6.9 Editor's Pick
April 3, 2023

If we could See their Bodies.

*Editor’s Note: Graphic image below.

After Black teenager Emmett Till was brutally tortured and murdered by two white men in Mississippi, his mother Mamie committed a daring, outrageous, and provocative act.

At her son’s funeral, she chose an open casket so the world could see the horror perpetrated on him.

I’ve viewed that image numerous times and it’s something you never get used to. Suffice it to say, his face is unrecognizable as anything human.

Till’s funeral took place in September 1955, right before the Montgomery bus boycott, which would soon transform Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into international figures. Plus, the 1950s was a decade of sterile conformity which tried to avoid undue unpleasantness. Mamie Till’s decision would have been frowned upon in certain circles as unseemly.

But she wasn’t having any of that. Her aim was to show the true face of the South’s violent, racist hatred and her choice hit its mark. Although the photograph of Emmett’s ruined visage only ran in predominantly African-American papers, it is credited with spurring into action the budding Civil Rights Era.

I wonder if there is a parent like Mamie Till who would have the audacity to do the same in response to our never-ending school gun massacres. To have an open casket at the funeral of their dead child to show America the true face of gun violence.

It would be horribly shocking but perhaps that shock is what’s needed to wake Americans up to the true cost of what for many of us is just a headline or a newscast.

When we think of someone getting shot, mass media has conditioned us to view the bullet wound as a neat little red hole, and that after it appears, the untouched body slumps to the ground. But children aren’t “shot” with an assault weapon—they’re slaughtered.

I doubt if any depiction of Hell could duplicate what the classroom at Sandy Hook looked like after Adam Lanza emptied the clips of his Bushmaster XM-15 into those tiny, helpless victims. After the Uvalde massacre, authorities had to use DNA so parents could identify their dead children.

If the leadership of the NRA and the Republican lapdogs who grovel at their feet were forced to view the mutilated body of a small child shot with an AR-15, they’d go down on their knees and beg for forgiveness. Forgiveness that God or the Law of Karma might be unwilling to grant.

I realize that such a proposition might offend some reading this, but I’m past the point of such sensibilities. The only “Trigger Warning” I care about belongs on a gun.

As someone who has been a public elementary school teacher (and proud of it,) it tears at me that we live in a society that values an assault rifle over a child. Such a perverse sense of priorities is a true definition of mental illness.

A few years ago when I was a substitute teacher at Enos Garcia Elementary School in Taos, New Mexico, there was a live shooter drill. For five awful seconds, I thought it was the real thing. My fourth grade students huddled against the wall as I turned off the lights and locked the doors. The thoughts going through my mind were too unsettling to recall. After the drill ended, the kids went back to their desks as unruffled as if it were a routine fire drill.

For them, this was the new normal. For me, I wanted to hug each and every one of them. Instead, I went home and had my own personal nervous breakdown, distraught by America’s gun sickness.

And, yes, it is a sickness. Those who are fanatically obsessed with guns do not care about the Constitution. They are victims of a disease. The Founding Fathers, whatever their faults, were a fairly intelligent bunch. If they had witnessed the weekly mass murders of schoolchildren and other American citizens being justified under the Second Amendment, they would have rewritten if not entirely scrapped it.

And how are Republican legislators responding to our mass shooting epidemic besides phony thoughts and prayers? The GOP-controlled Missouri state legislature is allowing minors with no minimum age restriction to carry guns in public. North Carolina responded to the recent Nashville school bloodbath by allowing anyone to buy a handgun without a permit. The gun manufacturer WEE1 Tactical is even offering an AR-15 designed for children. Imagine a classroom full of hormonal teenage boys armed to the teeth. What could possibly go wrong?

But if you could see their bodies…


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