Turns out, tough Texans in Stetsons aren’t so tough.
The excuses offered by police in Uvalde to excuse their cowardice only confirm their cowardice.
Nineteen armed police stood in an elementary school hallway and did nothing for more than an hour while an armed teenager murdered 19 children pleading for help and the two teachers who perished trying to protect them.
That, by any measure, is cowardice.
It was not a “wrong decision.” It was cowardice.
If only one of the 19 armed police – who apparently waited for 78 minutes for a key to charge into the classroom where 19 children were being dismembered by bullets – had had even a speck of the steel of two unarmed teachers, then perhaps some of those children would be alive.
But they did not. Instead, 19 armed police loitered in a hallway until they were convinced the killing was over, that all the children were dead before they finally broke into the classroom.
That was not a “wrong decision”. It was cowardice.
The tough guys in Stetsons lied, as well. At first they said they stood firm. They shot back while they were being shot at. That’s what “heroes” do: Face the danger in spite of the danger.
It was, of course, a lie meant to cover up their cowardice. The killer walked in through an open door and began killing children. No one shot back until 19 children and two teachers were gone.
Liars and cowards.
If these opening paragraphs shock, anger or offend you, I don’t care. I don’t care if you are a police officer. I don’t care if you know a wonderful police officer or your sister, brother, mother or father is a wonderful police officer. I don’t care how brave they are, what good they do, the risks they take. I don’t care.
Right now, in this moment, this is what should shock, anger and offend you to your core: 19 armed police – your brothers and sisters in blue – stood outside a classroom biding their time, allegedly looking for a key, while 19 petrified fourth graders and two teachers were being dismembered by bullets and then the cops lied about it for days.
It is so disgraceful that it seems surreal. Beyond belief or comprehension. So much so that the mind, indeed, the body, reverberate with fury and questions. How could they stand outside and listen to what was happening to children inside that classroom and do nothing? Why did they stand outside and listen to what was happening to children inside that classroom and do nothing?
Shame on them.
The shame of their cowardice can never be erased or forgotten. It will follow those 19 police officers like a long shadow in the late day Texas sun. From when they wake until they sleep. In their nightmares, too. Always.
In the midst of the horror some of the fourth graders summoned, remarkably, the will and the courage to call 911. Send the police. Please. Now. To save us.
Growing up, those 19 children were told by their parents and teachers, I am sure, that the good guys in Stetsons were “the helpers” who would come to the rescue if they needed rescuing. Quickly.
The cavalry arrived and decided that rather than abide by their oath to “serve and protect,” the good guys in Stetsons took cover and lingered. Frozen in place for 78 minutes.
In the meantime, 19 children probably cried out or begged in whispers for their mamas and papas or God to do what the good guys in Stetsons were supposed to do, what they took a vow to do, but what they refused to do: rescue them from someone who was going to hurt them.
One tough guy in a Stetson admitted on TV that the 19 police officers were afraid. Paralysed by fear. That they allowed 19 children and two teachers to be murdered to save themselves.
This is what he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “They are hearing gunshots, they are receiving gunshots. At that point, if they proceeded further without knowing where this suspect was at, they could have been shot, they could have been killed.”
The wailing mothers and fathers gathered outside the school demanded the tough guys in Stetsons do something.
When that failed, they volunteered to storm the classroom. To answer their kids’ desperate calls and prayers. To do what the cops wouldn’t do: Go in, unarmed, if necessary, to die, if necessary, to make sure their children lived. Right there and then. Not an instant or an hour later. Right there and then.
The mothers and fathers said that the tough guys in Stetsons held them back. Pushed them back. Handcuffed them. Tasered them. Pepper sprayed them. All the while, the killer kept shooting and killing their kids in a school a few yards away.
Shame on them.
But we know that police across America prefer to kill innocent people – a lot of Black people – who are unarmed. They break down doors all the time, without warning or a warrant and start firing. During the day. At night. It doesn’t matter. Bullets and battering rams first. Questions – if any – later.
They shoot Black people in their homes. They shoot Black people in their bedrooms. They shoot Black people in their cars. They shoot Black people on the street. They shoot Black people in the back.
And they often get away with it because most of the police officers doing the chasing, shooting and killing are white.
This time, the cops didn’t break down the door until it was too late. They didn’t want to get shot. They chose to let 19 kids and two teachers get shot.
That was not a “wrong decision.” It was a cowardly choice.
All this in a state led by a slick Republican governor who prides himself on letting disturbed teenagers buy weapons and bullets designed not only to kill lots of people, including children, fast, but to disfigure their face and body, sometimes beyond recognition.
Like the two repellant Republican senators from Texas, he doesn’t “represent” the “state,” but the NRA and profiteering death merchants who prefer the “right” to sell and “bear arms” over the right of fourth graders to go and come back from school to their families – whole.
They are cowards, too.
They make excuses for the inexcusable.
They run away when reporters ask them why so many innocents are massacred so often in America and only in America.
They raise money to remain Governor, a US Senator or a Representative when, if they had a scintilla of decency or genuine contrition or remorse, they would disappear as penance for the terror they have helped wrought.
Shame on them. Shame on them all.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.