Some moments are so profound that they require deep thought before words.
After the Sandy Hook massacre, the entire nation, save for a few right wing NRA puppets and Fox News (forgive the redundancy), stopped. We collectively stopped breathing for a moment Friday. This was a profound moment for the soul of this nation. Shouting does not contribute to profound moments.
In that still, silent space of pain came opportunity. Because while we struggle with our helplessness in light of the unthinkable enormity of the loss, there are some things that we can change. There are some things we have control over.
“I need the country and the world to understand that out of this we have to bring good. This was an idyllic setting for children and now children, young children, have died,” Lillian Bittman, a former chairwoman of the Newtown Board of Education, told CNN’s Don Lemon. “When Columbine happened, our school put in a buzzer system. But this keeps happening. We as a country have to use this to come together and look at all the solutions. What can the world do? Love each other and work together. Figure this out so no more six-year-olds die or have to watch their teacher die in their classroom.”
So as I heard the President hint at a future policy shift, I started to believe that we may have finally found what we will not bear.
We must embrace it carefully, cultivate it, and never let it go.
We must, as a nation, decide that this is our moment. We must commit to seeing it through all the way. All of our pent up emotion must be tapped, not only for rage about gun laws, but to create a long-term paradigm shift.
Just as with the election, the change we want won’t come easily. It won’t come tomorrow. The results won’t come next year even. But the dawn of change could be just around the corner. We have to stay engaged until the results are manifested. We’ll be fighting against one of the biggest lobby groups out there. Our humanity is on the line.
We have to be vigilant. That means that in this process, we don’t buy into the corporate water carried by dark money and clever Republican propagandists, who seem to be able to fool at least half of the sane people in this country when they really set their mind to it.
The goal is to address the culture of violence and all that it entails – mental health policy, economic policy, gun control, and so much more. Mother Jones pointed out, “Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders* carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii… Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The arsenal included dozens of assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns… Forty four of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman.”
So much for the “thug” theory. Also, the “bad apple” theory. There’s something rotten in America.
Two laws that could be passed with some speed, were our lawmakers inclined to listen to the people instead of being intimidated/bought by the NRA, are already on the books. According to a CBS poll from 2011, sixty-three percent of Americans support a nationwide ban on assault weapons, which means the majority of Americans agree that it was a mistake to lift the ban on assault weapons, which President Bush did in 2004.
Then we have Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)’s 2011 “Fix Gun Checks Act”, which would ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale. This, too, seems like a no-brainer but it was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 2011 where it languishes with a 8% chance of getting past committee and 2% chance of being enacted.
Part of the paradigm shift would have to include greater participation by the electorate. The people support common sense gun control such as the above two policies provide. So we need to ask ourselves, why don’t we have it? How has the national dialogue been so co-opted and shut-down as to exclude the majority of Americans?
Many Democrats lost their seats thanks to the NRA, after standing up for stricter gun laws and challenging the NRA’s absurd interpretation of the Second Amendment. If we want our lawmakers to hear us, then when they take a stand like Schumer did we must have their back when the dirty ads and the Breitbarted videos come out. We must provide political cover.
If we really want this change, then we need to keep talking about it. It’s not enough to be angry on Friday and forget next week. We need to stop glorifying the shooters as anti-heroes via endless media coverage, and instead start raising the victims, their families and our humanity up, and glorifying it and them instead.
The family of victim Olivia Rose Engel, 6, wants you to know this about her, “Olivia Rose Engel was a precocious and completely endearing six-year old. She loved school, and was very good at math and reading. She was creative, loved craft projects and art class, and loved participating in as many sports and activities as her mom Shannon could get her to- from tennis to swimming, ballet to soccer, Daisy Girl Scouts to musical theater, and her church’s CCD program, nothing was off limits for little girl whose favorite colors were pink and purple. Olivia was always keen to take a spin on the lake and Sound on her dad or grandpa’s Whaler. She was a patient big sister to three-year old Brayden, lead Grace each evening at the dinner table, and was a six-year old with a lot to look forward to.”
We need to hear Lillian Bittman’s cry that some good come of this. Let this unbearable loss bring us together as sane people who want a better America and are willing to work hard for it. Let us dare to hope, and have the courage and the fortitude to stand tall for our beliefs long after the searing pain fades from the headlines.