Uvalde’s Unspoken Grief: These Uncomfortable Truths About the State of America

I cannot begin to fathom the feeling of grieving that the victims of yesterday’s horrific killing rampage in Uvalde are going through at this moment. The idea of losing a child in any circumstance is agonizing, this pain is magnified a thousand-fold when a son or a daughter is taken by an act of malice that is beyond anyone’s ability to truly comprehend.

Sadly, the carnage that took place in Texas yesterday is no longer an outlier but becoming the norm. Yet, despite this alarming escalation of violence, we find ourselves having the same culture wars that get dusted off each time a madman unleashes mayhem in cities and towns around America.

Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, Aurora, Buffalo and now Uvalde, we barely have a chance to grieve and fully understand the scope of the problem society is facing before the next round of bloodshed intervenes with breaking news alarms and occupies our collective minds with unending anxieties. I fell asleep last night thinking about my son and worrying about the world that awaits him—angst has become the new normal for parents.

While most Americans are navigating between apprehension about the safety of their children and praying for the victims and survivors of yesterday’s mass-shootings, politicians and pundits are once again running to their partisan corners to hack at branches while refusing to address root causes. Before the first ambulance showed up in Uvalde, the media-political complex were yet again ripping society apart along party lines in order to gin up votes and curry favor from their loyalists.

Democrats were quick to point to gun control as if that is a panacea while Republicans are going back to vilifying immigrants as if violence is perpetuated only by “those people”. The whole thing is nothing but a kabuki dance meant to show political empathy while engaging in social indifference. They rage and tilt at windmills but as soon as the news cycle flips to another narrative, the sound and fury will abate with the muffled cries of parents in Uvalde eventually being drowned out by the next scandal.

What is missing is an honest conversation and introspection of how we got here. We can ban every gun in America yet that will not solve the underlying reason behind the recent spate of shootings. We are raising a generation of children in ways that are beyond abnormal, everything from the toxic food we are feeding them from the time they are infants to the poisonous media they are consuming is leading young people into the abyss.

If we put warning labels on cigarettes and ban kids from smoking them, we should think about doing the same for smart devices and social media. The addictive nature of these tools and the harmful nature of the information that is being projected from them has adverse consequences for adults let alone children, yet everyday kids as young as two are being pacified by them for hours at a time. Layered on top of this rising trend is violent and graphic content that is aimed at impressionable minds which teaches them to normalize abuse, disrespect and antagonism.

It takes zero courage and even less thinking to vilify Uvalde’s perpetrator, but we must really look within and ask some hard questions about our society that is creating these levels of strife. Reports are already emerging that Salvador Ramos was bullied as a child and grew up in a home that was fraught with instability. This is not to excuse his grisly act but let us not pretend that his behavior is outrageously outside of the norm.

More and more children are lashing out in ways that are overwhelming parents. Yesterday evening, a teenager was stabbed to death in broad daylight at a McDonald’s in Alexandria, Virginia. Killing sprees grab our attention yet every day the number of fights and violent confrontations is shooting through the roof.  As more and more parents are stretched to the breaking point due to inflation and wages that are regressing, the mental wellness of children become the casualties of this ongoing war against families.

We are conditioning children to grow up before their time and lose their innocence in the process. Children should not be billboards to project social or political agendas. Leave them alone, stop confusing kids by indoctrinating them with ideologies and pushing information on them that their minds are not mature enough to process. Let children be children, they will have the rest of their lives to explore the world and their identities.

There is a reason why the rate of depression, anxiety and other mental maladies is skyrocketing among children and young adults. On average, there are over 3,703 suicide attempts by young people grades 9-12. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-14. Every day, there is the equivalent of Uvalde in America except the killer is not an AR-15 but a child who takes his or her own life out of despair and hopelessness. The silence on the part of the usual suspects in DC, Manhattan and Hollywood on this front is deafening.

It is clear that we cannot expect our elected officials and media personalities to lead on this front because they are too wedded to their talking points and too determined to divide America in the process to change their approach. So, we must do the hard work and focus on protecting our children. It does in fact take a village to raise children, which requires us to be less isolated from one another and give more grace towards one another.

Fifty-four years ago, Bobby Kennedy gave a speech at the Cleveland City Club titled “the Mindless Menace of Violence” in which he spoke against the carnage that was ripping throughout America and the world. He noted in this astounding speech:

“When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies – to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.”

As long as our conversations are infested with anger and we treat each other as enemies, we will keep getting a paradigm that caters to these primal whims. Children learn through emulation, what they see us do they become. If we are to pull out of the seeming death spiral where mass-slaughter has become a regular fixture on nightly news, we need to become the change that we want to see. More importantly, we must do more to preserve the innocence of our children. 

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” ~ Fredrick Douglass