I have been a civic minded individual since I was old enough to retain thought. I am wildly passionate about community, overcoming injustice and the plausibility that our justice system does more good than harm. As a high school student, I spent my free time sitting in court rooms, watching cases argued. I started studying for the LSAT in junior high. I had great visions of becoming an attorney, followed by a lengthy career in politics. Unfortunately, I soon realized that it is nearly impossible to hold a position that carries weight, without sacrificing principles. Bummer.
The upside of not holding public office is the fact that I get to say what is on my mind. I know my opinions are not often popular, but since I'm not trying to convince you to vote for me, it doesn't really matter if you hate them. That's actually quite freeing.
After I learned of the school shooting in Colorado last night, I felt compelled to post the following to my Facebook page:
I will never forget the Columbine massacre, nearly 15 years ago. Today, another school shooting in Colorado barely manages to register on my radar, I'm ashamed to admit. I'm not understanding of the desire/need/urgency to bear arms in 2013, nor the propensity to value protection over morality or decency, but I do know we live in sad, sad times. "America is great because she is good. When she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." De Tocqueville has called it. I do hope we can find our way back to greatness, but it will not be though our right to violence or any insistence upon self-preservation, I promise you that. Progress, morality and triumph over evil relies upon the need to see beyond our own selves, which I am not sure we are capable of.
I have a feeling I may be deleted by some of my Facebook "friends" for this post. I actually do believe in smaller government, less regulation and the individual right to choose. My assertion that the right to bear arms is a bad thing for us, is truly geared to the individuals choosing to bear the arms, and not the laws that afford us these rights. I believe in giving people the opportunity to make the right choices on their own.
I'm quite concerned about us as a people. We rally to celebrate Nelson Mandela's life, but the principles he lived by are a far cry from our reality in the United States. The greatest people who have lived are those who were not afraid to sacrifice their lives for a bigger cause. Who is willing to do that now? We fight for the right to bear arms, so that we can protect our homes, but have we forgotten to protect our souls, spirits and our future?
As I was driving to the grocery store tonight, I was reflecting on the holiday season and the spirit of Christmas. Yes, I said Christmas. It is a time of year when people take a moment to open their hearts, think of their fellow people, and allow warmth and joy to permeate the norm of bitterness and impatience. I found myself wanting to be a nicer driver. I thought about paying for the grocery bill of the person behind me in line (I didn't). I wondered how we could bottle up this Christmas spirit and make it last throughout the year.
When I got home, I heard about the school shooting, however, and I felt compelled to speak up. Your life is not worth saving if you are not doing more good than harm. Our country is not worth fighting for if we are not doing more good than evil. This world is so much bigger than any of our individual lives, and yet, we live as though our worlds begin and end with us.
I very much put myself in that category, as I am a person who loves, loves, living. I suck the marrow out of life. I treasure every moment, and I am extremely narcissistic, like so many of my fellow travelers. However, deep down, I know that my life is just one life in billions. Billions! Unless I am curing cancer, AIDS or hunger, I'm kind of expendable. It's hard for me to admit that, but it's absolutely true.
So as much as I love my life, and I completely adore my wife, I realize that my life is of little consequence to the overall course of humanity. Hopefully, with time, I may change that, but as it stands, not so much. My need to preserve my own heartbeat is not grounds to own a weapon that can kill others. It's just not. See, what happens is, guns get into the wrong hands. Innocent people die, mistakes happen...I'm not telling you anything you don't know.
I haven't conducted any official research quite yet, but I'm quite certain that if fewer people owned guns, fewer people would die from gunshot wounds. The logic stands, right? I don't expect that if the good people of the US of A decided to hand in their handguns, gangs would all of the sudden decide to take advantage of the turn of luck and begin to annihilate the suburbs. However, I'm not claiming to be wise enough to make that call.
In closing, I am not trying to convince the government to take your guns away. I'd just prefer for you to not want them. In that vein, I would like to remind you of some of the words the beloved Nelson Mandela spoke:
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.
If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.
A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.
Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.
Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.