Two tragedies happened in our country yesterday. The first happened when a crazed gunman walked into a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire. He killed 12 people and injured 58. The second was the reaction of politicians and pundits.
No, I’m not talking about two presidential candidates offering their deepest sympathies. I’m talking about the tacky politicization of the event. I’m talking about all the people writing columns about gun control or the lack thereof; politicians who want President Obama and Mitt Romney to take a firm stand on the Second Amendment rights vs. what’s a reasonable gun purchase. There are those who believe we should get political first, lest we forget what happened and lose the fire in our bellies to prevent tragedies such as these. Naturally, we’ve already got an article making it all about the collective us, as in this could have been me or my child. Here’s an article written by a guy who wants us to see the bigger picture, that it isn’t just gun control, it’s socio-economics and education which determine where the most violent acts will occur.
One Texas Representative (R) is calling this an “attack on Judeo-Christian beliefs“. I wanted to say something about how he equates those who believe in protecting the Establishment Clause with movie patrons not having their own guns with them, but I just can’t do it: I am unable to connect those dots. But what I can say is that whether people are upset over his statements or in complete agreement with him, we’re missing the bigger picture: he’s blaming the victims. He asked, “It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?” In other words, if those 58 wounded and 12 murdered had been packing heat, maybe they wouldn’t have been injured or killed. Those who weren’t physically injured, well, shame on them for not going all vigilante and taking him down. Never mind it is said when anyone moved, the gunman fired his weapon. PTSD aside, guess what else they get to live with. To be fair, the flip side is this article telling us that no, we don’t need to get into the gun lobby issue, we have to hold a vigil first.
In case anybody thinks I’m too lazy to look at anything but Huffington Post today, here’s one appearing in the New York Times. Quite frankly, I’m not really sure what her angle is because she talks a lot about the grief of anti-gun lobbyists (most of them became activists after losing a loved one in a horrible tragedy), frequency of things like this that we aren’t actually hearing about (17 shot in a bar in Tuscaloosa last week, did you know?), and suffragists. I think her point may have been how difficult it can be to affect a change and how it takes a lot of internal fortitude to stay in the fight over the long haul. Then again, she says, “Eventually, the American voters come around. Just ask the suffragists.” Yes, it took years to get the right to vote, but ERA hasn’t passed and…. wait, what? Oh yeah, this is about Colorado, not me and my rights…
This all reminds me of the way we reacted to Hurricane Katrina.
Before anyone thinks I’m just a spectator in the Pacific Northwest gettin’ all up on my high horse, let me qualify myself. I am from Biloxi, Mississippi. My parents, all four of my sisters, and a large smattering of other relatives were living on the Gulf Coast when the storm hit. Three of my dad’s brothers lived in FEMA trailers, thanks to their homes being completely gutted. Three of my sisters lost everything. I sat glued to news reports and hung on to every word that dripped from Robin Roberts’s mouth. A few of my cousins no longer live on the coast, and we were on the phone constantly, desperately trying to determine if our parents were dead or alive. There were a few hours when we thought eight of our relatives, including a five-year-old child, were dead. It was four days before I finally heard my dad’s voice on the phone. When I answered, I heard, “Hey baby, I’m fine” before the phone went dead.
I did not experience the hurricane from the vantage point of huddling in my boarded up home, but I experienced it, nonetheless.
It was really strange for me to have to rip myself away from the Internet forums set up to search for loved ones and friends and go to work and listen to people ranting about George W. Bush waiting to fly over, opting, instead to go on vacation. It was surreal to hear people who have never experienced a hurricane first-hand (as I have) talk about what should or should not be done. I was shocked at the ignorance of people who claimed to be Christians, yet stood firm in their convictions that Katrina was God’s punishment for the gambling establishments and other sins of the Coast. (If you honestly believe that, please go read Genesis 9:11) It was painful for me to hear people call my loved ones stupid or ignorant for not evacuating or for not wanting to flee the area permanently. A woman I went to high school with and with whom I had briefly reconnected before leaving the Coast was killed, along with her mother and grandparents, right in front of her dad. I remember walking into someone’s classroom in shock after having just read the horrific way she died, only to hear others ripping apart FEMA and Dubya’s buddy, Brownie, and the breakdown within FEMA. I could no longer hold it in, and I completely fell apart standing there.
