Opinion | The Children’s Crusade: America’s New Duty-Dance with Death

Bright lights from a passing car and the sound of firecrackers, and the scattering of people running for their lives. That’s all I really remember of the first time I heard real gunfire.

Chances are on February 14th the teenagers, children really, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas didn’t know what those sounds were at first, nor did the elementary school children at Sandy Hook in 2012. Not at first. Canada is not without its gun violence. Although not on the same par as American mass shootings, nonetheless, gun violence continues to spread, scattering like buckshot. Things are different in Canada, and of course, Canada didn’t have a leader who boasted he could stand in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue “and shoot somebody” and not lose any voters.

“All of this has happened before and will happen again.”

I’m not a defeatist nor a fatalist but having seen the heated debate on gun control during the Obama administration, it reminds me of a line from sci-fi drama, Battlestar Galactica, “All of this has happened before and will happen again.”

Even as spring approaches, these tragedies are all too familiar now, like rote—Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the list is far too long. It’s always too long. The reactions from lawmakers and the media are no different from that of a firecracker thrown into a bonfire—big boom followed by that eerie sound of nothingness.

I’ve seen the ground watered with the tears of the survivors and families of the victims. The coffins are lowered into the ground with hopes something more positive might grow in that same place—perhaps a wisdom, a moral imperative. These are dark and desperate days. One must ask, “At what point did America become a killing field for its children?”

“As Cold War children we survived, and perhaps in our hubris we believed we had conquered history…”

My friend remembers the 1950’s when in school she hid beneath her desk with the imminent threat of Russia during the Cold War. Here in Canada, I remember my Saturday morning cartoons interrupted by the drone of the Emergency Broadcast System. “This is only a test.” As Cold War children we avoided extinction and perhaps in our hubris we believed we had conquered history and the inevitability of circumstance, and if so, we have paid for that human frailty more in the last few years than ever before. Our kids now hide beneath their desks for a different reason.

By my calculations, more American’s have died in mass shootings by fellow Americans post 911, than by terrorists, regardless of origin. Trump had promised to keep American safe but it’s clear he was looking at the wrong solution.

I do give credit to Trump and his listening session, even with his handwritten questions, as having a poor memory is not a crime, but ignorance of the complexity of such an existential issue is something else completely. If Trump has committed a crime, it’s far in excess of his culpability in any Russia collusion or obstruction of justice. The real charge is that of wilful blindness when it comes to the safety of the the American people, from their own communities.

Trump’s knee-jerk solution to the most recent mass shooting is to arm teachers, have them strap a six-gun to their hips, turning mentors, caregivers and friends into modern-day Wyatt Earps. Each day you would be asking teachers mentally prepare themselves to kill another person, perhaps even a student, or in this most recent incident, an ex-student. Gun violence is as systemic issue that the president refuses to see.

“The president is a stupid man, a “moron” trying to solve complex problems with simple-minded solutions—using his fingers and toes when he should be doing algebra.”

During a press conference following the shooting, Trump boasted about people like Chief of Staff John Kelly, how so many ex-marines like Kelly could become teachers. The ineptitude, the sheer ignorance of the president is beyond the pale. The president is a stupid man, a “moron” trying to solve complex problems with simple-minded solutions—using his fingers and toes when he should be doing algebra like his predecessors. His approach to conflict-resolution hearkens back to his election promise to build a wall to decrease illegal immigration, or he and Putin collaborating on a way to eliminate cyber-terrorism. Trump floats these quick fix ideas like weather balloons in a hurricane. He lacks the intelligence and the critical thinking skills to effectively discharge the duties of his office.

It’s ironic that Trump should host a listening session when his own inner circle have admitted that he does not listen. Trump is a reality show star at best. And for the same reason that lead to his being elected, American children and the country at large will continue to suffer at the hands of other Americans.

Trump’s followers maintain the president is playing three-dimensional chess, but it’s clear they too suffer from a kind of Trump-style myopia. To the critical observer, it is clear the president is playing Tic-Tac-Toe at best, confused by where to place the “X” on any given day. The “X” that represents the meek hope that he is looking out for all Americans, not just his base or the NRA, in a far superior fashion than he has done to date.

If people feel I’m being hard on the president, it’s only because he’s not being hard enough on himself. The standards of this presidency have slipped. This is not a real estate transaction gone awry, and as I’ve said before, there is no bankruptcy clause when you’re the president. Children have died, and yet he forces other children to partake in the same duty-dance.

Most every child is asked the same question at one point or another, what would they like to be when they grow up? Some might blurt out, “President of the United States!” I don’t know if Trump was ever asked that question in childhood or in adulthood, but if so, did anyone ever think to ask him why?

News Update: On March 9, 2018 Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act putting new restrictions on guns. Shortly thereafter, the National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit to block the Act.


k.g. Sambrano is a Canadian writer known for his works of literary fiction and poetry, and is an occasional freelance political writer. His latest book, Trump- the First 365 Days: America’s Fight for America was released on February 20, 2018.

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