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Carole Owens: From the barrel of a gun or an autocrat's mouth, when will the damage be enough?


Why did the police stand in the hallway, armed and wearing protective gear, as two teachers and 19 fourth-graders were shot down and bleeding out? Why did they stand around the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, as an 18-year-old killed 21 people? Were they unable to stop a single gunman or unable to stop a certain style of gun? Were police unable to confront one teenager, or were they afraid to try? Is there a reason? Is any explanation reasonable, or will truth, when we learn it, defy reason?

Just before midnight on Nov. 9, 1938, Gestapo chief Heinrich Muller sent a telegram to all police units informing them, “In shortest order, actions against Jews … will take place in all of Germany. These are not to be interfered with.” Police were instructed to stand back and not arrest perpetrators. Fire companies were told to stand by and let synagogues burn and step in only if adjacent Aryan properties were threatened.

Absolutely nothing to do with us, right?

In this country, there is no way police in Texas stood by because no Aryans were being shot. That’s not us — no way we glorify one race to the detriment of another. No way we accept or encourage racial divide as a basis of a political party or movement.

There is no way, in this century, in this country, that the constitutional rights of citizens only extend to whites and do not extend to others. No way Americans see the rainbow as threatening.

After all, the School Police Chief Pete Arredondo explained. Simple. He was waiting for a key. A dozen or more armed men stood around for 77 minutes waiting for a key. They waited for that key as they listened to cries for help and gunshots and, finally, an eerie silence. They waited for a key to unlock a classroom door that a reporter said wasn’t locked and an observer said they never approached closely enough to test — never twisted the knob.

Oh well, maybe they were afraid. Whatever the real reason, it was unique to the situation and limited to those individuals. Absolutely outrageous to assert it is related to any other event. That Kyle Rittenhouse took an AR-15-style rifle to a peaceful demonstration, shot three, killing two, was found “not guilty” was absolutely unrelated. Any similarity between perpetrators, weapons or victims is purely coincidental.

No way there is a concerted effort to foment violence. Out of the question to suggest there is an orchestrated “policy” to ramp up violence and destruction before elections. No way violence is the political tool of the minority party. Oh well, there was Jan. 6, 2021. There was that, but no one agrees what that was. So where are we?

Well, Kellyanne Conway told us that there are alternate facts. America laughed. A few years later, no one is laughing; everyone is too busy dealing with the disparate “facts.”

If we cannot agree about the Second, 13th or 14th Amendments; if we cannot agree about the freedoms of religion and assembly; if the best we can do is pervert the freedom of speech in order to perpetrate fraud; if we cannot agree who was elected in 2020; if we cannot agree to reject violence as an acceptable solution — it is time to leave.

Wisdom from my father

First time I went out on a date, my father gave me $5 (roughly equivalent to $50 today) and told me, “Always know when to leave and always be able to do it.” Papa told me about a few things that could go wrong and some stuff I should not stand for, and said as the $5 bill that passed from his hand to mine “so my daughter can call a cab.”

Well, folks, we are killing our children. We cannot agree to stop. In the Robb Elementary School hallway or in the nation’s capital, we are not protecting fourth-graders. It is time to leave.

If we do not agree to have a country where a child can grab her blue Schwinn, whistle up her dog (as I did) and ride off free and unafraid; if we cannot ensure that children attend school worried about a pop quiz not the pop-pop of a gun; if that is not our collective goal, let us not have a collective nation. If we cannot agree on anything, it is time to stop waiting for the other side to come to their senses, stop trying to find the argument that will work to convince — in short, stop kidding ourselves and leave.

Where? Well, we can become two — the Bi-Coastal Nation and the Red States. The Bi-Coastal Nation will need a treaty with Canada in order to fly from LA to NYC. The Red States can continue to take away rights and solve problems with bullying and violence. They can under-educate and under-perform and over-charge for the betterment of the few and the suppression of the many.

We are killing our children. Twenty-three years ago, in April 1999, there was Columbine. No one took the guns. Eight years later, April 2007, there was the deadliest school shooting at Virginia Tech, where 32 lay dead. No one took the guns. In the intervening 15 years, no one took guns out of the hands of children killing children. They said a prayer, shed a tear, intoned “April is the cruelest month” and moved on.

They moved to another podium where they fomented violence and protected the rights to put guns in the hands of children and the deranged. In 2021, they let another teenager with a high-powered rifle walk free. As his mother explained, maybe her son should not have been there, but neither should those demonstrators. Good, blame the unarmed demonstrators, and hand the teen back his AR-15. Enough.

Last year, brave men and women stood up, held out, saved democracy. Sadly, the beat goes on; these folks do not stop. Bad news: They are wining primaries. Good news: They are Republican primaries. They are a majority of a minority party in contiguous states. Time to call a cab.

Carole Owens, a writer and historian, is a regular Eagle contributor.

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