It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

Gabrielle D’Arcy
4 min readMay 25, 2022

“This is the deadliest school shooting in 10 years.”

If ever there were a phrase that shouldn’t exist, it’s that one. But it does, and it dominates and defines our current political moment — because on May 24, 2022, a gunman entered a Texas elementary school and killed several young children and their teachers. As of this writing, the death toll was 17 students and 2 teachers. Seventeen precious children, all with mothers whose lives revolved around them and fathers who would’ve gladly sacrificed themselves to protect them and futures ahead to look forward to. The nation weeps with them, grieves with them, prays for the victims and their loved ones — but who is actually fighting for them? Who is standing up to ensure that their deaths aren’t in vain, and that no parent ever again feels the crippling, earth-shattering loss they’re experiencing now?

In the animal kingdom, a surefire sign that a creature is in distress is when it kills its own young. There is something instinctive to all creatures, something primal and innate, that motivates us to protect the youngest and most vulnerable among us. It’s why Mother Nature developed the Baby Schema, the series of adorable features on the faces of babies that makes us want to kiss them and hug them and keep them safe. We, the creatures of the social and political ecosystem that is the US, are in distress. We are killing our young and we have no viable plans to prevent similar atrocities from occurring in the future.

Gun rights activists often cite the high rates of gun ownership in nations like Serbia, which has far fewer shootings than we do, as proof that guns are not the major motivating factor in mass violence. As unpopular as this may sound, I think they might be onto something. We are a sick nation. There exists deep spiritual rot in our country. We hate each other, we are deeply mistrustful of each other, and we regularly accuse our neighbors of being groomers, racists, insurrectionists, baby killers — all while our children are shot or go without baby formula or go to school hungry. Like wolves, we retreat into the safety of our packs when we feel threatened and pick fights with other pack leaders to remind ourselves that our tribe is more powerful. This benefits no one — not us, not the rival tribe, and certainly not our babies, who stand to lose the most due to our counterproductive battles.

Of course, there’s one ostensible silver lining to all this: our political moment isn’t terrible for everyone. Corporations like Walmart, for instance, are doing just fine: they are taking in record profits amid skyrocketing inflation. Everything is fine and dandy for the Walton family and other billionaire oligarchs, even as innocent children bleed on the floors of their schools.

Why is that, I wonder? We are told that inflation occurs as companies ramp up production to meet rising demand, but if that’s the case, how are they making so much money? And moreover, why have certain companies not raised prices, like Arizona, whose signature iced tea is still only .99 — even though the cost of the aluminum they sell it in continues to rise, too?

So to recap, we’ve got a situation in which our babies are hungry, we’re shooting each other in the streets and supermarkets and churches and schools, millions of us couldn’t go to the doctor or take a single day off work to quarantine while a deadly virus ravaged our communities — but corporations are earning more than they ever have. Is it possible, I wonder, that these two things are connected? Could the power of corporations and special interest groups have something to do with our collective misery?

The answer is a resounding yes. In America, we have nothing to believe in. People work forty hours a week and still rely on welfare to feed their kids. We can’t take vacations, can’t take even three months to stay home with our newborn infants, can’t afford to go to the doctor, all while billionaires continue to gain. And instead of banding together to take on that billionaire class, we’re busy fighting each other.

What we need is a culture of aspiration. We need a coherent, compelling national story that makes us all believe in America again, one that acknowledges the horrors of history while bringing us all together and inspiring us to work together to build a shared future. We share a single destiny. But we can’t realize that destiny until our basic needs for food, shelter, water, and money are met. We need to improve our material reality before anyone even has the energy to fulfill that spiritual hunger. We can do both, but it will require laying our weapons down — literally and figuratively — and uniting not along tribal lines, but as one, unified America.

The clock is ticking. It’s only a matter of time before the next mass atrocity occurs. Are we willing to abandon our petty, partisan anger and stand together? Or are we going to keep fighting each other, hoping that the temporary dopamine hit we get from screaming at our political enemies will fill that spiritual void we’re all suffering from, the one that leads us to kill ourselves and each other at record-high rates? One thing is certain: if that’s the path we choose, our children will continue to suffer the most.