Hope is Rising

With each school mass shooting my prayer is always the same: ‘May this be the tipping point that awakens us’.  Thurston High School, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and so many others.  But with each shooting the NRA doubles down.  Politicians who rely on the NRA for funding and political endorsement resist reasonable gun control.

But Parkland feels different.  Student leaders have risen from the trauma of seeing seventeen classmates murdered and fifteen wounded.  This time they say ‘thoughts and prayers’ won’t cut it.  What they are demanding is new gun control legislation (universal background checks, outlawing assault weapons and high capacity magazines).

They won’t back down.  They won’t go away.

I think of a prophecy in the Bible ‘ a child shall lead them’ (Isaiah 11: 6-9).   Perhaps the words of the Prophet have come to fulfillment yet again.  I hope  and pray  so.

Below is a powerful poem by Alison Luterman.  This poem speaks to the hope that these young leaders have stirred within me and my generation.

A new generation is stepping forward to lead.  To put a spotlight on the greed and hypocrisy of the gun merchants and their political lackeys.

It is time for my generation to follow. To encourage.  To support the change that is coming.  That must come.

No more Sandy Hooks. No more Parklands.


A new breed of activists is emerging.  Hope is rising.   Do you see them?  Will you add your voice to theirs?

 

The New Breed– for Emma Gonzalez and the other student activists

I see her on TV, screaming into a microphone.
Her head is shaved and she is beautiful
and seventeen, and her high school was just shot up,
she’s had to walk by friends lying in their own blood,
her teacher bleeding out,
and she’s my daughter, the one I never had,
and she’s your daughter and everyone’s daughter
and she’s her own woman, in the fullness of her young fire,
calling bullshit on politicians who take money from the gun-makers.
Tears rain down her face but she doesn’t stop shouting
she doesn’t apologize she keeps calling them out,
all of them all of us
who didn’t do enough to stop this thing.
And you can see the gray faces of those who have always held power
contort, utterly baffled
to face this new breed of young woman,
not silky, not compliant,
not caring if they call her a ten or a troll.
And she cries but she doesn’t stop
yelling truth into the microphone,
though her voice is raw and shaking
and the Florida sun is molten brass.
I’m three thousand miles away, thinking how
Neruda said The blood of the children
ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.
Only now she is, they are
raising a fuss, shouting down the walls of Jericho,
and it’s not that we road-weary elders
have been given the all-clear exactly,
but our shoulders do let down a little,
we breathe from a deeper place,
we say to each other,
Well, it looks like the baton
may be passing
to these next runners and they are
fleet as thought,
fiery as stars,
and we take another breath
and say to each other, The baton
has been passed, and we set off then
running hard behind them.

–Alison Luterman

The Dictionary of Sorrow

Here’s a new word I learned today from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrow: kuebiko

n. Kuebiko: a state of exhaustion inspired by acts of senseless violence, which force you to revise your image of what can happen in this world—mending the fences of your expectations, weeding out all unwelcome and invasive truths, cultivating the perennial good that’s buried under the surface, and propping yourself up like an old scarecrow, who’s bursting at the seams but powerless to do anything but stand there and watch.

Kuebiko an obscure word for a nation incapable of finding a sensible resolution to the epidemic of mass shootings that take our loved ones and wound our collective soul.  This morning we awoke to news of yet another mass shooting in Las Vegas. Currently the count is 58 dead and over 500 wounded. To date the largest mass shooting in our nations tragic history.

As with most mass shootings the perpetrator is a ‘lone wolf’ white male who expresses his rage and aggression through an act of mass violence.  Connect this anger to easy access to high-powered weaponry and we have the recipe for mass shootings.

That ours is the only developed country with a litany of mass shootings should shake us to our core.  That it doesn’t is profoundly sad.

We are an idolatrous nation.  We sacrifice our neighbors and our peace of mind, upon the altar of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and on a rigid interpretation of the 2nd amendment.  We refuse to compromise for the common good.

Kuebiko.

