Dying to Protect Life

When 20 six- and seven-year-old students, along with six of their teachers and staff, were executed in Newtown, CT in 2012, the national disease of gun violence became a malignant cancer. Our illness has intensified in the six years that have passed. Yet, the deaths of more than 1,600 mass shooting victims since Sandy Hook have not caused our political leaders to be sick enough to seek either treatment or a cure.

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President Obama, who had the support of a Democratic Senate and 90 percent of Americans on this issue, failed to pass a law to aid our terminal gun violence disease, as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd pointed out this Sunday. President Trump and his GOP-led Congress do not seem eager to lead significant change to curb gun violence.

Last Wednesday’s mass shooting in Parkland, FL that claimed 17 innocent lives marked yet another metastasis of the cancer. If nuclear medicine is used to treat the worst cancers, might a nuclear option of Congressional chemotherapy be needed to address the spread of this disease? Certainly, it is unreasonable for us to expect that a wholesale turnover is possible, but a reboot might be in order.

When the prophet Micah exhorted his hearers “to act justly,” the political implications were clear, strong, and urgent. So is the need to end senseless acts of violence. Reasonable people can address the details of necessary legislation. Nevertheless, the right to bear arms is secondary to the absolute right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

For the second time in four weeks, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote Saturday on the social and political import of the virtue of gentleness. Salesian gentleness cannot be reduced to a charming niceness. Rather, it is an uncompromisingly strong respect for all that God has created. St. Francis de Sales’ writings are replete with such wisdom. Indeed, gentleness has vast political implications.

We are months away from electing national leadership, but the need to discern the gentlest leaders is urgently present. If we as disciples are working to be gentle, surely, we can insist that our leaders legislate with this deep respect for all that God has created. It is this same gentleness that beckons an empathy that accompanies our nation’s cancer. We are all sickened because we feel for those who lose children and loved ones to gun violence. We pray that our elected leaders have a similar compassion. If one of the children or grandchildren of some seemingly obdurate politicians were in the line of fire, would we then see change? We pray that no child is ever again in the line of any firing gun. No one should have to die in order to protect life.

Gentle prayers and strong voting could go a long way.