With Fresh Eyes

A Real National Emergency

Thoughts and Prayers. We hear that message of comfort and support after every mass shooting in this country. We heard it after the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh last fall that took eleven lives.  After the January 23 killings of five women in a Sebring, Florida bank. After the January 26 shooting in Louisiana by a 21-year-old male charged with killing his parents and three others. After the January 28 wounding of five Houston police officers. And, after Las Vegas, Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, Sandy Hook Elementary, Stoneman Douglas High, the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The initial outcry and calls for action following each shooting quickly fade, and we await the next tragedy.

Over 30,000 Americans die each year by gun violence.  Murders, accidental shootings, suicides.  In just the first new days of 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive, 1,171 gun deaths were recorded.  Despite the country’s inattention, many remain committed to a call for gun safety measures, which have overwhelming public support.  The parents of the kindergarten students gunned down in their classroom at Sandy Hook and the student survivors of Stoneman Douglas continue their advocacy and educational efforts. 
Too many, however, particularly those in positions to implement sound actions, have failed us in not acknowledging gun violence as a true national emergency.  

Other issues do not rise to the level of such an emergency.  The President has threatened an emergency declaration if Congressional funding for his wall is not granted, in the name of national security.  National emergencies should not be framed around falsehoods and impulsive ramblings. In the case of the southern border, his arguments for such a declaration have not proven accurate or verifiable. 

In a December Oval Office meeting, Trump declared that ten terrorists were recently apprehended trying to enter the country through Mexico, and, in an earlier statement, said a caravan of migrants heading north included “unknown Middle Easterners.”  No government agency could confirm these claims. On January 25, he stated that human traffickers were smuggling migrant women into the country – “Women are tied up, they’re bound, duct tape put around their mouths. They’re put in the back of vans and trucks.” Human trafficking experts have “no idea what he is talking about.”

Gun violence, based on fact, is a national emergency that confronts us. Musician Michael Franti has released a music video – “The Flower” – that draws attention to this epidemic.  Featuring gun violence survivors and victims’ families, the video goes beyond the staggering statistics and places a human face on the pain, on the loss.  Franti reflects on the power that music holds in seeking truth by suggesting “Music is the sound of feelings – it spans the full spectrum of emotion.”  A sampling of his lyrics in this music video proves telling and true:

“What would I say to my son or to my daughter
If they came and asked me bout these days                                                                      
What kinda reason could I give all the hate standing in the way                               
Wish I could tell em that nobody’s gonna judge them
No bully in the world will ever hurt em ...
but I can’t say that today
Speak your truth and let your spirit fly ...”

Contact Rich at richmskgn@gmail.com


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