Every summer, it happens. The cookout gear goes on sale. SUVs laden with camping equipment and boats speed down the interstate. Tri-color attire appears en masse as matching flags are raised on porches. All of these things happen in a celebration for the day American colonies declared their independence from King George III’s tyranny. Yet it seems to me that we’ve traded the tyranny of a foreign government for that of our own.
As I’m writing this, the death toll for the latest mass shooting has reached twenty-one. The first number I saw of lives ended by this particular gunman was fifteen. That’s six additional lives that, despite the best efforts of medical personnel, could not be saved. Right now, I’m seeing reports of at least two bodies that are unrecognizable because of the destruction the AR-15 caused.
Do you know which shooting I’m talking about? Or has another one with details so similar occurred between the time I wrote this and the time you’re reading it that it could be any lives lost in any city?
I’m talking about the slaughter of nineteen children at Robb Elementary School in Texas on May 24, 2022. The brutal murder of children in their classroom, no doubt who were counting the minutes until the end of the school day, one day closer to summer vacation.
A summer that will now be filled with mourning, because those children have already had their last day of school.
When the social media posts are made in a few days as politicians observe Memorial Day, these families will still be planning the memorials that will mark the end of their children’s lives. As some families head out to barbecue and camp on this “long weekend,” the meaning of the day will be lost; they might take a moment to note that Memorial Day has something to do with being patriotic, commemorating the lives lost for our freedom, and they will think of our military.
I will think of the lives lost in that classroom at Robb Elementary School, because those lives were lost because some people believe that their right to bear arms—including military-grade assault weapons—should not be infringed upon at any cost. Even if it costs a child their life.
We live in a time where personal freedom is far more important than liberty, than justice, than the right for children to continue living. The gun-toting right-wing believes that their possession of a tool that can help them kill others is more important than children’s lives.
This year, as the celebrations for America’s freedom traverse our highways and fill our neighborhoods and campgrounds, I ask that you consider this:
Freedom may not be free, but we shouldn’t be asking our children to be the brave ones. The ones who sacrifice their lives to protect the interests of gun owners because the politicians in power are more interested in receiving funding from the NRA so they can maintain their national presence. These politicians have the blood of these children on their hands.
And if a government has the blood of its nation’s children on its hands, who is truly free?
A version of this post was originally featured on robfike.com.