Welcome back to Connect! Unite! Act! This week was one filled with tragedy and heartbreak. In my lifetime I have been through this too many times. I cannot think of any stage in my life where I was not confronted with mass shootings. I wish I could say there was a great period in my youth where it did not happen. Even in my late forties, that just isn’t true.
I was in elementary school when the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre happened in 1984: 22 dead, 19 injured. I was in middle school and the Edmond, Oklahoma, postal massacre happened. High school when Killeen, Texas, happened. Brown’s Chicken massacre. Columbine. Pearl, Mississippi. Virginia Tech. Let me say the fact is there are so many shootings that I can remember some, but not all. The shootings are significant in the fact that it is almost impossible to keep track of all of them. Just a bit over two weeks after a Las Vegas shooting in 2017 resulted in 61 deaths and 411 injured, I was there as we held a party meeting of the Democratic National Committee. I sat in my hotel room and you could feel exactly what went wrong. We did volunteer work and visited the sites and it reminded all of us every day that this tragedy wasn’t the first and would not be the last.
In 1979, the Boomtown Rats took to the charts with “I Don’t Like Mondays,” a song about the Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. The assailant, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer, took a gun to school, killing two, injuring six. Living across the street from the school, reportedly, Spencer said that the reason for the shooting was simple: “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.” It was enough to create a song.
The band asked the right questions about how anything like this could happen.
And all the playing’s stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with the toys a while
And school’s out early and soon we be learning
And the lesson today is how to die
And then the bullhorn crackles and the captain tackles
With the problems and the hows and whys
And he can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die, die, oh oh oh?
How many people have to be taught, without expectation, that the lesson today is that our culture accepts mass slaughter?
That seems to be the lesson I’m taking away from things. We can see the most horrible of tragedies, and for a few days we will certainly be sad about it. There will be condolences. Thoughts and prayers. So sad and tragic. Someone will try to see if there isn’t some sort of settlement available for bereavement, as though that helps anything. Gun companies don’t want to acknowledge what happened or their role, period.
Oh, and heaven help anyone absolutely anyone who tries to point out that all the thoughts and prayers accomplish absolutely nothing and now is the time to be reminded and actually do something. The claim is repeatedly made that we are politicizing the death of people who were lost tragically.
I don’t anticipate dying in a terrible mass shooting or in a shooting, ever. Most Americans will not have that experience. Too many, however, will. So, if I am ever, ever in that group where something happens, please, I beg of you, politicize the hell out of my death. I want someone to stand up to everyone who says thoughts and prayers and say, “You know what, I knew that guy, and he would tell you that your cowardly nonsense resulted in too many deaths and it is time you are accountable for enabling this to happen.”
I want someone to stand in the audience as governors and politicians give nonsense answers and give them my thoughts. I have a few suggestions.
So, I’m offering you this as an agreement. I hope people recognize that there are a large number of people all over this country who feel this way. If I knew that life could mean something by changing the laws to protect others, great. When we sacrifice our own children and we do absolutely nothing, that is a sign that we don’t care.
Connect! Unite! Act! has always focused on ways we can do those things, to connect with each other, to unite with each other, to act together. So this week I have a small ask: Email your congresspeople and let them know that if this ever happens to anyone you know, you want to make sure that they know you’ve seen too much of this and it shouldn’t be tolerated. Feel free to join me in the cause of telling them that every death should be used to hold people responsible.
If you are tired of Republicans who sit by and do nothing when it comes to really protecting life, who give it only lip service, then work your tails off this fall and let them hear it. From here on out, every election will be the most important of your life. Accept it. Fight like it matters. Because if we don’t recognize it, we are on a fast track of rights only belonging to those who can afford it and survive.
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