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Memorial Day Collides with Uvalde Grief

June 3rd, 2022 by dk

The nation’s grieving for 19 slaughtered children in Uvalde, Texas was interrupted by Memorial Day festivities. We set aside the last Monday in May to celebrate two things — heroism and summer picnics. Reflections on each can inform our grief.

I grew up in the early 1960s. The world operated differently then. Block parties happened automatically. We didn’t have air conditioning. We all knew what our neighbors were doing, especially if their joy or anger hit a heightened pitch. Most yards weren’t fenced. The commons were what most children knew best.

Our summer picnics usually included a lawn game that everyone could play while a couple of the men worked the grill. Their commercial name was Jarts, but you may have called them lawn darts — think of them as a mix between horseshoes and corn hole, but with large metal darts you heaved into the air.

It’s almost wince-worthy to recall that we threw these heavy pointed objects with crowds gathering to watch. But safety wasn’t the cultural watchword it has become today. Most cars didn’t have seat belts and nobody used them. Fumigation trucks spewing a fog of pesticides beckoned kids to run behind them. Nobody thought to stop us.

We understood that heavy pointed objects falling from the sky posed a danger, but it never seemed clear and present to us. David Snow was not so lucky — unfortunately for him, but good for everyone else. When his seven-year-old daughter was accidentally impaled by a lawn dart 35 years ago this month, he vowed to prevent future tragedies.

He petitioned the federal government to ban their sale and succeeded 18 months later. Ronald Reagan met him in the White House and called him a hero. Lawn darts were pulled from store shelves just a week before Christmas, 1988. More than 6,000 people — mostly children — had been taken to emergency rooms with Jarts-related injuries during the decade before Snow’s tragedy; almost none since.

If only the federal government could regulate guns like Jarts. (Would it help if we referred to slaughtered schoolchildren as post-term abortions?) Thoughts and prayers cannot replace profiles in courage. Heroism is a central theme for Memorial Day reflections — specifically, self-sacrifice.

Don’t be distracted by the 78 agonizing minutes that law enforcement agencies dallied before confronting the Uvalde gunman. Those officers failed a test that never should have been necessary. They are victims too of a system that allows this.

The soldiers we commemorate on Memorial Day gave up their lives to protect us. Those who do not protect themselves first are rightly called heroes. President Biden has pleaded this week for a “rational” approach to gun control. But rationality is not the order of the day. Heroism is required and self-sacrifice is not rational. 

If we have any hope of reversing the status quo, we need brave leaders who will protect us, and not themselves. Only those willing to lose their jobs — really, nothing more — for the sake of not-yet-slaughtered children can give us hope or deserve our respect.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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