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Opinion Why nothing will change after Uvalde

Mourners attend a vigil at Sacred Heart Catholic Church for victims of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Tex., on May 24. (Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images)

Nobody’s going to do anything, right? I’m betting you already know, in the wake of the deaths of 19 children at an elementary school in Texas, that nobody is going to do a single thing.

Oh, yes, for a while, people will stand behind microphones. Some will be sincere. There will be a vigil, maybe many vigils. Perhaps some balloons will be released into the air. But no one will do anything substantial about the reality that, in the United States, you can pick up a gun and mow down people for no reason.

The fact of the matter is that nobody has done anything since Columbine in 1999, or Virginia Tech in 2007, or Sandy Hook in 2012, or Parkland in 2018, and there’s virtually no chance that anyone is going to do anything now. It doesn’t matter that it’s children we’re talking about again. Nothing happened after innocent children were slaughtered the last time, or the time before that, and nothing is going to be done now. Nothing happens after it occurs in elementary schools, or grocery stores, college campuses or churches. Instead, we always defer to those whose fears outweigh others’ right to continue living.

The gun is a holy relic in America. A sacred talisman. More important than life itself.

We are living in a twisted version of “The Lottery,” the classic short story by Shirley Jackson. In the story, the residents of a small fictional town hurry about their day preparing for a big ceremony, which is slowly revealed to be a ritual human sacrifice. Death by stoning. Each year, someone is chosen at random to die, for the good of the town. So that the rest of the townspeople can feel safe. Perhaps so that their god can be appeased, or good crops can be enjoyed.

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That’s where we live now. We live in a culture where human beings are randomly chosen to die so that those who feel unseen or who fear the unknown or just love guns don’t have to feel afraid.

But our sacrifices aren’t yearly. They’re daily. One right after the other. Unlike the characters in Jackson’s story, the people who die in our tale lost their humanity long ago and are immortalized only as statistics. Numbers to be added up.

Those of us who survive get to shake our heads and ask “Why?” while secretly just feeling lucky that it wasn’t us or someone we love who had to pay the price. This is also why nothing will be done. Because it didn’t affect us. We can push it out of our minds and say what a great tragedy it is. But we don’t have to do much else.

We won’t do anything because those among us who think their fears and their rights are the same thing hold all the cards. Because those who believe a boogeyman is lurking around every corner have agents walking the halls of our government to ensure that these shootings change nothing. We rarely note that most of these shooters are men who are angry and antisocial. And, unless we come up with a cure for angry and antisocial men and boys, these mass murders will continue.

We won’t do anything about this problem because we are not the land of the free and home of the brave that we think we are. We have that backward: America is the land of the fearful and trapped. We don’t feel our children are safe. We don’t think we can change this dreadful landscape. But we’ll watch politicians make speeches. We’ll see all the memes on social media and read all the opinion pieces from people like me. But, in the end, we’ll move on until there are new human sacrifices to make us forget about the old ones.

Because it’s important that the fearful feel safe. And we’re all fair game to be sacrificed.