It’s hard to settle down and write my weekly blog. I can’t get the school massacre in Florida out of my mind. America, today, is disgusting me. We have by far the highest rate of death from gun violence of any of our socioeconomic peers. We have for a long time. Something like 30 mass shootings have happened here since the start of the year, 18 of them in schools. So I’m asking you, how much is enough?
Think back to when you were a high school freshman. You probably worried about a lot of things- -grades, romance, popularity, looking cool, whether your parents were getting along. Did you also have to worry about getting murdered at school? Since Columbine we, as a nation, have moved toward normalizing gun violence in schools. Some of this is common sense, like drills in case of attack by a crazed gunner or two. In my day we did fire drills and what were euphemistically called earthquake drills that had more to do with the threat of nuclear attack from a foreign power. But some of this normalization is defining who we are as a nation. Have we truly decided that the Second Amendment includes a specific right to buy semi-automatic weapons and huge magazines of ammunition? It’s shocking to me how casually we’ve accepted this state of affairs.
So much of it boils down to money. It seems to me the cycle of greed has revved up substantially since Citizens United. The recreational weapons industry is a player and they are not alone. The opioid epidemic was outright encouraged by a big player in Big Pharma, Purdue Pharma if you want to be specific. And don’t get me started on the tobacco industry. We’re being sold, every day and in every way, on products that are downright harmful.
You can argue for Second Amendment Rights but is there no limit? How many lives are you willing to sacrifice that could have been saved through background checks at gun purchase points? Mental health receives so little support from the Federal Government that it’s laughable. Are you willing to increase Federal spending to provide our schools with enough mental health counselors to address the problems of today’s youth? Nationally, one out of five students has mental health issues and four out of five of these cases go undetected. Is the life of one person worth the price? How about the lives of seventeen people? And, of course, all the people who loved them, whose lives are changed forever.
In America we defend our rights and we are proud of our rights. We can do or say whatever we want, no matter if we’re harming ourselves or others. Our actions carry consequences, but because we are free to start with, we are free to take actions that can harm others. It seems to me that somehow we’ve entered a phase where rights have been uncoupled from responsibility. Huge societal problems of poverty, hate and violence are going unchecked. Are We the People no longer organized enough to get beyond what each of us believes we are personally entitled to and consider ourselves as one on the big issues? Sure, Russia is scattering us like so much flotsam through digital media, but why do we so easily take the bait? Whatever happened to the adage Don’t believe everything you read?
I dream of a country that can move forward and take up the challenges that face us today. Can we significantly curtail gun violence? Can we work together to build industries of the future instead of propping up yesterday’s successes with fiscal life support? Can we resist advertising, some of it deliberately deceptive? Can we back away from vituperation passed off as “news” and do a fact check? It seems to me we’re laboring under an addiction to fear. If anyone gives, “the other people” will run us over and take away what we think we want.
Do you think that’s true? I do. But I really, really wish I didn’t.