As I drove in this morning, I noted that flags are still at half-mast. They will be, I believe, until Friday. It’s a meaningful gesture to many, made more complicated by the recent NFL protests and the backlash. But in the wake of yet another mass shooting, I find myself wondering what else will come of this beyond thoughts, prayers, and flags at half-mast.
We held a vigil at USR on Monday night, and we did include prayers. And time for silent thoughts. Long, powerful silence that stood in stark contrast to horrifying sounds of chaos and death that I’m sure many of us have been exposed to on the news. That’s what we do, as ministers, as many of my colleagues have pointed out: we take care of the thoughts and prayers, the grieving and the fear. That’s what we do. We’ve got that covered. We need something else from our elected leaders. And now is indeed the time to talk about it. Not in two weeks when we’ve all gone numb again or there have been so many other awful things that we’ve almost forgotten about this one.
The Columbine school shooting occurred the spring of my senior year of high school. I got through my childhood education without the air raid drills my parents underwent and without the lock-down drills my son endures. A kind of golden moment, I guess. A week or two ago, my son asked what he should do if he’s out of the classroom during a lock-down; if he’s in the bathroom in the hall. My heart races when I think of that question and the images it planted in my own mind. My son isn’t yet 6 years old.
I am deeply ashamed of our country. On many fronts. Our racism, our ignorant blind “patriotism” (in quotes because true patriotism it is not), our greed and selfishness that is leading to insurmountable economic division, our xenophobia. But today, my anger and shame are directed squarely at those who have simultaneously corrupted and deified the Constitution, and who have put their “rights” above the lives of others. I do not believe that anyone has the inherent, inalienable right to military grade weaponry. Just as I do not believe that anyone has the inherent, inalienable right to drive vehicles without a license. We regulate dangerous things. I’m not saying anything new. I’m not saying anything radical. And, I’m tired of having to say it all so often. It gets discouraging, disheartening. It can feel so hopeless.
58 people, and probably when all is said and done, more, will never go home to their families. Will never sing and dance and pray and love again. And in part because we continue to play fast and loose with human lives because “Americans have a right to guns”.
I realize I’m preaching to the choir, and I realize that there are so many other horrors in the world. And that it can feel like movement on this issue is impossible. But I have to believe in the power of the people to affect change. I have to believe that we can actually make the horror of gun violence better in this country. In order to do so, we have to stop acting like we can’t make a difference. We have to stop ceding ground and we have to demand that lives be valued more highly than guns.
And as always, call your representatives. Don’t stop calling them. Tell them you want no more.
It can feel discouraging, but please, don’t lose heart. And don’t let the half-mast flags be enough. We can do more.
With hope for change,