The Back Road: ‘A gift of safety, from our family to yours’

The Back Road: ‘A gift of safety, from our family to yours’

Andrew Malekoff

We are rapidly approaching another somber American milestone, the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings (Dec 14), that left 20 children and 6 adults dead.

Thinking back, I have no memory of any school shootings when I was an elementary school student in the 1950s.

Back in the day, to administer routine doses of fear, we were compelled to participate in “duck and cover” drills, in which we were implicitly advised that hiding under a wooden desk would save us if an atomic bomb was dropped.

I don’t recall feeling anxious during those drills. But, the occasional test pattern and piercing tone that showed up, unannounced, on our black-and-white TV screen scared the hell out me, especially if I was watching alone.

I did get in trouble more than once for laughing uncontrollably during duck and cover drills, when the teacher told us to sit on the floor and put our heads between our legs. I can only speculate why I thought that was so funny at the time.

At that time, I was unable to conjure an image of the impact of a nuclear explosion. This is despite the fact that it happened twice in Japan a little more than one decade earlier. Photos of mushroom clouds had pierced our collective consciousness, as well as black shadows of humans and other objects, that were found strewn across the sidewalks and building façades of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Maybe I was in denial, which would have been a healthy defense mechanism under the circumstances, especially at such a tender age.

I cannot recall my parents bringing up the atomic bomb or nuclear war in conversation. Although I had a vague recollection that the Soviet Union was America’s enemy, I never contemplated mutually assured destruction.

Had I been subject to live shooter drills in grade school, like today’s kids are, I’m sure I would have been crystal clear about the purpose of the drills – to keep me from being blown away by intruding strangers brandishing military-grade weapons.

I do believe I would have been living in fear every day, above or below the surface of my awareness.

Today’s children, teens and parents are drowning in unfiltered information and horrific images, advanced by social and conventional media, that are the result of an endless succession of school shootings – mass murders of the nation’s children, from sea to shining sea. And, there is no end in sight.

Despite the reality of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, nuclear annihilation was, at best, an abstraction to me and my schoolmates. I couldn’t really comprehend it then, as I can now. But a classroom of slaughtered children, that is a different story. My childhood mind’s eye could have imagined such a horror. Except for today’s children, no imagination is necessary.

For too many of today’s children, the mass shooting and murder of their contemporaries is far from abstract. Their fear and anxiety are grounded in stark reality. The tyranny of imagination need not apply. Parental anxiety and hypervigilance, even terror, have become pervasive, and for good reason.

Yet, despite the ever-increasing incidence of school shootings, the nation remains torn, divided. Many recommendations for sensible gun laws are widely supported, including by gun owners, and do not affect people’s second amendment rights to bear arms, affording them the ability to defend themselves and their property.

Nevertheless, there remains opposition to even the most bipartisan solutions, such as implementing universal background checks for gun purchases and instituting a ban on assault weapons.

Apparently, Texas schools think they have found the answer – DNA.

Jennifer Hassan, reporting for the Washington Post on Oct. 20, wrote: “Texas schools are encouraging parents to store their children’s DNA and fingerprint records in case they need to provide them to law enforcement if kids go missing.”

One middle school teacher in Texas noted that the word ‘missing’, “means a lot of different things.”

After the Robb Elementary School shooting (May 24) in Uvalde Texas, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, “families of children who were unaccounted for lined up to provide DNA samples to help identify bodies torn apart by bullets,” Hassan reported.

Although Texas law does not say that DNA kits are for the identification of children’s bodies after a school shooting, parents have drawn a link between the two, reported Arianna Prothero for Education Week.

The 18-year-old Uvalde assailant legally bought two semiautomatic rifles and close to 400 rounds of ammunition, in order to slaughter 19 innocent children in a setting charged with ensuring their safety. Two teachers who tried to protect them were murdered as well. Ten years ago, some thought we had seen the end of it with Sandy Hook.

The message on the fingerprint and DNA test kits reads: “A gift of safety, from our family to yours.”

Prothero cited Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who tweeted: “Texas Gov Greg Abbott is choosing to send DNA kits to schools that parents can use to identify their children’s bodies AFTER they’ve been murdered rather than pass gun safety laws to proactively protect their lives.”

Providing parents with DNA kits to preempt a school shooting was met with disbelief by a number of Texas parents, reported Nikki McCann Ramirez for Rolling Stone.

“It’s like wiping your [rear-end] before you [use the bathroom],” Brett Cross, whose son Uziyah Garcia was killed in Uvalde, sardonically tweeted. “Let’s identify kids after they’ve been murdered instead of fixing issues that could ultimately prevent them from being murdered,” he added.

Hassan concluded with one teacher’s sentiments: “I love my job. I love being a teacher. My students perform well,” she said. “And yet this threat of gun violence is the one thing that would make me leave. No job is worth the risk when the tradeoff is leaving my kids without a mother.”

Ten years later and some, in apparent surrender, believe DNA kits are the answer.

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