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A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
The long and anguished, often excruciating and vitriol-filled process of blame has begun.
There are those who blame only the culprit, for he is the one who chose to squeeze the trigger, and he did so again and again and again. I cannot fault them in this. After all, it took a conscious decision to carry out the crime, even surely knowing that it would end in his own death. Furthermore, to extrapolate from this that there is a degree of mental illness that must have welled over and consumed him cannot be an overextension of that argument. It is entirely reasonable to reach these conclusions when one is not an expert in psychology or trained to examine or respond to any of the behaviors exhibited before and during that terrible day in Uvalde. One’s reaction comes from a straightforward understanding of basic human nature and its oft-horrifying failures.
In other words, we know that we are flawed and that there are those who walk among us whose flaws are far greater than mere blemishes or hairline cracks in the windshield but instead impassable crevasses into which all of one’s character and sensibilities may plummet. We may look upon the boy’s lifeless body and say “There. He did it. End of story.”
To some extent, it is how we package our grief, our anger and our confusion into a manageable pill over which we must, occasionally in life, grimace.
There are also those, legion in number, who look beyond the immediate horror and examine its surrounding conditions, perhaps much as one might look past the collapsed home over the San Andreas Fault and ask why it had been allowed in such a dangerous spot from the start.
That’s a grossly simplified example, but we live in an age when people too frequently demand or will settle only for grossly simplified answers.
Of many things, however, we may be certain. We have witnessed a gut-wrenching example of an apparent complete failure in parenting, in education, in behavioral monitoring, in gun control, in communications, by society in general. How far back do we follow the threads in each of these tortured storylines? How many other people will we pull into the vortex, all the while never being satisfied that we have found the answers we crave?
Yet we keep unraveling, we keep chasing this line of inquiry or that, and we keep finding ourselves unrewarded by anything that will assuage our sorrow.
The questions will nevertheless continue, and we fall on various sides of arguments that ebb and flow like foam on the shore of a polluted sea. At one time, we favor the rights of all to their privacy, their guns, their freedom of expression; at another, we want to control all those liberties, keep guns out of the hands of mere children or at the very least those not old enough to buy a bottle of beer, raise the monitoring and the reporting of any behavior that disquiets us, build walls around our loved ones and control every aspect of others’ lives.
They remain arguments, however, and have little substance. They don’t become reality unless someone takes action, and for any of that to happen will require a consensus that, I fear, is presently unattainable.
In the meantime, the most awful question remains just as unanswered as the lofty and the low, perhaps lost in the slurry, perhaps eventually forgotten in the filthy avalanche of blame and accusation, and it is the one posed by a heartbroken father clutching a portrait of his slain daughter: “How can you look into this face and shoot her?”