From the Editor: It’s a kids-being-murdered problem
Remember when national tragedy brought us together?
Remember when we responded to acts of unthinkable evil with unity, determination and resolve?
Remember when we, as Americans, operated under the principle that — though we may, from time to time, disagree with one another — if you’re thinking of giving one of us a bloody nose, you’d better come ready for a fight with all of us?
I’ll never forget those stunned, numbing, agonizing, angry days that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. American flags waved from nearly every front porch, bitter partisanship was swept away before a tsunami of national pride and, for a few brief months, the United States of America — and, more importantly, the people of those states — were united in more than just name.
There were no political agendas, no obstinate bickering, no inwardly directed fingers of accusation — only us, bonded in our collective pain and cemented by a common resolve that we would do all in our power to ensure such a thing never happened again.
Fast-forward about 17 years, to the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stonemen Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
As a society, our response to this massacre — which claimed the lives of 17 people, 14 of them teenagers — has been abysmal.
Not only has this senseless, random extermination of innocent human life failed to bring us together, it has, on the contrary, served to push us further apart. Within hours of this monstrous act of violence, political crusaders were already taking to the airwaves and social media platforms, lining up 17 bullet-riddled bodies as props to advance their own ideological agendas.
Following are a few examples I mined from posts that have appeared on my personal Facebook page since Feb. 14.
• So far in 2018, there have been 4,320 deaths due to drunk driving. Nobody is looking to ban cars, because everyone is smart enough to know it’s not the cars’ fault.
• You have to have a driver’s license to drive a car, but anyone, regardless of training or intent, can walk into a gun store and walk out with a gun.
• Forty years ago, every pickup truck on a high school lot had a rifle in the window, and there were no school shootings. What changed?
• The AR-15 is not a sporting rifle. It’s made for one thing, and one thing only — killing people.
• The right to keep and bear arms is constitutionally protected.
• What about the rights of these students? Don’t they have the right to be protected by the United States government, to the best of our ability?
While each of the above statements carries at least a grain of truth, all of them — except the last — is, at best, tangential to the real issue: Seventeen people who, by all rights and expectations, should be alive today are not.
Maybe we do have a gun problem in the United States. Maybe we have a mental health problem and a breakdown-of-morals problem. Maybe we have a social isolation problem — a problem that, ironically enough, stems from spending the bulk of our time more concerned about social media “likes” than in forming, and maintaining, actual connections with our fellow human beings.
But — assuming the above-named are problems — they are secondary to the real issue, an issue we should all be able to agree on:
Children are being mass-murdered every few months for doing nothing more than having followed the rules and shown up for school. Regardless of our personal political biases, we should be able to agree this is not acceptable, and we’re not going to allow it to continue.
I have a couple of thoughts about things that might help, but they’re only the thoughts of one man, and this one’s going to take a whole lot more than that. The truth is, it’s a complex problem, and sadly, it’s now become an institutionalized problem, as well; the solution will require all of us working shoulder-to-shoulder.
The solutions — solutions that will not only protect our constitutional right to bear arms, but also our basic human right to stay alive — will emerge only when we find the humility to admit we don’t have the answers and the courage to set aside our preconceived notions and prejudices and work together — in unity — to find them.
The bottom line is this: Bad things will probably always happen, and people will probably go on murdering other people regardless of what we do. But children should be able to leave for school in the morning with a reasonable expectation that they’ll still be alive in the afternoon to go back home.
They can’t do that anymore, and that’s on us.
Not Republicans; not Democrats.