law enforcement and you’re likely to find an entire town brimming with mental health crises for years to come.
The common ethos of humankind is to be filled with a particular sense of tragedy when women and children are victimized. It is right for us to weep for the life-giving mothers whose own lives were ended in seconds and in cold blood. It is right for us to weep for the tiny bodies that had only begun to bud into maturity; bodies that were filled with the promise of the future adults that they will never get to be. These are the sons and daughters whose tomorrows, somedays, and eventuallys have been forever erased. It is right to weep for them.
To be a parent of one of these children is to be tortured by thoughts of them suffering excruciating pain as they bled to death. I would wonder if my child was crying out for me or if they were afraid as they felt the breath leave their body for the last time. For the parent who picked his child up from school early that day, just 10 minutes before the gunman arrived, must be a sense of overwhelming relief, gratitude, and panic regarding the ‘what ifs.’ For the survivors injured in the attack, there must be a sense of shock, amazement, and traumatic replaying of their classmates and friends dying mere feet away. The Garcia children, whose mother Irma was gunned down trying to protect her students and whose father, Jose, died of a massive heart attack the very next day must feel incredibly lost and dazed. When you are a child, you instinctively run to your parents for comfort. When both of them are gone within days of each other, who is left to run to? They will certainly band together as siblings and extended family will surround them with support, but there is no one else in the world quite like your parents.
I think America is dead wrong on this issue; many are unnecessarily dead because we persist in our wrong thinking and bad practices. Gun ownership should no longer be a discussion about rights but a discussion about privilege and responsibility. This quote from Ohio House of Representatives Republican Jim Jordan speaks volumes about the distorted values that millions of people in this country who call themselves Christians hold to be true. ‘That is important [protecting our children]—it sure it. But this bill doesn’t do it. What this bill does is take away Second Amendment rights, God-given rights, protected by our Constitution, from law-abiding American citizens.’ And while this bill did pass in the HOR, it is expected to go nowhere in the Senate.
I only have one question. On what planet is gun ownership a ‘God-given’ right? Guns are weapons created by human beings for the express purpose of inflicting injury or death on a target. Had there been no Fall, there would be no sin, violence, or death and, therefore, no need for guns. I repeat: gun ownership is not a basic human right. They are a necessary evil in a necessarily evil world; the fact that many gun owners utilize these weapons for sport and recreation doesn’t alter this truth. All citizens are ‘law-abiding’ until they break the law, as is the well-established pattern of many mass shooters. If the price of reducing mass shootings in this country requires perhaps theoretically infringing on the privilege of the many gun owners by requiring criteria like enhanced background checks, psychological testing, mandatory waiting periods, and training on gun safety, isn’t it worth it? The so-called ‘right’ to end futures and ravage human bodies should be the province and the burden of the few, the sane, and the merciful…those we have appointed as protectors and preservers over this society that we are fighting to keep free. And what good is freedom if large swaths of our population (myself included) genuinely fear gun violence?
As Christians, we are called to mourn with the families, the friends, the school, and the community of these dearly departed ones. Each one was a fellow image-bearer, a singular and artistic expression of GOD’s handiwork. There will never be another human born who will be quite like these twenty-one people. Let’s not look away from the carnage and pain. We need to allow the discomfort, rage, and sadness of this moment to rest on our hearts and change us. We can choose to love these slain children as we love our own, by seeking after righteousness, by bringing Shalom. Shalom is restoring goodness where evil has robbed us of it. Shalom involves 'getting political' because politics and policies happen to be part of the solution. Shalom is about doing the hard work of making our streets, neighborhoods, and communities a little safer and a little kinder than the way these victims left them. Shalom looks like remembering the wounded survivors, whose physical wounds will heal but whose emotional scars will remain. Shalom would place the political interests of gun rights organizations and the financial interests of gun merchants firmly on the back burner to tend to the wounds of our broken, weary, DisUnited States of America. GOD never intended any of this for us...this maiming and murdering of bodies. He weeps with us and for us as we sort through this mess of our own making. Rest assured that He will avenge every one of these unjust deaths just as He has promised to one day rid our world of all injustice. In the meantime, may we, His people, be the Shalom we hope to see.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY'S SPEECH ON GUN VIOLENCE: a native son of Uvalde and responsible gun owner using his celebrity platform to be a voice for the victims, their families, and his town. I'm not sure he knows that what he is trying to bring is 'Tov' but I'm all for it.