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“No excuses.” These were words from the man who raised me and taught me everything of importance in my life, my grandfather. His primary lesson, which dominated my youth, was ‘the golden rule.’ “Doing the right thing” every time is not always easy, and I believe that is by design. True courage is founded upon choices and sometimes sacrifice.
Now in my later years, I cannot claim to have always followed the lessons taught to me by the finest and most loving man I ever had the privilege of knowing, but I continue to try and live by the principles I learned some 70 years ago.
When I am no longer walking on the earth, I hope to be remembered as a respected man who tried to be the best man he could be. That’s enough. That means I lived a good life, and nothing is of more value.
I condemn those in power and authority who make excuses today. If we make mistakes, it is imperative that we admit to those mistakes and learn from them. I read excuses from politicians and our government officials daily, and they anger me.
This morning I woke up, made some tea, and opened my laptop. On Google’s front page were two articles offering excuses for the cowardice of members of law enforcement in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. A lone, 18-year-old man entered Robb Elementary School and shot and killed 19 children and two educators. But that’s not the whole story.
Dozens of members of various law enforcement agencies gathered outside of the school. The articles claim that the officers in charge believed that the situation was another precautionary lockdown and was reluctant to enter the school. Really? They couldn’t hear the explosions from a military assault rifle?
Men and women who lived in the surrounding homes could hear shots being fired from inside the school. For more than one hour, no one from law enforcement entered the school. However, we later learned that one mother did breach the line of cops and rescued her two sons. They knew that the shooter was alone, and children’s lives were in danger. It was assumed that there were multiple injuries and probable deaths. Why none of them went inside is unforgivable le. Was it cowardice, or was it because the school is mostly Hispanic? What other reasons could there be?
This situation is clear, and there are no valid reasons, no excuses for not performing their duties. I cannot imagine myself standing outside a school where small children were inside, gunshots were being fired, and choosing to do nothing.
Violent crimes are on the rise across America, and most involve guns. Have we come to accept this as part of our everyday, normal lives? Are we to accept that no one can trust those in authority to do the right thing? Are we now at the mercy of men who are angry, filled with hate, and intent on committing violence? How long are we expected to wait for our government and law enforcement to accept responsibility for their refusal to take strong and decisive action to lessen violence in America?
You likely know the details of the shooter’s actions prior to and during the assault. I won’t repeat them. I don’t know how you feel, but as an older man, I feel at least a small amount of fear every time I leave my home. I feel like everyone has a loaded weapon, and many would like to find an excuse to use it.
Sadly, my advice to my fellow Americans in the 21st century is “trust no one.”
Op-ed by James Turnage, Novelist
USA Today: How aggressive border control tactics in Texas contributed to inaction during Uvalde shooting; by Celina Tebor
AP: Frequent lockdowns may have contributed to Uvalde tragedy; by Jake Bleiberg and Acacia Coronado