I barged through the front door of my home, the infuriating New York Times headline still burning in my mind. "Two Dead and Dozens Injured as Bus Carrying High School Students Crashes." Such a disaster I felt compelled to articulate my indignation, my anger at yet another tragedy that could have been averted, yet another wrinkle on the pudgy face of our shared negligence as a society.
My first inclination was to condemn the drivers. After all, we place our faith — the lives of our future generation — into their hands every single day. We assume they're qualified, that they've undergone rigorous tests and evaluations, that they appreciate the depth of responsibility they bear. But perhaps that assumption is naïve. Perhaps, as a society, we should take ownership of the fact that we consistently prioritize cheap labor over safety. It's a numbingly familiar story, the cheap labor, the unprepared drivers, resulting in fragile lives hanging in the cold balance of fate.
Then again, one might argue that infrastructure — that complex, veins-and-arteries thing that's consistently underfunded, undervalued, and marked by a lethal lethargy — also shares a piece of the blame pie. Ignored by most until something goes horribly wrong, it languishes under the neglectful eye of bureaucracy. But who gives a damn about infrastructure as long as it doesn't personally inconvenience us, right? Until one day, a tragedy like this happens, and "suddenly" everyone clamors for reform. It's a pathetic and sickeningly predictable cycle.
Furthermore, let's consider the school system. Packed like sardines, the lives of our future are crammed into tin-can buses with barely any modern safety implementations. Seatbelts are optional, safety drills minimal. Schools across the country scrap by with the bare minimum, yet we tell ourselves day in, day out, that we are delivering a world-class education. What an utter farce!
Finally, my thoughts turn to those responsible for regulating our roads, our buses, our drivers. Where the heck are they, and what exactly are they doing? Sipping expensive coffees in luxury offices while reading reports of the latest tragedy, perhaps? Their sheer incompetence and lack of proactive action mirror our general society's apathy and negligence to such issues.
I am far from a bleeding heart. I am a hardened conservative, living my truth through the prism of my own uniquely gay identity, and I am regularly infuriated by the world we inhabit. Every time an incident like this resurfaces, it holds up a mirror to our society, reflecting how much we're failing. Our collective, ongoing negligence has resulted in the present tragedy, one of many that seem to emerge on an increasingly frequent basis.
It is about time we confronted the uncomfortable truths about our society, about how we prioritize – or, in this case, fail to prioritize – the ones meant to mold the future of our country. Our inaction and selective blindness are a testament to our failure. If only we cared half as much about real issues like this as we do about the latest celebrity gossip or political sex scandal, we might stand a chance of mitigating such catastrophes. Until then, I guess we'll keep wringing our hands and offering empty condolences ad nauseum, right up until the moment it happens again. It's past high time we stopped this abhorrent, endless cycle of negligence and loss.