In the days leading up to the funerals of the 9 victims of the Charleston shooting at Mother Emanuel church, there aren’t many people who have not noticed the forgiveness and the grace of the families of the victims. Today, President Obama delivers the eulogy for Rev. Clemanta Pinckney, the much loved pastor of the Mother Emanuel church. He was loved by his congregation, by his family, by his constituents and by his fellow legislators from both sides of the aisle. He was so loved that his colleagues led the movement to remove the confederate flag from the state house in Columbia, South Carolina.
This is about the victims and about love and respect. When someone close to you personally, as with Rev. Pinkney, is killed in a heinous shooting, it makes a difference. It’s not just a random name or face of someone not known. It’s not just a gang member who some believe are disposable Americans. It’s not someone else’s friend or someone else’s sister, mother, brother or father. Now it’s yours.
Gun violence is affecting more and more people in America. With the increase in the number of guns in the country, it is inevitable that more families and friends will experience the violence from gunshots. The circle widens.
Just as with the issue of marriage equality, almost everyone can say they know someone who is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered. That is, in part, why the marriage equality bills have passed in so many states and why the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Love won. Justice won. And the rule of law makes a difference.
Personally, my family has been affected by gun violence. We have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian. Several members of my family are health care providers and family members have suffered from health conditions that, had they not had health insurance, would have led to severe financial problems and stress and further health problems. I am not unique. I am amongst many of my fellow Americans.
Americans also won yesterday when the Court decided in favor of the Affordable Care Act. When millions of Americans are able to now get health insurance with no pre-existing conditions for less money, we all win. When more people are in the insurance pool, we all do or will eventually pay less for our health care. We win when people are kept healthier and out of our emergency rooms where the care is more expensive. We win when “kids” stay on their family’s health insurance and don’t have to worry about paying expensive premiums as they start out in new jobs and are paying back college loans. We win when women with breast cancer are not turned away from health insurance and left to go into bankruptcy or die.
As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”
And that is true when we change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America. It’s a public health and safety epidemic. The conversation is changing as it must. “Google” searches after the Charleston shooting, according to the linked article, changed to “gun control” from “gun shop”:
Google has released data on how Search users reacted to the violence on June 17. Itsnewly revamped Trends tool has a rundown of the kinds of topics people queried the search engine about in the days after the tragedy. One of the most interesting things the data show is that searches for “gun control” surpassed those for “gun shop” across the United States.
Searches for “gun shop” are usually more popular than “gun control,” according to data Google Trends averaged from the past year. But in the 72 hours following the Charleston shooting, “gun control” was the more popular search term in 45 states.
The ripple effect of a heinous racially motivated shooting.
If we care for our fellow citizens, no matter their sexual orientation, their color, their race or their age, and for justice, we understand that we need to stand up for doing something about the devastating violence that so affects our communities and our friends. Charleston will never be the same. Those families, those friends, those legislators, those community members will never be the same. My family has never been quite the same after my sister’s tragic death that took her life well before she should have died.
It’s time for love, justice and the law that often changes according to changing times. That has been true for the issue of marriage equality and now with health care. It hasn’t been as true for gun violence prevention. But that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t change.
President Obama spoke today about the ripple effects of individual actions on the whole. A quote from the Dalai Lama is pictured above. Social change is happening. It can be frightening for some but energizing and exciting for others.
As people tell their personal stories about the gun violence that has affected them, they will be heard by more and more people. As the mass shootings and “everyday” shootings continue, more of us will be horrified that someone we knew experienced the terror of a crazed or angry gunman ( they are almost always men) as he pointed a gun at them and, in seconds, snuffed out a life. It’s hard to imagine this happening to someone you knew, respected and loved. But happen it did and does to far too many.
And wisdom wins over insanity and nonsense. After Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued a statement, coming directly from the corporate gun lobby play book ,saying that the victims in Mother Emanuel church could have saved themselves had they been carrying a gun, the Charleston Mayor reacted with words of wisdom and common sense:
The Charleston mayor was left nearly speechless on Wednesday when asked to respond to Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) comments that the victims in the Charleston shooting may have been able to stop the attack if they had been carrying handguns.
“That is so ridiculous,” Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley told Fox News radio host Alan Colmes. “I mean, I knew these people. I’m looking that their pictures right now in front of me. They weren’t going to be carrying handguns. You want an 87-year old retired lady or you want a minister to be carrying a handgun or a 78-year old retired lady that used to work for the city of Charleston? That is so insane. You want those elderly people carrying handguns? Is that the best we can do in America?”
No. We can and must do better. Wisdom and facts win. Love wins. Justice wins. Common sense wins.
That is why we need to keep working on those common sense solutions to the violence that has affected so many of us. Because, in the end, we all win when fewer of us are being shot to death in our public places and in our homes.
It may come about as a result of a changed law. It may come about as a changed heart or a changed mind. It may come about as a changed conversation and a changed view of the problem. It will start with individuals and groups who are working to make these changes.
Today, love, justice and the rule of law win over injustice, hatred, fear, paranoia, intolerance, violence and refusal to change in the face of facts and real human consequences if we do nothing.