By now tens of thousands of words have been written and spoken about the horrific events that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday morning. Many of us have had the need to express our dismay and anger as we try to understand how such evil could befall such innocent and young lives. However, to view this tragedy as simply the result of ineffective gun laws is to miss the larger picture. Certainly, the gun law issue is a part of the picture, but only one symptom of an illness that has gradually enveloped our society over the past few decades.
When I was a kid the NRA was an organization utilized primarily by summer camps and shooting ranges to establish standards for shooting acuity and gun safety. This was similar to the Red Cross standards used by summer camps and Y’s for swimming instruction. The Chamber of Commerce was viewed as a sort of booster club for local business that would help to sponsor civic activities. The Senate of the United States was perceived as a contemplative body seeking solutions through compromise that would meet the needs of the “greater good”. Now, I recognize that those days were not all filled with sweetness and light. We were living with the Cold War and race and sex discrimination. Certainly, there were those who ranted about many issues in a manner that placed them on the extreme fringe. However, most of us lived with the anticipation of a better America and worked to achieve that goal.
Today we are told to live in fear, and many of us do. We are told that the Government is trying to take increasing control of our lives at every turn. We are told that the Government is trying to take our guns and leave us defenseless. We are told that there is a Government war on religion. We are told that there is a Government war on the family. We are told that there is a great “one world” conspiracy with black helicopters ready to swoop in and take our freedoms and democracy from us. We are told that the Government is anti business and trying to choke its success with increased regulation. We are told that we are being overrun by illegal immigrants who are sucking dry the benefits that our country has to offer, giving nothing in return. We are told that our elections are being corrupted by massive voter fraud. Most frightening of all, we have dually elected Congressmen, Senators and Governors who feed these fears with their comments and behavior. Whats more, they are supported by millions of dollars from the likes of the NRA and the Chamber of Commerce to do so. These are only two of the many lobby groups on K street that feed fear to feed the economic and ideological needs of their clients.
The perpetuation of fear enables those who represent the “lesser good” to overtake the needs of the “greater good”. If we take a careful look at the legislation that has passed over the past decade, as opposed to those proposed laws that have been left on the cutting room floor of Congress, we see the true problem. Until our representatives begin to represent us and the “greater good’, the fate of new gun legislation will meet the same fate as the many attempts scattered on the cutting room floor of Congress. As long as the Koch brothers, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist and the NRA can wield power, money and influence, the “greater good’ will be subsumed by what is good for the few.
We all weep for the children and families victimized by the crazed shooter in Newtown. However, until we demand that our politicians represent the “greater good”, we can expect more such tragedies, more hand wringing and more empty unfulfilled promises.