Happy holidays to all. What a weird holiday season this will be, to say the least. We will be cleaning up after a blizzard for most of this Christmas Eve day. It feels like any other day except it isn’t. We are in the midst of a pandemic surge though the numbers in Minnesota of cases and deaths are decreasing. The vaccine is here and thankfully, many health care workers are or will be immunized against this deadly virus that has gripped our country for almost a year now. In the new year, most of us will also get the vaccine leading to hope for normalcy, whatever that may be.
The virus first made itself known in December of 2019 in some places and perhaps even in the U.S. And here we are living in what feels like a dream.
Since March of this year almost everything we have known has been altered or changed, some things forever. If you allow time to reflect properly, it’s like a scary movie. The pandemic has caused such widespread death and destruction all over the world that it is really unimaginable. There will be tomes written about this time in our history for many years. Looking back we will wonder how we managed to get through this. And, of course, many did not. Over 300,00 and more to come, fewer Americans are not celebrating with their families. leaving gaping holes in the hearts of their loved ones and friends. The damage is incalculable. And the holiday will make that even worse.
Because I write about gun violence prevention, I must also talk about the increase in the violence that has taken lives in numbers that should be red flag and a call to action.
I wrote a post about the connection between the coronavirus and gun violence. That connection has been noticed by many. How could it not given the number of people dying from both? A Star Tribune editorial this week pointed out what is happening with gun violence in the midst of the pandemic:
Gun violence remains one of the more potent threats to U.S. public health. Firearms play a role in most of the murders committed in the United States each year, and in more than half the suicides. More people die from gun violence than from traffic accidents. In Minneapolis, 2020 is shaping up as a year of nearly unprecedented firearm-driven mayhem.
Unlike the pandemic, the scourge of gun violence will not yield to a vaccine — and if a vaccine were available, some people would refuse to take it. This points to one of the similarities between COVID-19 and the proliferation of guns: In the face of both threats, some Americans are unaccountably averse to health measures that would provide them a measure of protection.
A survey reported this month by Pew Research found that about 4 Americans in 10 say they would not take the COVID vaccine if it were offered to them. Then there is the small but growing population of children whose parents refuse to vaccinate them against once-common diseases like whooping cough. And let’s not forget the people who refuse to wear a mask during the pandemic, or who insist that the pandemic itself is a hoax. Their antipathy to scientific fact — perhaps it’s just antipathy to facts, period — may help explain why the United States has lost more people to COVID than any other country on earth.
In the gun debate, there are similar contradictions between demonstrable fact and stubborn belief. For example, in a new survey commissioned by the Joyce Foundation and the George Family Foundation (bit.ly/JoyceResearch), two-thirds of likely Minnesota voters say they believe the presence of a gun makes a household safer. In fact, people who have a gun in the house are at considerably greater risk. For every anecdote about a homeowner’s defense of his castle, there are instances of tragedy — a toddler dead, a suicide completed, a domestic dispute turned fatal.
Minnesotans — including those who own guns, and those who don’t — overwhelmingly support measures that can help curb gun violence, like universal background checks and so-called red-flag laws that identify cases of extreme risk. Yet, according to the research, those Minnesotans express doubt that the measures they support can help in any significant way.
That’s not accurate. As foundation representatives point out, the experience of states that have passed such measures, Maryland and Connecticut, proves otherwise. Background checks that close the loophole enjoyed by private dealers and gun shows reduce gun deaths. They work.
Facts matter but in this age of denial of COVID, denial of the election of Joe Biden to the Presidency, denial of mask wearing, denial of the chaos wrought by one Donald Trump, denial of science and facts, it’s no surprise that people are not aware that, actually, gun laws matter and they do work. In Minnesota we have been facing this denial for decades. Nevertheless, we persist in educating the public and pushing against the false idea that passing common sense gun laws will not make a difference. The excuse that criminals won’t obey the laws to keep legislatures from passing laws is just that- an excuse to do nothing.
More from the above linked editorial about this:
It used to be that a command of facts was considered an advantage in any debate on public issues. Now, consider the roster of areas in which the most basic facts are disputed or dismissed: the coronavirus, for example, or absentee voting, or white privilege, or climate change, or the Mueller investigation. That list, sadly, is barely a beginning.
Facts matter. Science matters. Laws do matter. Just because facts make us uncomfortable with what is happening around us does mean they aren’t true. It’s disturbing that in the age of COVID, gun violence, the 2020 election, Trumpism, fact deniers, we just let people die. It’s a national tragedy.
The Christmas story, as told in the Christian Bible, does rely on a certain amount of belief in the unbelievable and some fact denial. After all, can we believe that certain “wise men” followed a star to a small stable located in Bethlehem where they brought gifts to a baby born in that stable thought to be the son of God? And yet, this week when the Great Conjunction occurred all over the world in a once in a lifetime conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that has been called the Christmas Star, it was hard not to believe. I don’t know about you, but this phenomenon, a celestial event that actually took place before our very eyes, was hard to deny.
If we decide, as a nation, that passing sensible gun laws will lead to decreasing the gun violence running rampant in the country, then the result will be fewer gun deaths. It will require a set of beliefs that lives matter and that we have a moral responsibility to save lives. If we change our preset beliefs that nothing we do will make a difference, then that is what will happen.
I will believe in facts. I will believe in science. But I also believe that what we say and do and how we message the narrative will change public perception which will change how we deal with a myriad of issues.
Perhaps it’s a convergence of facts and beliefs. Perhaps it’s like the film, It’s a Wonderful Life. The angel Clarence appears to save George from taking his own life and changes the trajectory of not only George and his family but the entire town. That is how belief works. If we build it, they will come. Our own Field of Dreams can shape the future.
If we decide we are going to do something to save lives, we will. If we are shown how our own actions have affected others in the past, and present, the Ghost of Christmas Future from the holiday favorite Christmas Carol , written a long time ago by Charles Dickens, can show us how we can affect change going forward.
It will be hard this Christmas season to have hope. It’s a dark time literally and figuratively. If we shed light on the truth, we can move forward as a country.
Every year we believe we are celebrating happily. But every year, there are people living in poverty, people who can’t celebrate, people who have depression or don’t have enough food or the ability to purchase gifts or a tree. I urge us all to be kind. I urge us all to do something for someone else this Christmas. I urge us all to have belief that things are going to actually get better even in the midst of this terrible time.
What matters to you? This is a good time to reflect on all of these things.
Merry Christmas to those who believe. Merry Christmas to all who are suffering or are grieving the loss of a loved one. Merry Christmas to those who don’t believe or are deniers of the facts. And may the new year bring change we can believe in.