Tragedy casts a pall over other plans. The senselessness of current events defies understanding. I was going to write about something else today, but in the wake of the shooting of 26 people in Connecticut yesterday, mostly little kids, everything else seems pretty mundane. Similar to the way I felt when Hurricane Sandy hit. Overwhelming circumstances.
I grew up in a town not dissimilar from Newtown, right across Long Island Sound. I know it was a long time ago, and I know the world has changed, but I don’t remember anyone thinking it was reasonable for a person to have 5 non-hunting guns in their suburban home. Not so today. In an article in the Washington Post today, someone from the community was quoted as saying that “she (the shooter’s mother) used them (the guns) responsibly.” When I was growing up I don’t remember people thinking that the Second Amendment meant that everyone had a right – a Constitutional right – to keep as many guns as they wanted in their house in order to protect themselves. The Constitutional Amendment was to allow for a “well regulated militia”. Period. No one can convince me that the Founding Fathers would have thought it would be fine for people to be able to buy semi-automatic weapons at gun fairs or online. For a well regulated militia? I just don’t believe it. Hunting or shooting in a controlled place is one thing; there are ways to allow for fair use and make sure the public is protected (sorry, I am really out of my depth here, but I want to acknowledge that for many people there are legitimate uses of guns, although not part of my experience). When this unfathomable and unspeakable tragedy hit the air waves yesterday, it crossed my mind that this might be what it takes to finally allow a national dialogue on how fundamental changes can be made. At least there could be some tiny silver lining – a positive legacy. I still hope that is the case, but I was sorry to see an immediate defense of a single mother’s need to have 5 guns in her home, troubled son or no troubled son.
I usually try to stay clear of politics and other divisive topics in my blog posts; there are enough topics to write about without wading into those troubled waters. People have views. But if there is one thing that has become clear about politics in the past several years, regardless of whether it is the U.S., Canada, U.K. or elsewhere, state/provincial or national level, it is that politicians won’t act on a matter of principle if the voting public is off-side. If the majority of people cease agreeing with a long-held party tenet, say for example immigration or same-sex marriage, then politicians who want to stay in power, or at least keep their job, will change their stand. Conservative parties in the western world are coming to grips with this reality as we speak. One thing I have a tendency to forget is that there are two effective but separate pressures on politicians: the voters and the lobby groups with money (especially in the U.S.). But the recent U.S. election produced an unexpected and to my mind refreshing message: money doesn’t always win out. The Republican Super PACs didn’t make the difference they had expected to because their positions didn’t resonate well enough with the voters, who in a democracy do in fact have the last word. Perhaps with that lesson fresh in the minds of decision makers, the NRA might not have quite the clout with politicians it usually has, especially with the fallen children in Newtown, Connecticut fresh in everyone’s minds and hearts.
I don’t live in the U.S. and I realize that this is an American issue for Americans to decide. But I am a great admirer of so many things about the U.S.; how could I not be? And Americans have an unanticipated opportunity to effect change. We have learned this year that change can start with the public, voter by voter. Take this moment to speak up. It is within your power to ensure that these little children have not died – been killed – in vain.