Christopher Hooks wrote in The Texas Monthly about the boundless hypocrisy and moral vacuousness of Texas’ elected leaders.

In the run-up to the 2022 primaries and election, they made a big show of “protecting the children.”

They obsessed about the danger of transgender children, even insisting on criminalizing parents’ efforts to get medical help for their children. They obsessed about teachers allegedly “grooming” children for lives of deviant sexual behavior. They obsessed about “obscene” books that might normalize sexual behavior they—these men of high righteousness— deplored. They obsessed about “critical race theory” and demanded the banning of books that taught children about racism, whether past or present, or anything about human sexuality.

Yes, the children of Texas would be protected from any teaching about race or sexuality.

But they would not be physically protected. They would not be protected from an 18-year-old with two AR15s.

When the bad man with a powerful weapon came into their classroom, the children were left to fend for themselves while 19 police officers stood in the hallway. The bad man killed their teachers. He killed children. Little girls called 911 and begged for help. One said 8 or 9 children were still alive. But the police remained in the hallway.

The parents in the schoolyard pleaded with the police to save their children, but the police had their instructions: keep the parents away.

Almost an hour passed before the police broke into the classroom and shot the murderer.

The Governor called a press conference , where he commended the police for their courage and bravery. He commended the men who waited in the hallway for almost an hour, while the children were dying, one after another.

Hooks writes:

Texas, a friend used to say, is hard on women and little things. That would come to mind over the years when reporting seemed to bear it out. In 2015, I watched a foster mother testify in court, via telephone from her daughter’s hospital bedside, that state cuts to the Medicaid acute therapy program were having disastrous consequences for her child’s incurable, debilitating genetic disorder. In 2021, an eleven-year-old boy in Conroe suffocated from carbon monoxide poisoning after seeing snow for the first time, as his family tried to keep their home warm after the collapse of a horribly mismanaged electrical grid. And then there were the perennial horror stories from the state’s spike-pit child welfare system—a three-year-old found dead, bleeding from the ears, after his day care repeatedly warned state agents about signs of abuse by his foster parents; a teenage girl who killed herself the moment she could despite orders that she was never to be left alone; and countless others who survive through the heavy prescription of psychotropic meds before being kicked out to the streets at the age of eighteen.

Each revelation of new misery brings a new wave of revulsion, but—I hate to say this—as you learn more about how the social safety net works in Texas, the revulsion starts to fade, and it becomes a dull undercurrent to an awareness of the world instead of something sharp that pokes through. As it fades, so comes the realization that it has faded in the same way for those in power—and that nothing gets fixed because leaders have been immunized from caring to an even greater degree. The grid remains unsteady; children in foster care still get abused. Legislators make a show of passing partial, temporary fixes and resist looking at problems head-on. The Texas Legislature, with all its self-regard and jocularity and pride in itself as an institution, turns out to be suffused with a very dull and banal kind of evil.

On Tuesday, though, something poked through. For me, it wasn’t the knowledge that there had been another school shooting. Who could be surprised by that? Every detail was familiar. A once-bullied eighteen-year-old, two AR-15s, 22 dead, and 19 injured. The thing that shocked was the pictures of the dead when they lived. They were so little! Do you remember what it was like to have a body that small? A round fired by an AR-15 at close range enters the human body at three times the speed as those fired by a handgun, disintegrating and liquefying bones and organs around it. “It’s like a grenade goes off in there,” one trauma surgeon told Wired. Parents had to submit DNA samples so their kids could be accurately identified.

This spectacular violence, it sometimes feels, has not left much of us. At his initial press conference, Governor Greg Abbott wore his traditional white disaster-response shirt and offered details of the massacre as if reading a weather report. At a press conference the next day, where the governor sat alongside Texas senator Ted Cruz and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Abbott told Texans that the disaster “could have been worse,” and the primary flash of anger shown by elected officials came when Beto O’Rourke, who appeared in the crowd, tried to talk over them.

Appearing on Newsmax TV the day of the shooting, state attorney general Ken Paxton suggested that more armed guards at schools would help, “because it’s not going to be the last time.” Can you believe that, as a response from one of the most powerful elected officials in the state to a massacre of fourth graders? “It’s not going to be the last time.” There used to be at least a perfunctory mourning period, some hugs given in front of cameras, before those in power turned to one another other and shrugged. But in truth, leaders are only handling this the way they think about the foster care system they oversee, and every other death trap run by the state. The revulsion dulls, the novelty fades, and it becomes normal.


The shooting took place on the day of the Texas primary runoff. The composition of the Legislature and the rest of state government for the next two and a half years was set that night, barring extraordinary circumstances, by the conclusion of the Republican primary, which in Texas is more influential than the general election. Paxton, who had shrugged off the Uvalde shooting on Newsmax while wearing a campaign T-shirt, won renomination and almost certainly a third term in office.

It is a grotesque and cruel irony that the Republican primary this year, and several years of political activity before it, have been dominated by an all-consuming and comically misdirected argument about the “protection” of children and by a war on public schools. There was essentially no policy contested in the GOP primary that could affect the practical and economic circumstances of all Texans. (There rarely is.) There was, however, ceaseless argument about the well-being of children, their morals, their internal lives.

The most acute panic was over transgender children. In February, Paxton’s office issued a formal opinion holding that the prescription of puberty blockers to transgender children represented “child abuse.” Shortly after, Abbott tasked the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, an overworked and underfunded agency he had overseen for close to eight years, with investigating the families of transgender children for child abuse.

The more widespread crisis concerned books. The panic was conjured by parents and elected officials in equal measure. The first target was books with “divisive” material about race. Then, elected officials began to panicabout “pornography” in schools, a category that mostly included literature featuring queer characters and sexuality. Lawmakers proposed lists of books to be banned. In November, Abbott ordered the Texas Education Agency to investigate cases of “obscene material” in public schools and prosecute those responsible “to the fullest extent of the law,” because, as he wrote, it had to be a top priority to “protect” Texas students.

Public school teachers and children’s librarians—two professions that offer a strongly beneficial service to society for little pay—became villains for parents and candidates alike. They were called “groomers” and pedophiles on social media. In a press release, Abbott called for criminal charges to be brought if librarians were found to have put “pornography” in front of children. In Granbury, southwest of Fort Worth, half a year later, one woman lodged a criminal complaint against the librarians of Hood County ISD, prompting a police investigation. At a subsequent school board meeting, she condemned the fact that a committee brought together to review troublesome books had “too many” librarians instead of “people with good moral standards.”

The deterioration spread. A record number of public school teachers, already weary from the pandemic and now faced with a sort of siege, started quitting en masse—and forfeiting their licenses, indicating they probably wouldn’t come back. “I’m tired of getting punched. It shouldn’t be like this,” ninth grade math teacher Gloria Ogboaloh told Texas Monthly. As more teachers left, the quality of life for remaining educators got worse. Then, just four months after ordering that libraries be investigated, Abbott ordered the TEA to create a task force to investigate why so many teachers were quitting.

Hooks goes on to describe politicians who are liars, braggarts, cruel, indifferent to the safety of children, callous. How long can they continue to fool people with their charade and their fake concern? They don’t care about thechildren