The New York Times Sunday Review, May 29, 2022.
Memorial Day usually makes me a bit nostalgic, as I think about not only the men in my family who risked their lives in combat to protect America’s freedoms but about all the families who didn’t get to witness their loved ones return home.
I get a little emotional as I look at the American flags placed on veterans’ graves in our local cemetery.
But this year, I feel rage, the kind that chokes my brain and freezes my hands on my computer keyboard as I try to unpack my thoughts. It’s the kind of rage that makes those thoughts seem incoherent even to me.
I’m sick to death of mass shootings in America, in what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world.
And more than that, I’m angry as hell about the lack of political willpower to do one damn thing to make even a small attempt to reduce the risks of another shooting.
In the last month alone, Black shoppers at a Buffalo, NY grocery have been mowed down. Elderly Taiwanese people in their Southern California church were murdered by gun. But the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas this week, in which law enforcement dawdled outside Robb Elementary while the shooter blew away 19 children – 19! – and two teachers, to the point some of the dead children were unrecognizable and could only be identified through DNA matches with their parents—that one has really gotten to me.
“Let’s not politicize this tragedy,” say some. “Thoughts and prayers,” say politicians — particularly Republican politicians.
It is impossible not to politicize gun violence when only one political party is so enamored of guns they use faulty logic to justify the availability of high-powered rifles that are designed to do nothing but kill people fast and kill them quickly.
I’m tired of hearing from constitutional originalists that the 2nd Amendment protects all forms of weaponry. A “well-regulated militia” is far from a teenager who buys two rifles, one handgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition within a week of his 18th birthday, as the Uvalde killer did.
I’m tired of hearing that limiting the sales of high-powered rifles is a “slippery slope” to having all guns banned: That’s bull and there’s no precedent for it. The last time Congress banned anything was when it passed the 18th Amendment—Prohibition of alcohol sales—and that worked so poorly it was repealed 14 years later. More reasonably, age restrictions were put on the sale of booze and now you have to reach 21 before legally purchasing it.
Irate isn’t even the word for my feelings that the National Rifle Association continued to hold their annual convention, complete with “family-friendly” activities for children and that, when former President Donald Trump showed up to speak, guns were removed. I’m not advocating for violence against Trump; rather, I’m sickened that the potential for violence is obviously recognized even as gun fetishists whistle past the graveyard a few hundred miles from Uvalde.
Miss me with your thoughts and prayers. How dare you call yourself a Christian but decline to take any action whatsoever to prevent future tragedies. The Bible has plenty to say about a lack of action, chiefly in the Book of James, Chapter 2, verses 14-26: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works.” (14) “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (26)
I wish I could do something. I wish I could find the words to encourage you or even to make myself feel better. But worse than my anger is my feeling of helplessness. I don’t believe calling or writing to my Tennessee congressional representatives or senators will make a rip of difference.
I can use my platform to write and to speak. But what, really, will that do, when our state lawmakers show no willingness to take this crisis seriously? What will that matter when Gov. Bill Lee ceremoniously signs into a law a piece of legislation allowing permitless gun carry and does so in a gun manufacturing plant?
What do my words matter when year after year, Tennessee lawmakers seek ever more lenient gun laws, from dropping the age to legally possess a weapon to 18, while local politicians in 53 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have declared themselves to be Second Amendment Sanctuaries?
Today, I’ll still think about my family’s combat veterans. But for once, I’ll be glad they aren’t alive to see what the country they protected has become.
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