I’ve read many of the words pouring out from well-intentioned souls in the wake of our latest school massacre, just as I do each time it happens. Like others, I suppose I’m compelled to look—in vain—at what might just be the solution, finally, to America’s unique problem of near-daily mass murder sprees.
Obviously, the words don’t help. Like thoughts, like prayers, words in the newspaper are just that—words. Not action. Not change. Not conviction. Just words.
And words go away, like yesterday’s news, wrapped around today’s catch, ultimately headed to the waste bin. Worse, words today are weaponized, with truth itself under investigation as “alternatives” to evidence-based reality abound.
And when truth becomes a casualty of politics, as it often does, as it is right now: words become absolutely meaningless.
Yesterday, I was reading the “news” about the January 6 panel’s far-reaching evidence showing that the president of the United States set in motion a dedicated, coordinated campaign to overturn the 2020 election results. In the middle of that online article was a garish ad for a gold coin engraved with Trump’s profile, as if it were some coin of the realm (which it is—his realm).
Which Trump do you like, the insurrectionist or the hero? Take your pick. Your preferred version places you into one of the two Americas from which we now must choose. Because it’s looking like no denizen of either country wants to be a citizen of the other’s.
Of course, both claim to be the “real” America. So like Solomon presented with two women claiming the same infant, we have an apparently insoluble problem. But unlike Solomon, we cannot threaten to cleave the nation in two in a gambit to reveal the liar, because that’s already done and the liar has taken his half. Try as they might to convince “America” that Donald Trump should be held responsible for the insurrection he fomented, the January 6 panel can only hope to bring the evidence to one of the Americas. The other one is tuned in to Fox News (which is, of course, skipping the hearings).
People who associate unfettered access to firearms with their personal freedom—and defense of that access with heroism—will never support new legal limitations on same. People whose children have been murdered with another child’s rifle, and those who empathize with them, will never stop pushing for those legal limitations.
People who feel they can no longer tolerate the outcomes of the democratic process will seek to undermine it and ultimately discredit it, just as those who see the danger the first group poses will seek to shore up our democratic institutions, to protect our fragile experiment in self-government.
If you want the future to go either of these two ways, the same avenue is open to you as has always been open to you: your vote. Unless you are a public figure accountable to the public, that’s all you really have. I agree it’s not much power.
However, en masse, those who vote for Congressional Republicans are now, whatever they tell themselves about Christian values or whatnot, voting with Trump and with the gun lobby. They are voting for a Big Lie and for more dead children. That’s undeniable, because the vast majority of GOP elected officials support both Trump’s Big Lie and the gun lobby’s forever agenda of “more guns and fewer restrictions on them.” If re-elected in 2022 they can be expected to stay on this course.
Likewise, all who vote against Republicans are voting for the preservation of democracy, or at least for some hope in that direction, and for a beginning to the end of the gun lobby’s vice grip on our political culture. They don’t need to be heroes—just public servants who get the “servant” part.
No words that I or anyone else says will change the dynamics of this contest. Only whether—and how—you exercise your power in November matters. It’s in your hands.
(Composed but not submitted for publication)