The Moon that Never Rose

Greg Abbott’s hands are drenched in the blood of the youth of Uvalde. He said the shooter had a “mental health challenge.” So does the governor.

The Moon that Never Rose
Uvalde SWAT Team

“America’s greatest promise is that something is going to happen. But after a while you grow tired of waiting because nothing ever does happen to people in America; except people grow old. And nothing ever happens to American art either, because the story of America is the story of the moon that never rose.”
-   F. Scott Fitzgerald

They killed them. Just as surely as the troubled 18-year-old who pulled the trigger. The governor of their home state made it easy for a kid to walk in and buy semi-automatic weapons. And ammo. Then go out the door like that is completely normal. Nobody calls the police. The seller knew he had met his legal obligations. Name and phone number. An address just in case.

Greg Abbott and his Republican colleagues made sure it was easy to get weapons. They called it Constitutional Carry. Your goddamned right to own any gun you want in a world where sanity has become a diminishing commodity. And if you’ve sat for psychiatric examination, doesn’t matter. Even if it did, how would they know? The computers aren’t talking to each other. The database for mental health doesn’t send information to gun salesmen. You don’t need a permit. There is no requirement for training any more. Get your gun. Kill a kid.

Then came the lies. The Texas governor said it could have been worse. Heroic police officers stopped the madman. Like hell. They cowered in the parking lot. For forty horrendous minutes. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Cops kept parents from going into save their children. Then they waited in the hallway for a janitor with a set of keys. A fine excuse for inaction when they could have blown the door down and saved children who were calling and desperately asking for help. But cops aren’t about saving lives. They are about taking them. Every city in America has been militarized by police. And if you have a certain type of melanin in your skin, odds are you will become a victim.

Our heroic first responders only responded to their own fears. The Uvalde SWAT team was very good at dressing up in camo. And posing in Kevlar with their AR-15s. The group photo is lovely. But the camera did not catch the cowardice. Why do taxpayers fund these people? Every incident is just another chance for police to act like soldiers in a civilian environment. Except the Uvalde cops acted like fools. And let children die. Except for their own. They got their kids out of the building.

The governor raced to Uvalde to sing their praises, though. Hell, they are cops. They love guns. They are Abbott’s people. Except he was wrong. Or he lied. Usually that’s what he’s doing. Lying. Later when the facts began to emerge, he started to look for people to blame. He was suddenly “livid” that he had been misled. Too bad he didn’t listen when police and everyone else was telling him his permitless carry law was going to make guns easier for any lunatic to buy. Which is what happened. Guns don’t kill people. Politicians kill people.

Greg Abbott’s hands are drenched in the blood of the youth of Uvalde. He said the shooter had a “mental health challenge.” So does the governor. He vetoed a bill that would have provided $211 million dollars to improve access to mental health care in Texas. He knows it was needed. Texas is dead last in providing access to mental health care services, according to State of Mental Health Report for 2022. But we are probably dead first in making school kids dead.

Our leaders are worse than impolitic. They are repulsive. Ted Cruz, who, astonishingly, is a US Senator from Texas, stood before the National Rifle Association convention in Houston, and complained about how Democrats try to politicize every mass shooting. Isn’t that horrible? Uncle Munster seems to not understand that making guns accessible to anyone, without background checks or a cooling off period, is as political an act as can be conjured. Cruz, who has become a kind of living piece of carrion, blames the tortured kid, not the politics and the culture that made it easier for him to get deadly weapons than to buy an illegal six pack of beer.

Cruz and Trump were the only two GOP piglets to appear in Houston at the NRA. God knows they are both counting on checks. And they will get them. The senior senator from Texas, John Cornyn, who consistently fellates the NRA, decided the adjacency to this tragedy was too much for even him. He discovered that he had other important business in DC. But watch out for “Senator Seriously Concerned.” GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has asked him to begin talks with Democrats about gun control, which is as disgusting as it is disingenuous. Little Johnny’s job will be to slow roll any legislation, hope the heat fades, and to ride the fences against any real changes being implemented.

Trump, of course, doesn’t give a jolly good goddamn about dead kids. He wants money for his bank account. Maybe he’ll use it to run for reelection. Likely he won’t. But he’ll still have the NRA cash. He has the kind of obliviousness that made him comfortable praising himself for his courage for showing up in Houston at the convention. Just the hero we need for this time in our history. Unafraid of asking for cash from a gun club after their gun nuts have played a role in arming a crazed young man. Who does not fantasize about Trump being in that room when the trigger was first pulled and watching him cry and squirm instead of the innocent children who were victimized by his politics and the NRA’s politics and the gun loving testicular unit who lives in the Texas governor’s mansion?

