We can’t pray in our churches, mosques, or synagogues.
We can’t send our kids to school.
We can’t take our kids back to school shopping at the mall.
We can’t go to the county fair or a garlic festival.
We can’t dance in a club.
We can’t catch a blockbuster movie at our local multiplex.
We can’t go to a concert to listen to a favorite artist.
We can’t go to a college class to learn.
We can’t go to a restaurant to have a meal with our friends and family.
We can’t mail a letter at the post office.
We can’t go to work.
We can’t do any of these things without thinking somewhere in the back of our minds that this choice might be the one that gets us or someone we love killed, because in what should be the safest society in the world, you simply can’t know when the next mass murder will use his legally-obtained weapon of mass destruction to wreak havoc on our minds, bodies, and psyches.
We’ve created a culture in which children little older than toddlers are taught songs to remind them what to do if an armed intruder comes into their school, in which high school kids are taught how to respond to an active shooter, and in which law enforcement advises people to be aware of their surroundings and potential exits in the event of another euphemistically-named “mass casualty incident.”
It’s tempting—and not entirely wrong—to blame the NRA. Their advocacy for a mad gun policy of essentially unfettered access to weapons and their strategy of stoking fears to boost gun sales so high that effective policy may well be impossible, certainly deserves condemnation.
Despite their money, though, they don’t make policy in this country; our political leaders—and I use that term with as much ironic contempt as I can muster—do.
Our Congress has the power to study the public health crisis of gun violence, but they block the research. They have the power to restrict the sale of the kinds of weapons that are used repeatedly in these attacks, but they won’t. They have the power to keep guns out of the hands of those who stalk, beat, and terrorize their partners, but they refuse to.
Perhaps most importantly today, they have the power to fund the FBI’s investigation of white nationalists who so often pull the trigger, but they are so obsessed with demonizing people of color and those of the Muslim faith that they refuse to see the threat in front of us.
They have the power to condemn white nationalist, racist, and xenophobic language, but so often they don’t, and in some cases, like here in Montana, they amplify it, adding their voices to the chorus of bigots who inspire these killers.
Their refusal to speak for the innocent victims of gun violence and fight against the dangerous, corrupting influence of the NRA and the bigots who incense these killers with paranoid fantasies and outright lies is cowardice of the highest order.
Empty prayers from empty suits won’t heal the wounds of families and communities devastated but this violence. When will the politicians who claim to lead this country find the courage to help us take back our schools, our churches, our workplaces, and everywhere from violence?
You can be sure it won’t happen in time to prevent the next attack. Nor the one after that. Nor, it seems, ever.
And, while most of the blood is on the hands of these killers, all of great Neptune’s ocean will not suffice to wash the blood clean from the hands of the politicians who let it keep happening.