Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What Mark Will You Leave upon this World?


My granddaughter was here last weekend, and I’ve spent the last two days trying to find and clean all her little hand prints from the sliding doors opening to the deck beyond. She’s at an age when she can stand well while leaning, and she loves to lean upon glass to see the great wide world on the other side.

While I clean and wipe away her little imprints, I wonder what interests will burn in and through her. What will imprint upon her and in turn, define the mark she will leave upon this world? I hope to live as long as I possibly can so that I can bear witness to the ways in which she answers my question, and I hope to do my part to keep her safe from harm.

I have also wondered about the imprints others are leaving upon this world, leading me to think of U. S. senators who stood united against extending background checks for previously unregulated firearms purchases such as sales at gun shows and between private parties. Frightened by the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) threats and determined to oppose significant legislation favored by President Barack Obama, forty-five senators refused to discuss, converse, or support modest, sensible reform, but the final number of no votes was forty-six. After the number of votes to defeat a filibuster fell short of sixty, Senator Harry Reid changed his yes to no.

Thus, forty-six senators ignored Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a survivor of gun violence, of firearms too easily accessed by individuals with poor reasoning skills and/or serious mental health problems. Those senators rebuffed letters and phone calls from their constituents in favor of lobbying efforts by the NRA. And they refused to believe in the grief of Newtown, Connecticut parents who bore witness to their cowardice from the gallery.

Of course, these senators rationalized their opposition. They claimed that background checks for more sales would push the nation to the brink of a slippery slope; i.e., that support for extending background checks would make it easier to attack the sacred Second Amendment. No such legislation is up for consideration. In fact, the argument is entirely conjecture; it’s hypothetical, not founded upon reason and evidence, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

Opponents also claimed that no legislation would save all the children and adults who die as a result of gun violence annually. And that claim, we must grant, is true. Nothing will save everyone from themselves, from madmen, from people under the influence, from passion and rage, from criminals, from misinformation and deliberate lies. There is no fail-safe. But as the proponents claimed: if this legislation saves just one person, then it is worth our trouble and our care.

What if parents excused their responsibilities to their children by neglecting to protect them from hot stoves or sunburns or insect bites because no single action can protect them from all potential hazard? What if they ignored basic lessons in hygiene because germs will pass from hand to hand, children will become sick, and nothing anyone does will change that fact? We would charge those parents with willful neglect of duty, with abuse. We would not accept their justification any more than we should accept the same argument from members of a once esteemed, now corroded, body.

Another misdirection by nay-sayers is a Red Herring accomplished by shifting the blame from guns to violent video games and Hollywood movies. Such a dodge suggests how little the speaker thinks of his audience. He must believe his listener is parochial and provincial, unaware that the rest of the world plays those games and sees those movies without the same consequences in the streets of those other nations.

I wrote to one of my state’s senators, Senator Roy Blunt, after he voted no, and received his rationalization. He claimed that he voted no because he is a defender of the Second Amendment, something that was in no way endangered by the senate bill. He also said that he looks forward to a conversation about how to reduce gun violence in our nation, but he has thus far failed to initiate one with me, his colleagues in the Senate, or the American people. I don’t expect to hear from him on the matter at any time in the future either, and I’m disappointed to learn that he thinks so little of my knowledge that he believes his eyewash will suffice. I won’t expect much more than deception, smoke and mirrors from him henceforth.

The worst lie that some of these senators tell themselves and us is that good guys with guns make us all safer. It’s just not so, and if they believe it is so, then they are woefully ignorant. If they do not believe it to be so and repeat what they know to be untrue, then they must be held to account. They must be called out and voted out.

Before the CDC was prohibited by Congress from gathering information about gun violence and thanks to a few comprehensive articles about guns in America, we know that links between firearms and personal safety are specious.. Some people may use guns to protect themselves, but guns are more likely to cause harm, either accidentally or maliciously.

So, Senate Gang of Forty-Six, what is your imprint upon this world? It is an extended palm, open for PAC and campaign contributions in exchange for votes favorable to the NRA and a small number of constituents who dominate primary elections. Your imprint is also one not easily wiped away. It’s stained with the blood of all those who will die by gun before the next election in November 2014. 

Atticus Finch, a fictional version of Harper Lee’s own father, imprinted upon this world through perseverance, education, and a sense of purpose. He believed in justice and in service to the greater community, both in evidence when he agreed to take Tom Robinson’s case. Atticus could have used his status as a widower with two growing children as an excuse, but he did not. He believed that his children would follow as he lived so he lived purposefully even when his actions endangered his position in the community. Would that the Gang of Forty-Six Senators held the same moral compass to guide them, caring less about re-election and more about the general welfare.