I am on sabbatical this summer, learning, reading, writing, thinking about words and how they matter, what they evoke. As I work on my book, I am sitting by water, listening to birds, trying to make my words as lyrical as their song.
It has been said and written many times: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Memorable sentence.
I think this is more accurate: "People with guns kill people." This is not my most eloquent sentence. It is not lyrical. But it gets it said.
People with guns kill people.
I was out of the country when those innocent people were murdered and injured in the movie theater in Colorado. I was out of the country when those faithful Sikhs were killed at their temple.
Home at last, here I sit at my computer, googling spiritual memoirs, researching my book, thinking intently about epiphanies, about the times when my heart has been broken wide open and new insight has emerged on the other side of pain. On the other side, I have learned, I am strong beyond measure. My friends and family have resources available for me if only I ask. Strangers can't wait to be kind. Life is fragile and precious. People of good will can change the world. I have learned one of the byproducts of a broken heart is wisdom.
As I write that sentence in my memoir, an email alerts me to breaking news. My sister, ever conscious of our family's safety, urges me to take care in New York. I decide to break my three-day news fast, and tune in to CNN. And there it is, in our town, at the Empire State Building. A man shot dead by a former colleague. A semi-automatic pistol turned on two policemen, a hail of gun fire, from his weapon and theirs. Innocent people shot standing nearby. The gunman dead. Two dead. 10 wounded.
People with guns kill people. Hurt people. Leave them with shattered thighs, severed spines, no spleen or kidney. Their bodies, their souls, their lives are blown apart.
Or they die.
And when I open my email to write these few words, an ad pops up offering a free copy of The Concealed Carry Report, so that anyone who cares to can learn to carry a concealed weapon in such a way as to avoid prosecution.
I am not sure how many people have to die at the hand of crazed gunmen before the conversation in the political arena moves from foolishness, like birth certificates, to something urgent, like gun control.
Here is my epiphany for today, what is becoming increasingly clear to me, as my heart breaks at the ongoing gun violence and the loss of life in this country. I want a president who takes a strong stand for regulating the sale of guns in our nation. I want to live in a country that does not shy away from this conversation but puts it front and center in the debate. I want my president to take a stand about gun control, to risk losing some votes to save lives. And I am willing to apply pressure so they do.
People with guns kill people.
If you agree with me, join me. Let's write President Obama and tell him so.
I am sending this simple note, and I hope you will copy it and make it yours. Encourage your friends and networks to write. We are not helpless in the face of this craziness. Even with broken hearts, we have power to make a change.
* * *
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
I imagine that today your heart is broken wide open, just like mine. Once again, an easily-purchased gun in the hand of a person who did not value life took a life. One life is too many, don't you agree?
Please don't let this election be about foolish things. Please change the rhetoric, change the story. Make gun control a powerful part of your platform. Our value of human life has got to outpace pressure from lobbies.
People with guns kill people, Mr. President. I will join you, we will join you, if you take a stand.
Yours in the struggle for justice,
The Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Ph.D.
Middle Collegiate Church
New York, New York
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