May 30 2022

Some Things Never Change — Or Can They?

by at 10:53 pm under Uncategorized

I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. I think of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, for the abstract values that inspired this ongoing experiment we call the United States of America. We celebrate and mourn these men and women, whose mostly young lives were snuffed out cruelly by the many weapons of war. They died so we Americans could be free.

To kill each other? Really? For that is where we are today. It’s really not terribly political, or at least it should not be. Surely we can agree that murder is wrong — a sin, in fact — and while it is undoubtedly true that people kill people, it is equally true that they tend to use guns to make it happen. It is indisputably true that military-grade weapons, a preferred tool of mass murderers, are not sold or purchased for self defense or for hunting. They are efficient, highly lethal battlefield weapons. They have no place in civilized society, except for law enforcement or the military.

How have we lost our way, and why? I have spent the past 40 years in pursuit of a cure for cancer, reasoning that eliminating a huge cause of human misery and premature death would be especially impactful, as many other aspects of human life have improved the prospects for human happiness, progress and longevity. I would be doing my part!

Alas, I was not paying sufficient attention to the world around me, because life has become increasingly fragile and insecure. Wars in Asia, and now in Europe, have created horrific scenes of indiscriminate carnage and waves of desperate refugees. I have discussed the political whiplash in our own country in previous blogs, and have despaired with you about the unpredictable, horrific atrocities that started with Oklahoma City and Littleton, Colo., chugged through Newtown, Conn., Orlando, Parkland, Fla., Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, and so many others, most recently in Buffalo, and now, unimaginably, in Uvalde. These massacres of innocents have targeted Americans who identify as either Black, gay, Jewish, government workers, concertgoers or, perhaps most heartbreakingly, children. They have only two things in common: they are Americans, and they are being targeted by other Americans for extermination using weapons of mass destruction. The United States I thought I lived in these past 40 years could stop this, or at least slow it down. What happened to us? The vast majority of Americans support sensible gun control, even as many happily engage in our toxic culture wars.

I am reading Kurt Andersen’s excellent book “Evil Geniuses,” which chronicles the backlash that has undermined our traditional American values of tolerance, shared enterprise and optimism for the future. A society that does not value human life will, in the end, fail to support research to extend life, and will not support equitable care for all Americans. I don’t know that he or anyone else has a prescription for what ails our sick society, but this I do know.

One never knows when some event provides a spark that changes everything. A man from Missouri, a former haberdasher, ends a world war, creates a doctrine to protect liberal democracy from an implacable and dangerous enemy, and integrates the military. A young military veteran integrates baseball, and in doing so provides a blueprint for social justice. A Polish union leader precipitates a revolution that points to the end of Communism. A former comedian inspires a nation and the world against brutal oppression. A child speaks out against climate change; another child fights for her right to be educated. Change is possible.

On this Memorial Day, there can be no better tribute to those who gave “the last full measure of their devotion” than to take steps that protect the America they loved from those who would destroy it through senseless acts of hate. The time for talking is over; the time for action is now. If our lawmakers won’t act, it’s time to throw the bums out by using the ballot box.

Stay safe, be well, and be part of the solution.



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