I’m just back from an extended vacation out of the country, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I never dreamed was possible. I spent 3 weeks traveling with my bff from college, going places and seeing things that were truly extraordinary. The beauty of Iceland, the history of Ireland and the antiquities in England were nothing, of course, compared to spending so much time with this person who has been so dear to me for over 37 years.
My hope was that this trip would be an escape from the frenetic pace of politics and the constant deluge of discouraging news that seems to lead every day. And to a great degree, it was. But the real world has a sneaky and sometimes devastating way of inserting itself into even the best-planned escapes.
On the morning of August 3rd a hate-filled domestic terrorist entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and opened fire on a store full of innocents, killing 22 people and wounding 24 more. Families running their back-to-school errands, grocery shopping, buying party supplies for a housewarming party; parents killed protecting their baby; mothers, sons, neighbors. All stolen in an instant of hate and terror.
A man who hated the color of their skin, who rejected the very idea of America in doing so, was able to steal their lives and destroy their families in his hate-fueled rage.
Traveling in a different time zone, I learned of this horrific act late in the day. As I sat in my room watching the wall-to-wall coverage on the only American news channel available, I thought the same thing I’ve thought every time this has happened before.
We are doing it wrong.
We are doing it wrong. Children are dying, our President fuels hate and destruction and our politicians are failing us. It’s a perpetual pattern of putting politics over people with no end in sight.
I was deeply touched by a couple from England that I ran into in an elevator the next day who asked if I was American. When I said I was the gentleman said, “We are so sorry to hear of the tragedy in Texas. Our condolences to you.” It was a very personal sentiment as if I had lost family myself, but these tragedies always feel personal, so his condolences actually made me tear up.
There are no heroes in this fight. Democrats would have us believe that passing laws that would never have impacted the ability of most of these twisted miscreants to access weapons in the first place is the answer. Republicans want to talk about mental illness but not about how the mentally ill gain access to deadly weapons or how this President fuels such sick hatred.
Sitting so far away from home, out of sync with time and events, left me feeling even angrier and frustrated than normal by the horrific circumstances that we have allowed to continue. The problem is the politicians who have made the political calculation that it is more advantageous to allow this horror to continue rather than alienate some portion of their base, and that includes Democrats and Republicans alike. Our children are dying, victims of the worst kind of political cynicism.
We saw it right here in NH when the Democratic majority in the Senate sent three gun-control bills to the desk of our Governor just a couple of days after this ghastly attack. Bills they had been holding onto for weeks, bills they knew he would veto. They sent the bill to repeal the death penalty to his desk immediately after it passed and then rushed the veto override vote as well. If these gun-control measures were so pressing, why did they hold them?
I don’t mean to suggest they were consciously waiting for a tragedy – that would be inhuman. But they were clearly being politically cynical. NH is one of the safest states in the country and Governor Sununu has done more to advance our mental health system than any Governor in recent memory. And he was right when he said that we, as a nation, must address the root causes of hate and violence in our society. But don’t expect the Democrats to include that quote in their campaign literature next year. They knew he would veto the bills. That is why they sent them.
These things do not happen in a vacuum. We cannot ignore the influence of the odious, destructive rhetoric of the President or the willful ignorance of our politicians. And we can no longer ignore the fact that, whatever we are doing, it is not working. Hate and violence exist to some degree in every society. There is no way to escape that reality, but we must try, together, to overcome it.