America practices child sacrifice. Uvalde is the latest offering.

As for our contemporary bargain, the Greek tragedian Euripides came closest to capturing its ugliness. In his play “Iphigenia at Aulis,” the Greek forces assembled to return Helen from Troy find themselves becalmed by a lack of wind. A seer tells Agamemnon, the Greek war leader, that the only way to get the troops on their way is to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia.

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Agamemnon sends for Iphigenia under false pretenses — then balks at the enormity of what he’s been asked to do. But just when it seems he has recovered his moral sense, he changes his mind, because he does not want to appear weak to the troops he commands.

Agamemnon’s cowardice should be both ghastly and recognizable to anyone familiar with the contemporary offerings of “thoughts and prayers” instead of legislation, of sympathy but not of courage. Just as Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra, is horrified by the prospect of “buying what we most detest with what we hold most dear,” so is every school shooting a sickening reminder of the choice American society makes over and over again.

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