Sunday, December 16, 2012

On the President's Sandy Hook Speech Tonight

Wow. Just watched the rerun of President Obama's speech at tonight's interfaith vigil. From climate to Afghanistan to Congressional negotiation to general attitude, I have my issues with this administration. But on the personal level, it's clear that Barack Obama is a deep, complex, reflective, and dare I say great man. And i's very different when I watch this speech as coming from the President of the United States, not from Barack the man. I am reminded of the limitations of the office, and then for the first time in a long time, I am blown away.

From the President of the United States: "Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

"We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it's wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we'll all stumble sometimes in some way.

"We'll make mistakes, we'll experience hardships and even when we're trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God's heavenly plans.

"There's only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other."

Friday, December 14, 2012

On Gun Control, Mental Health, and why Today is the Day

To those saying we should wait to discuss the causes and solutions of gun violence and mental illness: This is the third high-profile shooting in a week. If not now, when? A couple days? Okay, this is a couple days from the Oregon shooting. A month or two? Fine, Aurora and Wisconsin. Years? Okay - Columbine, Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords, and Omaha. If there's another shooting at the end of whatever waiting period you would have us observe, do we have to extend the waiting period yet again, and let even more people die in the meantime?

Today IS the day to discuss how to prevent these tragedies. Simply talking about the victims rather than actions does nothing for them or their future brethren. If we wait to discuss action, then the fresh feelings of pain and urgency will subside, as they do every time, and policy arguments will go unheeded. The event will no longer be a motivator that can prevent more like it from happening again. In that vein, I can think of no better way to commemorate the victims than to let our grief motivate us to act right away, rather than only let it make us feel sad.

If you do wish to take action now, I haven't seen anything on mental health, but I have seen four gun control petitions - Howard Dean's Democracy for America (a friend wrote this one), Daily Kos's, one from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and one at WhiteHouse.gov. Indeed, the one from WhiteHouse.gov has over 50,000 signatures, something I've never seen happen that quickly on their tool before.

In response to some of the reasons WHY some folks say wait, I would add that, yes, we are dark on the specifics of today's massacre, but that doesn't matter. Just like monster hurricanes and climate change, it's not about the individual event, but rather, the pattern. Aurora, the Wisconsin Sikh temple, Oregon, today, so many smaller local shootings - and all in a few short months. It's an epidemic, one no other country not in civil war faces. The individual tragedy is now a catalyst that could well be necessary to address the former.

Additionally, though I believe saving lives is worth causing a small handful of individuals a small amount of more pain, I don't believe it's what's happening here. Those families aren't paying much attention to the op-ed pages or social networks today. They have other things to do. And even if they were paying attention, personally, I believe preventing more victims like them and addressing the cause of their situation is the best way to honor and commemorate them. Gabby Giffords's husband, who has of course been one of them, seems to agree; he's speaking out today as well.

But I'll end on a different note. Obviously, it's not just about changing our laws, approach to mental health, or culture of violence. 27 families are in immeasurable pain today, and thousands more are suffering from the tragedy at their school or town. Hundreds of children are at risk of PTSD, and will grow up too soon. I hope that all of these people know that God loves them and their children, and that Jesus suffered a similar pain. Good Friday is necessary to have Easter Sunday. But whether they know that or no, there is no solace today; they will be in pain for a long time. No words can explain or fix it; the ones that come closest that I have found are Phillip Yancey's book, "Where Is God When It Hurts?" But at the end of the day, all I can say is, I hope they feel God's presence and love, or that they will soon. I doubt this is part of some master plan God has; it is what happens in a broken world of pain and free will. But His love and guidance can, and will, pull us through.