Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another day, another massacre

There really are no words to convey the horror. Another day, another massacre in the USA. This time most of the victims were children, babies really, barely even launched on the sea of life. The other victims were people who had dedicated their lives to helping children like them get launched. The sadness simply overwhelms me and, I am sure, most parents, who understand the images that the parents of those twenty children who died must live with for the rest of their lives. There is no way to mitigate the pain.

The killing of so many innocents in one place at one time certainly gets our attention and grabs all the headlines for a few days, but the truth is that this many people die most days in this country as a result of being killed with a gun. Some 10,000 deaths per year occur in the United States because of gun violence. And what is our response? Why, to make guns more widely available and easily accessible, of course.

The response of many of the gun nuts to yesterday's tragedy has been more than predictable: "Oh, if only one of those kindergarten teachers had had a gun. She could have taken out the shooter and saved lives." You might as well say: "Oh, if only one of those five-year-olds had had a gun. She could have taken out the shooter and saved lives."  Time and again we have seen that when an innocent bystander does have a gun, he will not be able to react in time or else he is just as likely to shoot the wrong person. Still, the myth of the heroic bystander persists in the minds of gun worshipers.

Then there is the response of people like Mike Huckabee, or as I think of him the execrable Mike Huckabee. His theory is that because public Christian prayer is not allowed in schools, his god has removed his protection from them so that such murders can occur. So, let's just think this through for a moment: Huckabee and his ilk worship a god who permits the murder of innocent children because the adults don't stand up in school and intone paeans of praise to his name. I want no part of such a god nor of his minions like Huckabee.

My theory of why such tragedies occur is quite different. Simply stated, I believe that they happen because guns are more easily accessible than mental health care in this country. All countries have their quota of mentally disturbed people, but it is only in this country, the most armed country in the world, that lethal weapons are everywhere and can be picked up at the local Wal-Mart by such mentally disturbed people for a few dollars. If the Connecticut killer had not been able to access guns, those precious children would be alive today and their families' lives would not have forever been blighted.

Why has our country reached this state? Because politicians in this country are terrified of the National Rifle Association. They are convinced that if they try to pass even the mildest restrictions on gun ownership, the NRA will go after their scalp. They are right, but, at least in the case of Democrats, the NRA will go after their scalps whether or not they do anything about gun control. They will continue to demagogue on the issue and to insist that "Obama is coming to take your guns." In fact, the only thing that Obama has done about guns as president is to sign a law allowing them to be carried in national parks! But you'll never convince the NRAists of that because, like others of their philosophical persuasion, they seem to live in a fact-free bubble.

The irony in all of this is that this is NOT what the American public wants. Public poll after public poll has shown conclusively that a rather large majority of Americans support tougher gun laws and making it harder to get most guns and impossible for the public to get automatic and semi-automatic weapons. And still politicians are afraid to act.

I don't know what it would take to stiffen the spines of politicians and make them willing to stand up to the NRA and to act in the interests of the public good and public safety. I don't know what it would take to make them willing to expand the availability of mental health services and to include mental health checks as a part of rigorous program of health care in schools. That would be a positive step toward turning back this tide of a massacre a month which seems likely to overwhelm our society. Is the blood of twenty children enough of a sacrifice to cause it to happen?

Whenever one of these horrors occurs, the cry of right-wing politicians is always, "Don't politicize it! Now is not the time to talk about gun control!" I beg to differ. Now is the perfect time to talk about gun control, now while the terror of dying children and the unquenchable grief of their parents is fresh in our minds.

When these things happen, public officials always rush to put out statements about how their "thoughts and prayers" are with the victims and the survivors. I'm here to tell you, thoughts and prayers won't do it! By all means, pray if it makes you feel better, but only human action can stop these tragedies from occurring. We need to make clear to our elected representatives that we hold them personally responsible for their inaction. By such inaction, they are complicit in the murders of children. Perhaps it might just be enough to finally reach that tipping point where the life of a child is worth more in our society than the right to own a gun. Any gun. I live in hope and hope is all that is left on such a sad, sad day.


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