Stuff Happens: Ten Dead and Seven Wounded in Oregon

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked to respond to the massacre of ten and wounding of seven students at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon. Specifically he was asked whether stricter gun laws were needed. He said: “Look stuff happens, there’s always a crisis and the impulse is to do something (more government control) and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

In recent years a lot of murderous ‘stuff’ has been happening. According to the web site Mass Shooting Tracker which tracks events in the USA where 4 or more people are shot in an event, there have been 994 mass shooting events in 1004 days.

Most of us thought that the murder of 24 children and staff in Newtown, CT in 2012 would be the tipping point for tightening up on our lax gun control laws. But we’ve learned that the NRA is a powerful barrier to gun restrictions and to date has controlled the political debate. The NRA offers an extreme interpretation to the 2nd Amendment where there are essentially no limits on access to weapons and the harm they can inflict.

To understand the effectiveness of the NRA we need only follow the money. The NRA has received 39 million dollars in recent years from the 12 billion dollar a year firearms industry. The NRA as a primary lobby for the gun industry spends millions of dollars to support and defeat members of congress. Thus far the NRA has effectively controlled the debate in Congress and has muted resistance within the Democratic party and is seemingly in complete control of the Republican narrative, hence Jeb Bush’s lame response to yet another mass shooting, ‘stuff happens’.

NRA president Wayne Lapierres response to the mass shooting is to arm more people. Donald Trump leading in the Republican polls calls for arming every teacher. It’s enough to hang one’s head in despair for common sense.

vigil in Roseberg

Yet, throughout history there has come a tipping point when enough people have awakened to the need for change. This was true with the great justice movements in US history: Abolition, women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay rights. Underlying these great historic events were years of effort and seeming failure until that time arose when enough people came together to usher in change.

I believe that in time reasonable gun controls will become the law of the land. In time enough of us will no longer accept the fear mongering of the NRA and the gun industry. In time we will no longer accept the resistance or inaction on the part of our elected officials.

Enough ‘stuff’ has happened. Enough lives full of promise have been extinguished. It’s long past time for a change. Will you add your voice and efforts and tip the scale? Will you say no to fear and yes to reasonable laws? Laws that allow us to send our kids to school and walk our streets with a greater sense of safety? We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for, the answer rests with us.

Gun Control: If not now, when?

This past week the local  news reported the carnage from guns.  On Tuesday December 11th a lone 22-year-old man wearing body armor, a hockey mask and carrying an AR-15 assault rifle walked into Clackamas Town Center Mall in Portland, Oregon and opened fire.  Two were murdered, one 15-year-old girl seriously wounded and hundreds  shopping were emotionally traumatized.

What I find surprising are voices from local politicians and the editorial page of our statewide paper the Oregonian, counseling that this not be the time to debate the societal causes of violence and the easy access to assault weapons.  This is they say ‘ a time to heal, not a time for divisive debate’.  

I agree that this is a time for coming together, a time for prayer and for expressions of compassion and kindness.  Yet, I believe it is a disservice to the memory of those victimized by the violence,  not to take up the difficult debate about the violent influences in our culture and the easy access to weapons.

This past presidential debate the Republican candidate upheld the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution as the right to own any and all weapons.  President Obama was pointedly silent on the topic.  Each time in the aftermath of a mass shooting, the counsel is not to raise the divisive topic of  gun control.  Proponents of the NRA hope that the emotions of the moment will dissipate and we will continue the status quo.  Thus far their strategy has proven right.

However if you want to hear the voice for Gun Control, then talk to a first responder, a police officer, an EMT and most often you will hear a voice for limits.  These first responders are the one’s who must risk their life in a nation that resists gun control.  For example in 2010 there were 9000 murders by guns in the United States (and many thousands more wounded).  In comparison in Great Britain which has restrictions on access to weapons there were 58 gun related murders.   Even allowing for the difference in population that is a staggering difference.

As an Oregonian I’m standing with State Senator Ginny Burdick D-Portland who announced she will introduce in the 2013 legislature a ban on the sales of high-capacity ammunition magazines.  The very kind used to kill and terrorize holiday shoppers at the Clackamas Mall.  

Yes, this is a time to heal, to come together, to take care of each other, neighbor and stranger alike, to the best of our ability.  It is also a time to say this pattern of gun violence must stop and stop now.