My neighbor breaks down in tears every time I see her. She is a widow. Her husband left for work one year ago this week and never came home. He was one of nine people shot and killed by a co-worker in San Jose. She is haunted by the sudden loss and enraged by the knowledge that the tragedy is unique to the country they considered safer than their homeland.
Surely America, sold as the land of freedom and bravery, would be kind.
In reality, we are the land of thoughts and prayers and craven indifference.
On Tuesday, two days shy of one year since the shooting at the VTA railyard, an armed man walked onto an elementary school in Texas killed 15 people, 14 children and one teacher. As he was gunning down innocents, the Warriors and Mavericks were preparing for a playoff game neither coach was inclined to discuss.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was beyond irate. Sitting at the podium with fire in his eyes and verbal flames off his tongue, he was shaking with anger.
“Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed 400 miles from here,” he said. “And a teacher. In the last 10 days, we’ve had elderly Black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo. We’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California. Now we have children murdered at school.”
His voice rising, Kerr pounded the table.
“When are we going to do something?
“I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I’m so tired of the excuses. I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough!”
Kerr then sharply criticized the “50 senators” who have declined to vote on a house bill, HR8, which establishes enhanced background checks on gun purchases and passed through congress 14 months ago. It has stalled in the senate.
“There’s a reason they won’t vote on it: to hold onto power.”
Kerr issued an emotional plea to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and “all you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence in school shootings and supermarket shootings, I ask you, ‘Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers?’ Because that’s what it looks like.”
Even as Kerr was speaking, the death toll from the tragic event at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde was rising. Within the hour, news reports raised the count to 21 – 19 children and three adults, including a grandmother.
The gunman, who was killed by law enforcement, was 18. The white supremacist gunman at Tops supermarket in Buffalo on May 14 also was 18.
Less than five months into 2022, the mass-shooting count in the United States has zoomed past 250 – with 50 and counting this month – according to massshootingtracker.site. The site lists a total of 4,634 mass shootings, defined as four or more victims, since Jan. 1, 2013.
Kerr’s fury on the issue runs deep, all the back to 1984, when his father, Malcolm, was shot and killed by terrorists outside his office at the American University of Beirut. The man who coaches basketball for the Warriors has spent most of his life living with the emotional wreckage in the wake of a school shooting.
“I’m fed up. I’ve had enough. We’re going to play the game tonight,” Kerr said, his voice accelerating. “But I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild or mother or father or sister or brother. How would you feel if this happened to you today?
“We can’t get numb to this! We can’t sit here and just read about it and go, ‘Well, let’s have a moment of silence.’ Yeah. ‘Go Dubs.’ ‘Come on, Mavs. Let’s go!’ That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go play basketball. And 50 senators in Washington are going to hold us hostage.”
The vast majority of American citizens, recognizing this is an American problem, have urged politicians to enact tighter gun laws. We’re talking 80-90 percent. But a select few continue to live in the pockets of gun manufactures and lobbyists.
Kerr pounded the table once more, railing against “pathetic” lawmakers, saying “I’ve had enough” before walking off.
Yes, as the nation endures another rubber-stamp “thoughts and prayers” response from those in position to act, and another ceremonial moment of silence, the Warriors and Mavericks will play a basketball game neither Kerr nor Dallas coach Jason Kidd were inclined to address.
We’re a country founded on violence and injustice, addicted to guns and “led” by a power structure determined to keep it that way.
Change? Maybe that will come if millions feel the pain my neighbor lives with every minute of every day. And every second of every night.