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“A Different Kind of Courage”: Soul Piercing Hard, Quiet Sacred Moments

Much has been written lately by people who think that President Obama has done an inadequate job of calming the nation’s fears. Today he takes on a very different task as the Consoler-in-Chief. On his way to the family’s Christmas vacation in Hawaii, the President will stop in San Bernardino to spend some private time with the victims and families of the shootings that took place there earlier this month.

I don’t expect that we’ll hear much about these meetings. But they’ll probably be much like the ones he held with the families of the shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School three years ago. If you’ve never read Joshua Dubois’ account of that day, here is a portion of it:

The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget.

Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M&M’s, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break.

And then the entire scene would repeat—for hours. Over and over and over again, through well over a hundred relatives of the fallen, each one equally broken, wrecked by the loss…

And the funny thing is—President Obama has never spoken about these meetings. Yes, he addressed the shooting in Newtown and gun violence in general in a subsequent speech, but he did not speak of those private gatherings. In fact, he was nearly silent on Air Force One as we rode back to Washington, and has said very little about his time with these families since. It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency, quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself—never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view.

Those were quiet sacred moments – much as the ones today will be.

There is a twisted way in which our culture often associates courage with the kind of chest-thumping we saw on the Republican debate stage Tuesday night. But that dismisses the kind that it takes to look into the eyes of a mother/father/son/daughter/husband/wife who has lost a loved one to senseless violence and embrace their grief. There is a reason why most of us avoid being put in a situation like that whenever possible. It’s soul-piercing hard. So today I want to take a moment to think about what it says about President Obama that he would chose to go there. Beyond what he’s actually done to keep us safe, that’s at least as important as what he says to allay our fears.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 18, 2015

December 19, 2015 Posted by | Mass Shootings, President Obama, San Bernardino | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Sensible Gun Owners Should Abhor The NRA”: The NRA Has Elevated Firearms Ownership To A Religion

My father loved hunting game in the woods of rural Alabama. His idea of a good time involved getting up in the wee hours of a chilly fall morning and going out to sit for hours in a tree stand, waiting for a buck to come within range.

As a gun owner, he was not at all unusual among his friends and family members, many of whom kept pistols, rifles and shotguns. A veteran of Korea, he saw firearms as an essential tool.

But my father would not recognize today’s National Rifle Association or its many counterparts — a gun lobby that insists Americans ought to be free to carry their firearms into churches, schools, and bars. He would have thought that was a crazy idea that would make the world more dangerous, not safer.

He would have been horrified by the plague of mass shootings, the latest of which claimed nine innocent victims at Umpqua Community College in southern Oregon earlier this month. And he certainly would not have believed that the massacre could have been prevented if more of the faculty and students had been armed.

What has happened to responsible gun owners like my father? Where did the sane hunters go? Why aren’t they standing up to protest the outrageous politics of the NRA?

My father died in 1984, before the gun lobby became completely unhinged. Indeed, its political transformation into a network of firearms extremists has been so complete that many Americans don’t know that the NRA started out as an organization of sportsmen who taught marksmanship and gun safety skills.

In 1934, Karl Frederick, then NRA president, told Congress, “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. … I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

Needless to say, the NRA has all but erased, Soviet-style, that part of its history from official records. By the late 1970s, the organization had started along a path of strident advocacy that has elevated firearms ownership to a religion. The organization and its several counterparts have formed a vast political network that threatens any politician who pleads for modest regulation, that insists on arming every man, woman and child, that feeds its supporters propaganda to fuel their paranoia. Its leaders have brainwashed their followers into believing that the government wishes to confiscate all guns and subjugate citizens, a proposition too crazy to tackle rationally (so I won’t).

But responsible gun owners certainly ought to be fighting back against that nonsense and demanding sensible politics from the gun lobby that purports to represent them. Why don’t they?

By 1982, the gun lobby had become so powerful that it was able to pass legislation that prevents the federal government from keeping a database linking firearms to their owners. In other words, the sort of information readily available about vehicles or houses is not available about guns. That makes tracing firearms used in crimes much more difficult.

The gun lobby has also managed to prevent the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence as a public health hazard. As President Obama noted after the Umpqua massacre,

“We spend over a trillion dollars and pass countless laws and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil. … And, yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?”

My dad never carried a pistol on his person. He certainly didn’t think he should have one at church or at the school where he served as principal.

He didn’t want me to own a gun, either; he thought I’d be better off with a good burglar alarm and a big dog. He knew better than to think that more firearms equal enhanced safety.

What happened to sensible gun owners like him?

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, October 10, 2015

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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