“Oh, when will they ever learn…”
These are the haunting and plaintive lines from a 1955 Pete Seeger song ‘Where have all the Flowers gone?’ that have been a recurring loop since the December 14, 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
On that day those who experienced and heard of this event concluded that madness had reared its evil and ugly head. In a country that boasts of a foundational principle of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ there also exists a madness where we choose to sacrifice our children, our sisters, our brothers, our mothers and fathers instead of placing limits on our right to bear arms. When will we awaken from this madness, this sickness that feeds our desire to own any type of weapon—without limit or restraint of any kind—over the safety and well-being of our children and of one another?
The topic at hand is not whether the Constitution gives us the right as citizens to bear arms. The issue is whether we as a society value each other enough to place common-sense, reasonable restrictions on that right. Common sense and reason are in short supply when one examines the laws in our country related to gun purchases and gun ownership. To push for increasingly relaxed restrictions on gun ownership, gun sales, the kinds of weapons available for purchase, and background checks to the point where such restrictions have no power to keep guns from landing in the hands of the mentally ill, emotionally unstable, developmentally immature, or blatantly criminal is simply irresponsible and ignorant. Such efforts to loosen restrictions at every opportunity—and the groups who encourage such efforts—are, in fact, complicit in the very violence that we see in this most recent tragedy in Connecticut.
What further madness is it going to take to initiate a national conversation on gun violence so that we might break our nation’s denial on the need for reasonable, common sense gun legislation AND to demand that our elected officials pass laws that will regulate a radical gun lobby that is out of control?
The ripple effect of this tragedy has been felt around the globe. There have been outpourings of prayers, sympathy and solidarity from people in populated and remote parts of the world.
Yet, we have to face the fact that our nation’s obsession with weapons has far extended beyond our borders. In a recent reflection by Bill Quigley on the Pax Christi USA website entitled ‘Remember the Children’ (posted Dec. 18, 2012) he invites us to remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006, the 231 children killed in Afghanistan the first six months of this year, the 921 killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq as well as the additional 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year. None of these numbers reflect the wounded, paralyzed or those traumatized by the senseless violence of a nation that makes the purchase of a lethal weapon as easy as that of a CD.
When will the madness cease? When is enough, enough? Are we fed up yet with the violence we see and experience in our neighborhoods, schools, movie theaters, college campuses, parking lots, shopping malls and the like? Are we appalled by the suggestion that we need gun-toting security guards in all of schools?
Does the Spirit of Goodness rise up within you passionately enough to break the silence of a nation gone numb to mourning?
I challenge the members of Pax Christi and JustFaith to put our commitment to justice at the forefront at this moment in our history. We need comprehensive gun reform legislation which includes restriction of gun sales, a ban on all assault weapons, along with comprehensive background checks. We must be engaged in a serious national dialogue about our use of weapons on other nations, particularly when the US is selling arms and using technology that allows this country to wage war by remote control since drone warfare disproportionally kills women and children.
We will be held accountable for our time in history and what we did to bring about the kin-dom here on earth. We will also be held accountable if we do nothing!
Is this the tipping point? Pax Christi USA believes it is. This is the time when we inundate our elected officials with letters, visits and phone calls demanding that they take seriously their obligation to keep people safe and that they pass common sense gun legislation…even at the risk of losing their financial backing from the most powerful gun lobby.
It is not only the politicians that need to be challenged…but ourselves also. There are connections that need to be made when a violent event in a local community touches the most human parts of us, connections that point to an attitude that we have grown indifferent to. Children are allowed to watch cartoons where violence is the way the main characters become heroes. Our children buy and play video games that even their titles leave no question as to the violent content; and then there are current movies, song lyrics and TV programming that glorify new ways of killing people, the use of all types of weapons and a deafening silence from the public as to how all of this is affecting all of us.
In an environment where violence exists, it breeds fear and fear cripples and paralyzes. Fear becomes an obstacle to full human growth as well as a block to feelings and learning. This culture of fear and violence is leaving all of us stunted and unable to establish genuine relationships and consequently our care for one another is not a priority.
If there was ever a time to do some serious reflection and dialogue about the violent culture in which we live…the time is now.
If there was ever a time to commit ourselves to non-violence and the struggle to remain steadfast in that resolve…the time is now.
“Oh, when will we ever learn…?”