Trump, of course, spread lies about gun control. He wasn’t talking about the kids and the lives unlived. Donnie dumbass was only interested in the interests of the NRA. And he fed them their pablum about how Biden is trying to take their guns. He was quoted as saying, “It’s even reported that the Biden administration is considering putting U.N. bureaucrats in charge of your Second Amendment rights.”

Utter horseshit. Biden is considering having the US re-enter an international arms treaty that controls the sale of tanks and artillery and warships and missiles, but it has not a damned thing to do with American firearms held and owned by civilians. And in no way does it give the U.N. control over gun laws in this country because, well, we hold our guns to be self-evident, more important than children. More than a hundred nations were signatories to 2014 Arms Trade Treaty, but the US never ratified it, well, because guns are cool, totally the best, even when they are actually missiles and tanks. The treaty makes it clear it has nothing to do with the sale and purchase or circulation and use of guns between private citizens of the sovereign countries that sign the agreement. But that’s the kind of truth Trump doesn’t need when he’s talking to the NRA. He needs to scare them that the UN is coming for their guns. That’s how he gets them to write him checks.

And how about that gun buying process? A kid who works at Wendy’s, gets bullied all the time, turns 18 and can legally head on over to the federally licensed local firearms shop and buy a couple of AR-15s and a load of ammo to celebrate. Did he save up that $5000.00? He can’t go into a bar and have a 3.2 percent alcohol beer, but by God in Texas he can get himself a gun. Which is what he did. Permitless carry, remember. Constitutional Carry. It’s your American birthright. Born on the sacred soil? Nobody dares to step between you and your gun rights. Or they’ll get shot full of holes.

There is almost a pathology to all these massacres now. An educational and mental health system fails a young person. They can’t access the help they need. Don’t even know where to look. Would be ridiculed by friends and family. The anger arises and they look for a way to vent. Get even. Guns are the answer. Easy as hell to get one. Especially in Texas. Meanwhile, clues are everywhere. On social media. Interactions with others. All go ignored. Even the posting of pictures of guns. Nobody responded to his threats. And the gun lobby and conservative Republicans will make sure nobody makes guns harder to get, either.

Ted Cruz went before the NRA convention and blamed everything other than easy to buy guns as the cause. Absent parents. Separation from God. Had nothing to do with a social structure and economy that requires people to work multiple jobs to survive. Adults struggling with their daily lives. Said we had a sick culture but doesn’t see the prevalence of weapons as a symptom. The big “pro-life” guy doesn’t realize that pro-life would be 19 children spending Memorial Day Weekend with their families on a picnic, or in the front yard, instead of in body bags providing DNA so they can be identified.

They’ll find someone to blame. Won’t be guns, tho. Nor the governor and his permitless carry law. The dispatcher was their first target. But now it looks like the local police chief will take the fall. He didn’t order the door blown open. Brave armed men waiting for the janitor. The governor wasn’t really livid about the dead kids. Just that he looked bad on TV. The story keeps changing. The truth turns around and goes up and down and comes back and haunts. But the children are still just as dead. And will be buried beneath another broken promise of “never again.”

And then Ted Cruz and his distemper defend American exceptionalism. We are admittedly exceptional at many things. Selling guns is one of them. Generating campaign donations. Suppressing the vote with gerrymandered congressional districts and complicated mail in ballot laws. Polluting the political process with money from the wealthy to make certain facts never reach voters. We are exceptional at leveraging the patriotism of our young and sending them off to fight resource wars. Lying them into combat. Send them home broken. Never to trust their government again. We are exceptional at pretending we have an actual functioning democracy when we are only possessed of an oligarchy. And old white men in power who would deny the young.

Spiritualists might be right. Could be our national karma is coming due. We’ve run unjust wars. Performed genocide on indigenous peoples in their own land when we arrived. Built our economy on slavery. Discriminated against women and minorities to sunder their dreams of equality while we waved a red, white, and blue flag over every dead soldier who was fighting for rights that did not exist for everyone. Maybe we are who we always have been. A nation of people ignoring our own truths. If we truly gave a damn about our country and democracy, our children and economy and the climate and the air we breathe, wouldn’t we do something about it? Does the founding promise still even exist? Why do we empower people like Abbott and Trump and Cruz and Cornyn?

Who the hell are we?

James Moore is a New York Times bestselling author, political analyst, and business communications consultant who has been writing and reporting on Texas politics since 1975. He writes frequently for CNN and other national media outlets and can be reached a