May 30, 2022
Police outside Robb Elementary School following a shooting on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. © Dario Lopez-Mills, AP
More questions than answers have emerged three days after Salvador Ramos shot his grandmother in the face before going to Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where he entered a classroom full of 19 fourth-graders and shot them to pieces. (Twenty-one in total were murdered. Ramos’ grandmother remains in critical condition).
We still don’t know why Ramos did what he did. Investigators have not announced a motive. The Republicans who run the state, particularly Governor Greg Abbott, claim mental illness was the cause. US Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, called Ramos “a violent psychopath.”
We still don’t know the exact timeline of events. Authorities say the incident lasted 40 minutes. Maybe it was an hour. During that time, cops hesitated outside. Parents panicked, according to the AP. “Go in there! Go in there!” a woman shouted. A father said: “Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to.”
The Post reviewed a viral video taken outside the school. You can hear shots fired and moms wailing. Officers say they’re taking care of it. Parents, hearing the shooting, say they know the shooter is alive. The video shows one officer with his taser drawn, though not pointed at anyone. Another officer has pinned someone (a parent?) to the ground.
We still don’t know about the priorities of law enforcement officers. Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Travis Considine told a local TV news reporter that some cops got their own kids out:
We do know, Vanessa, that there was some police officers that responded to get their kids out of the school because there was an active shooter situation. It’s a terrible situation right. … It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy that took place. But again, we got to keep acknowledging those brave men and women who were there on scene great connection there on that met the suspect.
We still don’t know precisely how law enforcement behaved once Ramos entered the school. Officials first said he barricaded himself in the classroom. Then they said he barricaded himself in the classroom by locking the door behind him. Then they said police “contained” Ramos inside the classroom. Then they said police breached “the barricade.” Then they said police had “trouble breaching” the door, per the AP. Police had to find a school staff member to unlock it with a key.
We still don’t know why three cops failed to stop the shooter. The school had an armed police officer on-site, who appears to have engaged Ramos but didn’t stop him. (The cop was unharmed). Then two more engaged him. They were injured, per the AP. Then there’s the fact that “at 1:06 p.m., more than an hour and a half after those first 911 calls were made, the Uvalde Police Department said that the shooter ‘was in police custody,’” reported journalist Tess Owen of Vice News.
What we do know all too well is the Republicans in Washington and Texas are not going to do anything about the ubiquity of military-style firearms available to virtually anyone. (Texas does not require a license for open carry.) As I said, Abbott blamed mental illness. Other Republicans alleged lax school security. Cruz and US Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said no federal ban on assault weapons will stop a mass murderer from finding ways to murder massively.
Theory of government
Perhaps without knowing it, Rubio and Cruz suggested a theory of government that should, once it’s spelled out, horrify people.
Basically, it’s this: laws don’t stop criminals from criming. Therefore, there’s no point in the Congress passing laws. There’s nothing we can do about crime. As if to punctuate his point, Rubio literally shrugged!
This theory of government is a surrender to chaos and anarchy – to humankind’s worst instincts, to the survival of the fittest. Barbarism is the dominant chord of this kind of society. Civilization is impossible. It’s the argument against the argument for having a government.
That’s good for anarchists, but not Republicans outlawing abortion. To them, there very much is a point to having government and law.
If there is a point in passing laws that ban abortion, but there is no point in passing laws that ban the sale of military-style firearms with the capacity to kill wholesale, what we’re really talking about if not government per se but instead what kind of governments is better.
We should say so.
If the federal government worked as it’s supposed – democratically, with liberty and justice for all – it would undermine the natural order of things that the Republicans will kill themselves protecting. The government is the only force strong enough to flatten the hierarchies of power. That’s why the Republicans don’t want it to work as it should.
Indeed, the more chaos and anarchy in our lives, the better things are for the Republicans. Terrorism of the kind we saw this week does not end after the shooter is dead. The fear colonizes our minds. The dread occupies our souls. They induce us to surrender our rights and liberties for the safety and security provided by white men with guns.
As you know, I believe that, for the rightwingers, white men with guns are synonymous with “the law.” Given this condition, it’s really no surprise to me that we still don’t know many of the details leading up to and following afterward Salvador Ramos’ massacre of innocents.
It’s no surprise because cops lie like they breathe.
“For the second time, it appears the information initially provided by Texas law enforcement officials was wrong,” wrote NBC News’ investigative reporter Tom Winter. “The shooter was not stopped by the first officer that encountered him. And he wasn’t pinned down but rather appears to have locked himself in a classroom.”
“Wrong” is polite.
“They lied” is more accurate.
Time will work out the details, but the larger predicament is not law enforcement. It’s enforcement of “the law,” which is white power.
White power, and the unquestioned belief that white people must stay on top or “western civilization” will fall to pieces, is the biggest lie of all. When white power is institutionalized, as it is in virtually every police department in the country, it’s no big deal to keep on lying.
Don’t believe it?
Let’s go back to Travis Considine, the spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. In remarks to that local TV reporter, he gushed – and I mean gushed – over police officers in the beginning and end of the interview. In between, he mentioned 19 dead kids (as well as the fact, apparently, that cops got their own kids to safety).
What can we draw from a law enforcement officer minimizing the public’s focus on 19 dead kids and on but maximizing the public’s focus on those “those brave men and women” who serve the people?
Remember, “the law” is white power.
So white power is more important than 19 dead kids.
John Stoehr is a fellow at the Yale Journalism Initiative; a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly; a contributing editor for Religion Dispatches; and senior editor at Alternet. Follow him @johnastoehr.