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Simcha FisherJuly 22, 2022
FILE - Police walk near Robb Elementary School following a shooting, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. A gunman fatally shot 19 children and two teachers at the school. Over an hour passed from the time officers followed the 18-year-old gunman into the school and when they finally entered the fourth grade classroom where he was holed up and killed him. Meanwhile, students trapped inside repeatedly called 911 and parents outside the school begged officers to go in.

A Reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time.

What if there are at least ten there?”

He replied, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”

I sat down to write todays reflection on the same day the country discovered that nearly 400 police officers responded to Robb Elementary School. 400 massively armed and trained officers of the law who apparently did nothing at all while a gunman roamed around the halls and slaughtered nineteen children and two teachers at his leisure.

400 people, I said to my husband, is like the population of a small town. And not a single one of them thought it was up to him to intervene.

The reading for the day: Abraham pleads with the Lord to spare a small town, Sodom, if only he can find some innocent people who live there. What if there are fifty innocents, says Abraham. Surely, the judge of the world will act with justice and will not sweep away the innocent with the guilty. If he can find fifty innocent citizens, will God spare the town? And God agrees.

But Abraham apparently knows this town well, and he immediately begins to bargain God down. What if there are only forty-five, or forty? Will God forbear then? And God agrees that he will.

This is about Uvalde, yes. This is about police reform. This is about forcing ourselves to take a hard look at what kind of narratives we believe about who is really good, and why we believe it.

Abraham persists. What if he can only find thirty innocent men, or twenty? What if he can only find ten? And God agrees: Yes, that would make a difference.

What if only ten policemen had chosen to be good?

What if only one had?

What if only one had chosen to do anything at all? How many fewer brightly-colored coffins would they have had to build?

The Uvalde report says that there was “systemic failure,” and this is manifestly true. No one was in charge, and everything proceeded as wrongly as you could possibly imagine. All that vast, grotesquely muscular firepower was poured into doing nothing at all, while the little innocent ones had no one on their side, no one to beg mercy for them.

This is about Uvalde, yes. This is about police reform. This is about forcing ourselves to take a hard look at what kind of narratives we believe about who is really good, and why we believe it.

But its also about this idea of systemic failure butting up against the idea that one single good man could have made a difference. One! If one officer had said, "This is insane. This is not my job, to stand in a hallway, sweating through my armor and waiting for orders while second graders are blown apart. I am here and I can do something. At least I can do what one man can do." It would have made a difference. But nobody did. Not fifty of them. Not forty-five. Not thirty. Not ten. Not one.

Every one of those officers will die some day and will face the judge of the world, utterly alone. No commanding officer, no body armor, no union rep to plead his case, no qualified immunity. Just him and the blazing face of the Lord, demanding an account of their actions.

So will we all. So will we all.

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