All the Wrong Things

There once was a village nestled deep within the forest. It was a thriving community whose residents looked out for one another and took pride in their homeland. Brought together by a sense of shared identity, this village was a refuge for all types of people: artisans and merchants, hunters and farmers, poets and bards. Its citizens could often be heard extolling the peacefulness and prosperity they all enjoyed.

But legend had it that just beyond the village, a sinister threat lurked among the shadows. The local elders passed along the stories with a heavy sense of impending doom. They told of certain blood-thirsty creatures that prowled menacingly throughout the forest. These beasts were reported to be ravenous predators, constantly searching for their next meal. And what was their prey of choice? Human children. Just like the ones who ran and played through the streets of the village.

Haunted by these ominous tales of danger, the village leaders went to great lengths to protect their young. They created rules banning children from going near the outskirts of the village. They constructed elaborate fences and defensive structures to guard against intruders. They employed round-the-clock sentinels to keep watch and ward off any threat of peril. It was a demanding responsibility, but they knew they needed to act. How could they stand by idly while the most defenseless and vulnerable among them were snatched away and devoured?

Years passed with no sight of the deadly creatures, but the leaders refused to let the villagers grow complacent. “They can strike at any moment,” they warned. “We must remain vigilant. We must keep our kids safe.” And so they did – enforcing the rules, maintaining the fences, deploying the guards.

It just so happened that one afternoon, several children were playing a game of tag near the center of the village. Laughter filled the air as they darted this way and that, weaving around obstacles and unsuspecting villagers passing by. But suddenly these joyful sounds were interrupted by a piercing, frantic scream. The game stopped immediately. Parents rushed toward the voice. But when they arrived, they found not a single person there. Only the wide, gaping mouth of the village’s main water well. A rescue effort was organized, but everyone knew right away: nobody could possibly survive such a fall.

Over the next several years, more and more children tragically fell into this well. Some in broad daylight. Some in the darkness of night. Some while playing with friends. Some while chasing a pet. Sometimes within just a few days of the previous one. Some after a long stretch of months without an accident. But as time went on the casualties kept mounting, and most villagers began to lose track of how many victims the well had claimed.

After every occurrence, a familiar pattern emerged. The parents of the victim would beg the village leaders to take simple safety measures. Build a fence around the well, perhaps? Cover it with some sort of lid? Maybe even dig a new well in a more remote part of the village, away from where the children play? But the leaders would always turn them away without any changes being made.

“We understand your pain,” they would say. “But this well is too valuable. We can’t limit the village’s access to it. You’ll just have to remind your children to be more careful.” And with that, the leaders went right back to working on new ways to protect the youth from what they feared the most: those awful creatures deep within the forest. Those awful creatures that never actually came.

And so the well remained open, the children kept falling, and nothing was ever done to stop it.

Perhaps you find this entire scenario to be absurd and unbelievable. If so, you’re not alone. Many of us can’t even begin to fathom the negligence of a society that would overlook a real and present threat in order to fixate on a danger that has been entirely made up and imagined. But believe it or not, this village is not a fictional place. It exists in real life. And its name is the United States of America.

Just last week, tragedy struck our nation yet again. Another headline. Another shooter. Another school. Another name added to an already crowded list: Columbine. Newtown. Parkland. Uvalde. And now, Nashville.

We’re at the point where nobody can deny the severity of the problem. Nobody can ignore the danger our kids face. This same nightmare has now played itself out over 300 times in the past two decades, and although all the incidents are equally horrific, the one thing they’re not anymore is surprising. It’s almost as if we’ve come to expect them.

In a reasonable society, this would be cause for serious concern, particularly among those entrusted with roles of leadership. There would be an expectation for urgent action, a demand for decisive change to prevent this deadly cycle from repeating itself. 

Many of our own leaders, however, don’t seem to care. Instead of taking the obvious steps to prevent children from being killed in their classrooms, these leaders have busied themselves building safeguards to protect against the phantom threats of their own paranoid imaginations.

Consider some of their accomplishments just in the past few months. They’ve pillaged school libraries, removing books that don’t align with their own narrow political and social agenda. They’ve declared war on any curriculum that seeks to tell the truth about our collective history of oppression. And in what may well prove to be their pièce de résistance, they’ve made it illegal for drag shows to take place in locations where children might be present.

As it turns out, our leaders have actually been quite busy trying to protect kids in the face of this epidemic of school gun violence. But they’ve been busy doing all the wrong things.

Despite the misleading rhetoric and manufactured fear, our kids aren’t being killed by wokeness or drag queens or young adult novels that contain a few racy scenes. They’re being killed by guns – guns that are perfectly legal and readily available to just about anyone who wants to buy one.

Forget politics and partisan ideologies. This is a matter of life and death. Unless we alter our course, more rounds will be fired. More blood will be shed. And more parents will be forced to attend the funerals of their own children.

There are no more excuses. Every day that passes without a significant step toward meaningful change is a further indictment of those who lead us. Their actions (and lack thereof) have made it clear: they’d rather let our children be shot in their desks than allow them to see a man in a dress or read a book about slavery. 

It’s time for the village to hold its leaders to account. 

There are no creatures lurking the forest. Just a bunch of cowards who refuse to do what it takes to keep our children safe.

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