It’s no secret, I am absolutely not a GWB fan, and he is the reason I switched parties and will never look back. But it took hearing my dad, who was 67 at the time, tell me he almost missed the aid truck and had to go running after it for a bowl of free food to understand we forget what’s really important during events like these.
My dad didn’t care what Bush said or did before, during, or after, he just wanted to be able to feed his wife and her ninety-plus year old parents. He was concerned with helping clear roads so people could go check on their loved ones. He wandered around the community – on foot – looking for people to help, stopping to lend a hand where he was physically able. As much as I’d love to call my dad a hero for this, he wasn’t the only one (although he will always be a hero in my eyes for many reasons). It’s what most in the community were doing. People were grieving and comforting each other. They were lending hands to clean up and start rebuilding, ears to listen and sympathize, and shoulders to cry on, not fingers to point and blame. The faithful were kneeling in prayer asking for strength for themselves and for others, rather than railing against those who don’t believe the way they do.
I must have way more of my dad in me than I realized. He was upset not just with the nation’s political ire, but with the timing of it, and the way compassion for humans in crisis was traded for self-righteous indignation. That’s where I am right now with the tragedy in Colorado. It makes me sick that people in this country are choosing the first 24 hours to condemn the president for not condemning those who stand either with the NRA or against it. If you believe what you’re reading, this tragedy is Obama’s fault for calling for reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons and having done nothing during his administration toward that end. It thoroughly disgusts me that people are choosing this time to focus on Romney’s signing a bill when he was governor of Massachusetts to ban assault weapons and now saying he is the candidate who will protect gun owners’ rights. If elected, he’s bound to either cause another of these tragedies or completely strip you of your Second Amendment rights. Incredibly, a nation full of people who call themselves Christians are upset Obama and Romney are setting aside partisanship and political rhetoric to offer their prayers and sympathy. It’s so bizarre to me. Let’s not kid ourselves here. We all know if Obama and Romney had gotten all politic-y people would all be jumping up and down saying, “There, ya see? Told ya Obama’s not a Christian!” They’d be pointing at Romney, saying his Mormon faith is too far astray from mainstream Christianity for him to make a statement of faith.
Obama said, “There are going to be other days for politics; this is a day for prayer and reflection.” What’s wrong with praying for the souls of the dead and the hearts of those left behind? What’s wrong with praying for justice and peace? Oh… you don’t pray? No problem. He also said “reflection”, so go reflect on what’s most important to you. Reflect on your loved ones and what you’re personally doing to make this a better world.
Romney said, “This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another. And how much we love, and how much we care for our great country.” Again, reflection. Why does this need to be anything else?
Here’s what people are focused on: planning funerals and explaining to children why their parents aren’t coming home. They’re sitting at hospital bedsides, holding unresponsive hands, praying for miracles. They were in other states searching the Internet for information on loved ones who may or may not have been there, who may or may not have made it out alive. This is what we should be thinking about right now. Easing the pain of those left behind should be our priority, not vengeance and vitriol against politicians or political parties.
To the politicians and journalists and op-ed writers, I say sit down and shut the hell up for a few days. Where is your sense of decency and decorum and humanity? Remember in Karate Kid 2 when Mr. Miyagi’s father died and his mean, scary old rival hit the pause button on their feud? He gave Mr. Miyagi three days to mourn, out of respect for his teacher. Remember that? It was a beautiful moment in that film. Go download it from NetFlix. Then reflect.
To the families of the victims (who I’m sure have bigger fish to fry than reading blog posts right now), I would like to extend my deepest sympathies. I am so sorry for your losses, and I cannot begin to imagine the pain and grief you are feeling right now. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Edit: The 17 shooting victims in Tuscaloosa were hit, not killed, and I have corrected the sentence. My apologies for the error, and my thanks to the reader who pointed it out.