By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
Tapestry of the tragedy in Uvalde
Here we go again. The lives of 19 young children and two dedicated teachers were snuffed out last Tuesday by yet another mass murder perpetrated by a teenaged assailant with an assault rifle, this one at an elementary school in the small town of Uvalde, Texas. The U.S. has suffered more than 200 mass shootings so far this year alone, 27 of them in schools.
And what do we get, yet again, from Republican politicians who, in service to their NRA financiers, continue to block any gun-control legislation? Thoughts and prayers. Prayers and thoughts. Along with more than a dollop of pap about “healing and hope” for the “brokenhearted.”
How kind of them. How feeling.
From Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, delivered on the Senate floor the day after the shootings, we got: “The entire nation’s hearts are broken for the victims and for their families. Words simply fail.”
But, of course, McConnell did add words, pronounced with pompous sanctimony: “We pray fervently that, in the midst of this nightmare of grief, our Heavenly Father will make manifest to those families His promise in Psalm 34, that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.”
However, it is Mitch McConnell who has consistently led his party to block any gun-control measures that might have prevented the plague of mass murders, including this one, that this country has suffered.
On the day of the shooting, Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz quickly issued the following press release: “Heidi and I are lifting up in prayer the entire Uvalde community during this devastating time and we mourn the lives that were taken by this act of evil. None of us can imagine the anguish the parents in Uvalde are going through. Our hearts go out to them.”
But as the gun reform advocacy organization Giffords tweeted, Cruz has blocked “even the most commonsense gun reform at every turn.”
And then there’s Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s press conference the day after the shooting. Sitting on a dais with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on his right, a host of law enforcement representatives to his left, along with Ted Cruz and others standing behind him, Abbott went on and on about how it is “intolerable” and “unacceptable” to have anybody in Texas kill little kids in “our schools,’ and how “All Texans must come together and support the families.”
Abbott spoke vehemently and loudly, all but pounding the table. But his well-feigned outrage can’t disguise the fact that in 2021, he signed into effect seven laws loosening gun-control restrictions, including those making Texas a so-called Second Amendment sanctuary state protecting Texans from any new federal gun-control regulations, and allowing Texans to carry guns without a license or training.
When Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running for governor against Abbott, had the guts to break into the flow of Abbott’s news conference, calling out these hypocrites on their crocodile tears, they of course accused him of playing politics.
O’Rourke rightly said, “The time to stop the next shooting is right now, and you are doing nothing. You’re offering us nothing.” And he warned that another mass killing will happen.
O’Rourke was met with a chorus of “You’re out of line and an embarrassment,” from Dan Patrick and “Sir, you’re out of line” from Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin. The mayor, a Republican, also declared that Beto was a “sick son of a bitch who would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.”
But that’s what the press conference was—a political effort, using false sympathy to whitewash the Republican refusal to permit any regulation of assault weapons that would have saved these children and victims to come. Furthermore, the participants were intent on shutting down any attempt to address the real issue with the usual claim that such talk is politicizing pain and suffering. But politicizing pain and suffering is precisely what Abbott and his brethren were doing at that news conference.
After O’Rourke was ejected from the room, Abbott intoned, “We need to focus on the healing and hope that we can provide to those who have suffered unconscionable damage to their lives and loss of life. We need all Texans in this one moment in time to put aside personal agendas. Think of somebody other than ourselves, think about the people who are hurt. And help those who have been hurt.”
But Abbott’s job is not to direct us to “healing and hope.” His job is to prevent the next massacre necessitating healing. And the real Abbott—his callousness about the loss of life from gun violence—was demonstrated in his 2015 tweet: “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas#2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.”
While they use misdirection to distract us from their part in the horror, McConnell, Cruz and Abbott have made sure to collect their 30 pieces of silver. According to Brady United, a nonprofit organization advocating for gun-regulation reform, McConnell has taken nearly $1.3 million in campaign contributions from the NRA. Cruz has received over $176,000 By comparison, Abbott came cheap, at $13,700.
Protestors angrily gathered outside of the NRA Convention a few days after the school shootings
Despite the slaughter last Tuesday, by Friday the NRA went ahead with its convention. True to their natures, neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz had even the thimble of grace required to forego attending and speaking there. Trump’s speech sounded as if the NRA had written every word of it for him. And Cruz had the nerve to begin his speech saying he was there to speak “on the nature of evil.” Considering his political history, that is a subject Cruz clearly knows a lot about. Trying to hide from public wrath and still satisfy his patrons, the duplicitous Abbott did not attend in person, but addressed the convention from a safe distance in a video.
But what the hell! If Abbott et al want the thoughts and prayers of Texans and the nation, let’s give them what they’ve asked for.
Let us pray for the souls of Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott and Donald Trump—that they may repent their devil’s bargain with the gun lobby. That Mitch McConnell may find his missing humanity and stop leading his party in blocking any gun regulation. While we are at it, let us pray for the soul of each and every member of the Republican party in the United States House and Senate—that they may all find their missing humanity and stop their empty ritual of offering thoughts and prayers each time there is a mass shooting. And that they will stop politicizing gun violence by squelching any talk of reform.
Oh. Right. It’s too late. They’ve already sold their souls to the NRA and the armaments industry, apparently in an iron-clad contract. Prayers for a change in their souls or hearts is therefore useless.
Then let’s keep them in our thoughts. Let us keep the Republican Party’s aiding and abetting of mass murder in our thoughts when we go to vote in November.
Political columnist Jessie Seigel had a long career as a government attorney in which she honed her analytic skills. She has also twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her fiction, and has been a finalist for a number of literary awards. In addition, Seigel is an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. Of this balance in her work between the analytic and the imaginative, Seigel jokes, “I guess my right and left brains are well-balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.