I went to high school and entered college during the Vietnam War. For much of my adolescence , like many teenagers I did not pay much attention to the news. I was more worried about what I was going to do after school or weekend plans with my friends. That began to change in 1968 with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and then Bobby Kennedy. The larger world began to push its way into my teenage life. Towards the end of my Senior year in high school and as I began college I was expressing my opposition to the war in Vietnam. And, with that, pushing against the political views of my parents who, at that time, were still supportive and accepting of the government’s position and pronouncements about the war.
I don’t know for sure what began to change my parents’ perspective. A part of it may be the fact I was about to turn 18 and register with the selective service (for the draft). A part of it may have been my beginning to push back against the war. But, I think some of it was Walter Cronkite, the renowned and respected news anchor for CBS. I don’t know when he began to do it, but at some point in time he began ending his CBS Evening News by recounting how many Americans had died that day in Vietnam and the total number of Americans killed to date in the fighting. The numbers were inescapable and were drummed into my parents’ head and into the psyche of the American people day after day after day. Because of that my parents could not ignore or forget or turn away from the stark reality of what was happening and what it was costing in the lives of young men the age of their son.
A couple of Sundays ago I said this as a part of my Sunday morning reflection.
I don’t know about you, but the world does not feel very good or very orderly to me right now. Beyond the relentless day in/day out swirl of craziness two headlines particularly gave me pause this week. The first is that there were 11 school shootings in the first 23 days of January. One every other day. The second was an article wondering if we even care about such events anymore.
And then yesterday happened.
A 19 year old with a semi-automatic weapon which he had legally purchased (which is surprisingly easy to do in Florida), walked into the high school in Parkland, FL and killed 17 people and injured countless others. 18 school shooting in the first 45 days of 2018. And, this doesn’t include all the other people who have been killed by guns in the first 45 days of this year. One more time politicians express their outrage and offer their thoughts and prayers. One more time the NRA goes silent waiting for the next news cycle to take over. One more time parents bury their children. Last night I heard a reporter ask someone how long it takes to get over an event like this. I wanted to scream at the TV. “What a stupid question. You never get over something like this.” But, it does reflect the reality in our country. The rest of us will just move on.
I know much is needed to change this narrative.
The rest of us must become as committed and as vocal as the NRA. Politicians must find the courage to write or enforce reasonable gun laws. I don’t want the rest of us who are not burying children to conveniently forget. And, I want Walter Cronkite. I want every news outlet every day to end their broadcast or program with the number of people who were killed by guns that day and the number of people killed by guns to date this year. I want to hear that EVERY DAY. I want to hear it from EVERY NEWS OUTLET.
The President tweets about the mental illness of the young man who is charged in the killings in Parkland. I am sure there are multiple issues which led to his doing what he did. But, there is also this definition of insanity. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Which leads to this question: What are we going to do next?
*This Washington Post article questions and clarifies where the number 18 comes from. It is very helpful in clarify how statistics are both used and manipulated. But even if the number is less than 18 any number larger than 0 is one too many.