Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl ...
That old Marty Robbins ballad fills my head almost every time my plane descends into El Paso over the trackless scrub-brush-and-mesquite desert that stretches to the jagged brown mountains west of the city. I've been flying to El Paso once or twice a year for more than two decades. My mother and a brother live in Las Cruces, New Mexico, just 40 miles away, on the other side of those brown mountains.
I was there last weekend.
On Saturday morning, we took a drive into the mountainous Mescalero Apache country, where the temperature was a brisk 61 degrees. At lunch, on a television screen in a restaurant, I saw a chyron that read, "10 dead in El Paso mall shooting." On the drive home, as the temperature returned to a balmy 101 near White Sands, my brother read more details on his phone. It was bad.
Try to imagine your favorite local television reporters dealing with a bloodbath beyond imagining. That's what we saw on El Paso TV news when we returned to my mother's apartment: the interviews with police, witnesses, and grief-stricken family members, all struggling to cope, to explain the inexplicable — this country's ever-recurring horror show, where 10 dead becomes 18 becomes 22, where children see their parents die, where mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters fall in shock and agony, writhing on a shiny mall floor, wondering what happened and why, victims of a blind and ignorant hatred, carried out with a weapon of war. The American cancer.
The recipe is familiar: a white male infected with white supremacist beliefs slaughtering an "other" with an AR-15 or the like with a high-capacity magazine. It was Hispanics who paid the price in El Paso, but Muslims, Jews, African Americans, and LGBTQ folks have all felt the deadly wrath in recent years.
The El Paso killer drove 11 hours from Dallas to find Hispanics to kill. He posted a manifesto online that spoke of stopping the "invasion" of Hispanics, similar to language used by hate groups — similar to language used by President Trump in his rally speeches. This was a planned slaughter, carried out with malice aforethought, not the impulsive act of a madman.
Later that night, the plague of violence and hate struck again in Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were indiscriminately murdered and 21 injured — most of them black.
The president issued a "thoughts and prayers" tweet on Sunday, then played golf. On Monday, the president read a statement that used all the right words and phrases, even condemning white supremacists, which he had been loath to do previously. He will have visited El Paso and Dayton by the time you read this, which is also the right thing to do — at least, it is if their citizens want him to.
Our Congressional and Senate leaders issued the standard thoughts and prayers tweets, but the Senate and House are on leave until September. No legislation will pass. Nothing will change. Nothing changed after Sandy Hook. Nothing changed after Parkland. Nothing changed after Las Vegas. Nothing will change after El Paso and Dayton. Nothing will change until we change the lawmakers who suckle at the teat of the NRA, and who value their elective office and their blood money more than the lives of their constituents.
After 9/11, President Bush went to Ground Zero and said: "I want you all to know that America today is on bended knee in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. The nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens. I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
However imperfectly the war against terror was conducted — and it was a monumental fustercluck in many ways — the president and Congress took action, creating a Department of Homeland Security and a Director of National Intelligence. DHS agencies screened suspected terrorists' phone calls and emails; new air travel regulations were instituted.
Three thousand people died on 9/11. More than 30,000 Americans will die from a bullet this year. It's a national emergency that should have the president's and Congress' hair on fire. But it doesn't, and it won't. They have failed us, and they need to go.
From out of nowhere Felina has found me
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for
One little kiss, and Felina, goodbye.